Transition Whatcom Guideline Paper:
Balancing the Principle of Positive Visioning with the Principle of Inclusion and Openness
Introduction and Summary
The purpose of this paper is to further clarify the identity of Transition Whatcom and how we use and apply the Principles of Transition. As an example of applying these principles, we will discuss the application of the Principles of Positive Visioning balanced with the Principle of Inclusion and Openness.
We may add additional guidelines or papers when questions arise that the Initiating Group or later steering groups struggle with. It is hoped that these documents can then provide a tool to bring us back to focus periodically. When we put effort into getting clarity, we believe it will prove to be helpful to document it so that we build a solid base to operate from.
On matters of controversy or when there are questions as to whether or not a project or strategy fits within the Scope of Transition Whatcom, we will use the Transition Principles as guidelines and seek out peer counsel with other Transition Initiatives for mutual coaching in our growing understanding of Transition.
Note: As an organization we look to the Principles and Guidelines of the Transition Network and base our work upon those ideals; however, in regards to any issue, personal philosophy, theology, political persuasion and moral conviction, Transition Whatcom is (and we hope will continue to be) made stronger and more effective by being comprised of individuals with a wide diversity of opinions and beliefs. If you are involved with Transition Whatcom, come prepared to work shoulder to shoulder with people who may be very different from you in some or even many ways.
Creating and Protecting an Identity for Transition Whatcom
In the process of becoming an official Transition Initiative, Transition Whatcom expressed its agreement with the core purpose and principles of the Transition Network. In order to be unified and synergistic in our endeavors when we have diverse beliefs, Transition Whatcom will need to remain grounded in its mission and these core principles, known as The 7 Principles of Transition. These principles come from the Transition Network document, Who We Are and What We Do (large pdf file) and are also spelled out here. The principles and mission give the Transition Network and Transition Whatcom a distinct identity that will reflect those values which we hold in common, will reflect the direction of the Transition movement, and will allow us to move forward as a unified group.
To protect the identity of Transition Whatcom and the Transition Network of which it is a part, individuals or groups should use strategies or tactics that are in line with the character which the Transition movement was founded upon. Members of Transition Whatcom agree to use the principles and guidelines that define Transition when engaging in Transition work under the umbrella of Transition Whatcom.
When this identity is respected then each of us can participate together in the projects of change we decide to undertake as Transition Whatcom, and yet have autonomy in our personal thinking and personal choices as we go. Whatever members do outside the scope of Transition Whatcom is their business and does not reflect Transition Whatcom as a whole, nor does it reflect on what other Transition Whatcom members believe or do.
The Application of Transition Principle #1: Positive Visioning
"Transition Initiatives are based on a dedication to the creation of tangible, clearly expressed and practical visions of the community in question beyond its present day dependence on fossil fuels. Our primary focus is not campaigning against things, but rather on positive, empowering possibilities and opportunities. The generation of new stories and myths are central to this visioning work."
As an organization, Transition Whatcom supports only strategies and actions that are consistent with the principles of Transition, such as Positive Visioning. With an understanding that to be effective, change must involve as many residents as possible, and with an understanding that a focus on positive outcomes will engage the greatest possible participation, TW is committed to employing (with shameless abandon) the powerful tools of “anticipation, elation and a collective call to adventure” (as stated in the Transition Handbook).
Note: In terms of questions or concerns about confrontation in regards to Transition Whatcom, the Transition Network, and Transition Whatcom have made a conscious decision to avoid engaging as an organization in the more confrontational approaches to change. "Transition is something that sits alongside and complements the more oppositional protest culture, but is distinctly different from it. It is a different tool." - Rob Hopkins, TransitionCulture.org: a review of "The Rocky Road To A Real Transition"
The Application of Transition Principle #3: Inclusion and Openness
"Successful Transition Initiatives need an unprecedented coming together of the broad diversity of society. They dedicate themselves to ensuring that their decision making processes and their working groups embody principles of openness and inclusion. This principle also refers to the principle of each initiative reaching the community in its entirety, and endeavoring, from an early stage, to engage their local business community, the diversity of community groups and local authorities. It makes explicit the principle that there is, in the challenge of energy descent, no room for 'them and us' thinking."
Transition Whatcom is open and inclusive to anyone, regardless of their beliefs and opinions. We recognize the need for an unprecedented coming together of the broad diversity of society. We dedicate ourselves to ensuring that our decision making processes and working groups embody principles of openness and inclusion. We endeavor to engage the diversity of individuals, community groups, the local business community, and local government officials. We believe that in the challenge of energy descent, it will take almost all of us working together to cope with the change required.
Transition Whatcom will use meeting structures and group processes that facilitate respectful conduct and promote free expression, safety, and allow creative wisdom to emerge. Examples of group processes we might employ that facilitate openness and inclusion and that are non-hierarchical include "Open Space" events , "World Cafe" events , and "Fishbowl" discussions.
We are open to contributions, ideas, and proposals as they fit within the vision and mission of Transition Whatcom, within the 12 Steps of Transition, and within the spirit of the 7 Principles of Transition. Transition Whatcom has a process by which it reviews ideas and proposals. This process is open to periodic review as Transition Whatcom continues to evolve.
We believe that each person has to follow their own heart and their clearest thinking to determine how and where they put their energies for the great changes we are undergoing. Since Transition Whatcom is open to anyone, we expect to have a wide spectrum of beliefs and strategies among our membership. There are many right answers, and it is not our job to judge others. We will focus on telling the closest version of the truth that we know, but our messages will strive to be non-directive, respecting each person's ability to make a response that is appropriate to their situation.
Transition Whatcom also supports the UN Declaration of Human Rights (General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948. Although all are welcome to participate in our programs, extreme political groups and individuals that have discrimination as a key value will not be allowed to participate in the decision-making bodies within Transition Whatcom.
Finding the Balance
We expect many opportunities to find out what it means to practice the Transition Principle of Inclusion and Openness, and at the same time remain true to the other 6 Principles of Transition. It may not always be easy. In the criteria for becoming an official Transition Initiative, we were asked for "a commitment to ask for help when needed." Also, one of the six guidelines in Who We Are and What We Do is Openness to Feedback and Learning:
"Implicit within an acceptance of these principles is an openness to feedback from others also working in this field. This would generally be feedback which questions whether we are starting to run our Transition Initiatives in such a way as to no longer embody these principles. This kind of feedback is most effective when it emerges from our peers, but an openness to being challenged is vital, as feedback can be highly affirming and can generate confidence."