Sustainable Bungay: Pattern Portrait of an Initiative
In the recent Transition Suffolk meeting we discussed highlighting the patterns our groups had already engaged in and had created some of the identity/style of the initiative. In our up-and-coming August gathering Sustainable Bungay are going to look at their future in terms of the Patterns. To help catalyse this process I have written a brief (and personal!) summary of the patterns we have experienced so far . . . (Charlotte Du Cann)
1 Skills and Qualities
Sustainable Bungay has been active for two and a half years and our neighbourhood is the market town of Bungay and its surrounding villages (Understanding Scale 1.3). Our core group revolves around 15-20 members – half of us very active and the other half supportive. Our age group ranges from the 20s to 70s (less if you count our several children!). We have various working parties that include people who are not in the core group (e.g. Bungay Community Bees, Community Garden project). Though none of us have done the Transition Training 2.3, having learned “on the job”, we do have good links with other East Anglian initiatives and the Transition Network. We are less focused on workshop-type activities and more on community events and projects. We have a lively blog/website and meet once a month (upstairs in the Library) and once socially in the pub (Green Drinks in the Green Dragon). Our strength lies in our abilities with communication and the fact we hold many different kinds of skills between us and we are quite informal and creative in our exchanges.
In June 2008 we showed a sequence of Transition-themed films and afterwards shared our feelings about key issues to do with social change and the state of the earth (Post Petroleum Stress Disorder 1.1). Most of us are highly aware of climate change and peak oil in the group. Some are highly articulate on the subject and others have a deep understanding of the difficulties we face on the mental and emotional levels, as well as the physical. This shared understanding has created a stable base for our co-operative actions. Because we have outlets (events, blogs, discussions) where we can share our knowledge of subjects such as economics and sustainable food systems, patterns like Critical Thinking 1.2, Thinking Like A Designer 1.4 and Civility/Manners 1.7 can be absorbed osmotically by everyone. By engaging in Transition events such as the Permaculture Course we’ve found ourselves interested in subjects we would have never considered before.
Does the individual quality make the initiative, or does becoming part of a Transition initiative elicit that quality? That’s hard to tell!
We went through a very difficult stage (see Set 3) and managed to pull through, so most of us by nature and experience have Personal Resilience 1.5. Finding individual value and meaning through being part of a group, sharing our practical and intellectual qualities, doing stuff together is the key attraction of Transition. How We Communicate 1.6 is based on the desire to showcase these activities with others in Bungay and neighbouring communities. We’ve hosted many stalls at local events (e.g. The Greenpeace Fair) and from the beginning we’ve had different members Standing Up To Speak 1.8 in front of people – from the Rotary Club to local television cameras. Several of us have spoken with different initiatives to give them a hand to start up (Beccles, Halesworth). Kate has addressed local schools (Car Free Day, the Unleashing). Josiah has spoken about local food systems (Greener Fram, Transition Diss, Transition Woodbridge) and the Bee project. Nick recently gave a breakthrough talk on Economics at the local Chaucer Club.
Pictures: Sustainable Bungay at our first Give and Take Day, March 2009; Mark speaking about wild plants on the Spring Tonic Walk, 2009
2 Forming an Initiative
We have been an open core group (Forming a Core Team 2.1) from the beginning and kept this configuration after the Unleashing. Everyone is welcome to attend and contribute. Like all Transition groups our difficulties have been experienced within our attempts at Running Successful Meetings 2.4. Some of our meetings have been a success and some haven’t. We are now quite open about where they don’t work and change our format accordingly. We take turns to facilitate and have a spontaneous agenda at our monthly Core Group meetings and afterwards go to the pub and let off steam!
We took an active part in a Bungay Visioning 2.5 day for the Town Plan in 2009 and also had a Time-Line for our Unleashing that same year, which will enable us to do some Backcasting 2.14 at a later date (sic). We have done a certain amount of Measurement 2.5, such as our forthcoming Carbon Audit, and though we have several scientists amongst us, our heart, it would be fair to say, is not particularly focused on data.
We are a creative group, including writers, artists, photographers, singers, dancers and actors, craftsmen and cooks and like to bring Arts and Creativity 2.7 into all our events. We are lucky to have Gemma, a professional cake maker, in our core group so not one event goes by without Transition Cakes 2.15! Our unleashing was celebrated by a mountain of multi-coloured cup cakes (though the one in the pic was made for a Transition Circle birthday and anniversary celebration).
