I’ve just woken myself up from a nap, embarrassingly finding myself lying on the carpet in the living room. Bubs is sitting nearby, avoiding frustration while trying a jigsaw for a much older child. The weather outside is intermittent, so I’m taking a few moments to get my thoughts down on how my third and final year as “leader”* of Transition Town Berkhamsted (TTB) might develop.
We have a good platform now that a number of people have stepped forward to take on the official roles, responding to my challenge of a few weeks ago. It was great to see such a turnout at the AGM a week and a half ago, representing the decent number of projects and initiatives that are getting up and running at the moment. I think we rivalled the attendance of the town council’s annual meeting, and without offering free tea and biscuits.
The TTB strategy remains intact after 20 months, and so ought to be the main thrust of this year. That would mean formalising how the numerous groups, clubs, businesses and organisations in the town communicating with one another regularly, and using that to help develop a longer term plan for the town, incorporating principles of community, ethics and sustainability.
My thoughts on that approach haven’t changed wildly, but have changed a little. If we want to see a rapid change to energy efficiency, renewable energy and fuels, local food and a less car-centric transport system, then town plan, or Neighbourhood Plan, is the way to go. Season that with our get-up-and-go local food growing and energy co-operatives, and we’ll be laughing.
What is different now is that I have realised that whatever development track we take, the marginalised will continue to be in the margins and the excluded will continue to not be included. Unless we pay attention to community at a personal level. Hence the idea of having a getting our streets to know and help one another a little more. We’ll have fun with street parties, getting the kids out and forcing the parents to chat with Street Play, and then having those conversations about the opportunities of Transition Streets.
I just caught myself writing “it will be a hard slog” then, by which I meant we won’t get instant results. But there is something Freudian in my subconscious choice of phrase. Now I’m pondering why I think it will be “hard” and “work” – it needs to be fun; something that people choose to get involved with rather than doing so through guilt or a sense of duty. I’m concluding that it’s not so much the street parties that will be hard, it’s the dreaded taboo conversations about climate change (wibbly font needed). I’ll need to do a little more research and thinking as to how to have a conversation about carbon footprints with a UKIP or Conservative voter that doesn’t fall in the bracket of boring or confrontational.
Other priorities for the year will be continuing where we’ve left off with the Ashlyns Conversations, with three talks held last year and one already so far this. And the Steering Groups need to be re-scheduled, with an important decision over the year as to whether we become a charity. Maybe part way through the year we will do away with the current constitution, and be led by an elected board of trustees with a regularly revolving chairman, following the blueprint of Totnes, Lewes and Stroud?
Before any of that can be started, though, I will follow through on my announcement at the AGM that my first priority will be to fill the gaps not so far filled for the new TTB roles. The communications role is the glaring hole, and we also need to find some help for Claire and Bex in the membership and publicity positions. I’ll also try to organise the attendance of the monthly Green Drinks socials with Emma, while changing the format so people want to attend. Similarly with the online forum, I’ll do a little investigation as to what it is that gets in the way of it being taken up more widely. Just as importantly, I’ll give my support to the people who have taken on roles, so they know what is expected of them and can get on with it without interference.
So, roughly, that would mean June spent on roles, July to the end of 2014 on street stuff and setting up the communication network with local groups, and then build towards town plan, expand the streets initiative and become a charity to May 2015.
Let’s see how long that lasts. I’d like to talk it through with the team at the next Green Drinks, which at the moment is unfortunately scheduled to start as England kick off against Uruguay in Brazil, which might scupper things.
* You may remember that I wanted to change the official title from Leader. That hasn’t quite happened, because we couldn’t think of an appropriate alternative. I’d suggested Chair, similar to neighbouring Tring, but it has associations for corporate types. I’d been thinking of maybe something a little whacky, like naming the position after part of a tree. Bark maybe? Root might be better? Then it came to me. How about Sap?