‘Transition Streets sounds like a very good idea, but also a bit scary,’ says Kate Forrester of Transition Dorchester. ‘I’m not one of those people who goes round knocking on doors. I found it daunting initiating something with neighbours who I normally just talk about the weather with!’
Kate learned more about how to approach recruitment at Transition Dorchester’s Streets-wise training in January 2013 at the meeting room of local Baptist church. ‘I think one of the things that struck me was the Streets’ project evaluation that shows why neighbours join Transition Streets. The things in big letters weren’t energy-efficiency: they were saving money and getting to know your neighbours. I don’t want to be seen as a wacky green, so I’m planning to talk to my neighbours about these things instead’. Sally Cooke, who attended the training with eight Transition Dorchester colleagues, says: ‘The role-play in which we imagined speaking with a neighbour to first explain what the Transition Streets idea was very useful’.
For Sally ‘the most useful section was where trainer Hal Gillmore went through the process of how to facilitate the opening meeting of a Transition Streets group: that was very valuable and important’ she says. ‘There were some really good ideas about how to approach it – how not to frighten people off and get all new people on the same side as part of a shared effort. That was tremendous.’ As a result, Transition Dorchester decided that for each Streets group, the person who recruits should be different from the facilitator, to give each other support.
Transition Dorchester had first realised at an open eco-homes weekend that Transition Streets could be a good way for visitors to begin to engage with sustainability actions. Consequently Dorset County Council’s renewable energy development officer secured funding from SEACS, a cross-channel sustainability partnership between local authorities, to cover the training cost. ‘We went in thinking what a great idea but there is no way we can do it, and came out thinking well maybe we could…’ says Kate.
After the training Transition Dorchester met to work through the first two chapters together as a Streets group. ‘We wanted to find out what it felt like’, says Sally. ‘We also invited two extra people who weren’t on the training session, who had a very positive reaction and said they really enjoyed it.’
They divided up the chapters of the Transition Streets workbook and are currently editing it to meet Dorcester’s needs. They plan to recruit their Dorcester Transition Streets groups from September 2013.
‘I found it inspiring to see video clips at the training session of Totnes Streets groups who’d started a community cinema for example, after doing Transition Streets; and another group who’d got together to make their local green more productive. Seeing such images of examples of good things that have happened: that was great’ says Sally. ‘I think Transition Streets is an exceptionally powerful and good concept – and all power to it.’