Some of that creativity comes in very useful with our Communications with the Media 2.9 and many of our activities have been covered in the local press. Several members have been on BBC Radio Suffolk talking about our Awareness Raising 2.8 events (End of Suburbia to our Give and Take Day). Our Bee project made the regional television news and Charlotte writes about Transition and SB on the OneWorldColumn on the regional paper, the Eastern Daily Press.
In 2010 we have set about Forming Working Groups 2.10 from the Community Garden project to the Bio-Diesel initiative. We are also engaged in Building Strategic Partnerships 2.11 with local organisations that range from the social enterprise Bright Green (who we ran our first Give and Take Day with in 2009) to the local Suffolk Wildlife Trust. Although we have never formally sat down and considered The Project Support Concept 2.12 we’re very much involved with it. Small groups working together is definitely the way forward in our area.
Making steps and still to do: 2.6 Becoming a Formal Organisation and 2.2 Inclusion/Diversity
Pictures: Making hives for the Bungay Community Bees, June 2010; Graham Burnett from Southend in Transition teaching a Permaculture Course, January 2010 for our Community Garden
3 Deepening and Broadening
Transition Towers – Having an Office or not 3.1 Not in the case of Bungay! As you can see from the pic, we’re still at the kitchen table stage. We are lucky to have the Library however for our monthly meetings and the Chaucer Club as a venue for our events. And how are you Financing Your Work 3.3? you might ask. Well, at this point we are mostly self-financing. We have been given some funds to develop and print our Carbon Audit. We have received generous donations and we run the Bungay Community Bees, for example, by subscription. No one gets paid, so we’re all in the same boat – all happily Volunteers 3.2!
We may not have an office or a big grant, but Celebrating 3.4 we have down – summer picnics, Christmas parties, birthday drinks, green drinks. We all like food and we happily bring and share meals and cakes, swap plants and chickens. This informal exchange system is what really helps with Emotional Support/Avoiding Burnout 3.5. We’re not therapy types, so wouldn’t go down a counselling route, or seek outside help for Conflict Resolution 3.15. Instead we help ourselves. We have learned that by communicating and working with each other and exchanging “stuff” the responsibility for the initiative is shared. We can keep up Momentum 3.6 and not burn out.
We almost did last year. One of our greatest challenges arose when antagonistic town councillors turned down our application to put on a Big Green Street Market. It came at the same time as a stressful involvement with a Community Consultation for the Town Plan and our Unleashing (see below). Several members had worked very hard on the project and the refusal was a big shock and very difficult to talk about. However eventually we were able to make light of being called “smock-wearing eco-fascists” and Celebrate Failure (and Success) 3.7. The mood of the town council softened towards us and we became stronger and more determined as a result. One of the hardest things Transition has to face is the “old order” coming through people and quashing the new. As well as the divide-and-conquer mentality we inherit from our culture that can so easily split groups.
This shock also enabled us to become more aware of what we were engaged in and more strategic. In short we regrouped and became more resilient. We have occasional Big Meetings in which we put a day or an afternoon aside to look at the year ahead Gathering Feedback (how are we doing?) 3.8. We were aware that awareness-raising events can easily come and go leaving no trace, so creating Working Parties has really helped the Pattern of Practical Manifestations 3.9.
Our Community Garden in the centre of town is beginning to act like a Transition beacon as well as our community beehives and other Local Food initiatives 3.10. If there is one subject we all share it’s food. So as well as our highly successful Growing Local food event, Bungay Community Bees and Seedling Swap we are starting up a pig club and an apple share project. We’re really lucky having Josiah in the group who has a working knowledge of sustainable food systems, as well as many enthusiastic growers and cooks on board.
This second phase began after our Unleashings 3.14 on May 9 2009 at the Community Hall. Over 70 people came to hear Shaun Chamberlin speak about his recently published The Transition Timeline. We had our own Timeline along one wall and the tables were organised according to the working parties/theme groups we wanted to create for the following year. Kate and Josiah introduced the event. The hall was decked with garden and wild flowers and the tables loaded with home-cooked, low-carbon food. We had elderflower punch and beer from the local micro-brewery and local musicians played for free. Many initiatives are not keen to do an Unleashing (or use the term) but it is an important rite-of-passage and the initiative definitely goes into a different phase after you have gone through the door!
Still to consider/do: 3.11 The Great Reskilling 3.12 Working with Local Businesses 3.13 Ensuring Land Access
Pictures: Josiah and Mark (and Iris) working on the new Sustainable Bungay website/blog, March 2010; homemade food for our Summer Picnic, July 2010; Shaun Chamberlin and the SB Unleashing Crew in front of the Bungay Timeline, May 2009
Sustainable Bungay regularly interacts with neighbouring initiatives in Beccles, Halesworth and Diss to Form Networks of Transition Initiatives 4.2 and we have Transition contacts all over East Anglia. Mark, Charlotte and Josiah were involved in the Transition East Regional Support group that set up and ran the second Transition East Gathering last November. For this event we produced the Transition East 2009 document that profiled 29 initiatives across the Eastern Region (and initiated this blog), as well as the Transition Troubleshooting paper based on the “troubles” initiatives reported they were experiencing. We also took part in the recent forming of Transition Suffolk, and Mark and Charlotte have been instrumental in setting up personal carbon reduction neighbourhood groups in Norwich Transition Together/Transition Circles 4.1 and taken part in Carbon Conversations as future facilitators.
SB has its own community blog/website and active googlegroup and contributes to two other Transition blogs – transitioncircleeast and Transition Norwich’s This Low Carbon Life. We also produce our own quarterly printed and on-line newsletters (Becoming the Media 4.3). These articles and photographs provide material for our press and publicity, and perhaps more importantly reflect back and give value and meaning to what we are doing, helping with the process of Pausing for Reflection (‘How Am I Doing?’) 4.15.
Keeping an on-line record also helps us showcase our personal and cultural stories The Role of Storytelling 4.14. Most of our attention so far has been focussed on building up the initiative and forging strong links and relationships. In 2010, as we’re starting to branch out and explore this fourth Set, we’re hoping to use our creative and communicative skills to engage further community interest. For example, we’re planning to map the local area for neighbourhood fruit trees (Meaningful Maps 4.11) as part of our apple share project and produce a flower calendar for our Bungay Community Bees.
Meanwhile as regards Engaging Schools 4.10 and Engaging Young People 4.9 we have made links with the local schools in respect to the Bungay Car-Free Day (Kate gives classes on climate change and environmental awareness), and now we’re hoping to get them involved in our local Cycle Strategy. Bungay Community Bees is teaching a class on bees at the Primary School in September (Charlotte has already helped run Transition/Creative Partnership classes on Peak Oil and Reconnection with Nature in Norwich). We have several “Transition kids” in our initative and they are definitely part of what we do!
SB has in the course of two years made some strong and successful Networks and Partnerships 4.14 from the local Emmanuel church to the food-growing co-operative, Greengrow. We have now also begun Engaging Local Landowners 4.8 in respect to our food initiatives.
Still to consider/do: 4.4 Engaging the Council 4.5 Energy Resilience Assessment 4.6 Community Brainstorming Tools 4.7 Oral Histories
Pictures: Bungay Cycle Strategy outside our meeting house, the local Library, July 2010; helping plant a community orchard at the local co-op Greengrow, February 2009
5 Scaling Up
We’re not large or influential enough at this point to engage in Scaling Up 5.3 as a single initiative, so this is where our regional network becomes really valuable, where we learn from fellow initiatives e.g Transition Ipswich with their Energy Descent Action Plans 5.1 and wind turbine project (Community Renewable Energy Companies 5.4) and link up with other low-carbon and sustainable groups.
We are however engaged in Strategic Thinking 5.10, evolving our projects within a framework of the bigger picture. We’re also setting in motion some of the other aspects of this set, such as Social Entrepreneurship 5.2 especially in respect to our biodiesel and soap enterprise and our Community Supported Agriculture/Farms/Bakeries etc 5.9 projects, Bungay Community Bees and the pig club at GreenGrow.
We are also communicating with District Councillors and local and regional organisations in respect to these larger Patterns and exploring Community Ownership of Assets 5.8 e.g. future allotments.
Still to do: 5.5 Strategic Local Infrastructure 5.6 Strategies for Plugging the Leaks 5.7 Intermediate Technologies
Pictures: Transition Suffolk meeting, Stowmarket, July 2010
6 National Policy
We’re not talking to the government yet about our Policies for Transition 6.1 and Peak Oil Resolutions 6.2 but we’ll have plenty of things to say when we do! (the newly elected MP came to our Unleashing)
Pictures: Sustainable Bungay at The Wave, December 2009