About the Suffolk pilot.
In early 2012 I was reading ‘The Transition Companion’ (published by Green Books, written by Rob Hopkins ISBN 978 1 900322 97 3) and looking for ideas to invigorate and kick start our local transition group. The book is full of ideas! On page 201 Tools for Transition No.12: Street by street behaviour change is introduced. Over the next two pages I grasped the idea and wanted to know more. So I looked up Transition Streets on the net and found the final report of September 2011. Having read the report I realised that this was exactly what I was looking for.
The report mentioned above and the Transition Streets course originated in Totnes in Devon. My initial thought was to get a Suffolk course going locally. Initially I contacted Deborah Wargate. In May/June 2012 Deborah started conversations with Mary Popham (contact 01803 867358 or email firstname.lastname@example.org), with a view of Suffolk purchasing a copy of Transition Streets. These conversations revolved around access to copyright material and the concern that Mary had that any course leaders would need appropriate training to ensure a successful course outcome.
As my intention was to start the pilot in September 2012, I contacted Mary direct. After several email and telephone conversations it was agreed that as member of Greener Fram (a transition initiative) we could have access to the Transition Street material free.
The Transition Street material forms a work booklet which each participating household receives free. The work booklet consists of seven chapters running to 148 pages mostly in colour. A summary of the content is referred to later. The printing of the booklets for the eight households of the Suffolk pilot cost £146.16 in total. We used the Suffolk Coastal print room to print the booklets. Each booklet cost £18.27 paid for by Greener Fram.
About the participants and area of the Suffolk pilot course.
The Suffolk pilot Transition Course started on the 26th September 2012 and finished on 12th December 2012. Of the eight households that took part most were resident in our village. The village has only 152 residents and 65 households. Our rural village is situated 3 miles east of the market town of Framlingham in Suffolk. One household travelled from Framlingham to attend the course. It was difficult at first to enlist members to take part. ‘I will if others are interested ‘was a comment made.
We set up an evening and an afternoon course to accommodate babysitting and work rotas and to give maximum flexibility. The evening course was attended by seven households and the afternoon course by two households, Sue and I being common to both groups. For only one session did an evening course member attend an afternoon session. We met roughly every two weeks in participant’s homes. Over the course we met in five different homes. I acted as coordinator for both courses. We usually started with some refreshments and on the last session we had a shared celebratory meal.
Most households attended the course as couples and most attended all sessions, some missing one session. The participants covered a wide age range, types of housing, employment and interests. About half were unknown to each other before the course. Six out of the eight households participating completed a course evaluation form.
About the course (for those who are not familiar with its content)
Transitions Streets originated in Totnes under the name of Transition Together. The Totnes report is based on 468 households from 56 groups. The ‘average saving per household is around £570 per year and 1.3 tonnes of CO2 per year’. ‘The greatest benefit was the new social connections and the strengthening of local community.’
The course has seven chapters and one chapter is discussed in each session. Each session lasts about two hours. A local facilitator is usually present at the first and last session. With the Suffolk pilot I acted in the role of coordinator and facilitator. The chapters in the work booklet are entitled ‘Getting started’, ‘Spend less on energy’, ‘Spend less on water’, ‘Spend less, eat well’, ‘Wasting away’, ‘Getting around’, and ‘Wrapping up’. Each chapter is structured with an information overview, possible actions ranging from little to high cost, savings, effort and CO2 saved. There are 35 possible actions in total in the workbook. Each chapter ends with a section looking at the bigger picture.
The chapters each provide ample information, references and readily accessible material to discuss. With the Suffolk pilot group we spent quite a lot of time comparing what each household was doing already and what we might aim to do. At the next session we then started with what we had done since we last met and further thoughts on the previous session.
After the course is over
After the course is over then what are the on-going benefits. We have agreed to continue to meet as part of Greener Fram. Our first meeting will be in mid-February. As a group we are going to organise ‘a pig club’ (the pigs have been bought!) and a wood cutting day. Some of the group have chainsaw licences, trailers and log splitters. As a result of the course we know more of the skills, tools and resources available across the group.
The group are interested in revisiting chapters of the workbook particularly energy, food and travel with a view to working together to produce practical local ‘solutions’.
Three of the participating households have agreed IOUs to pay for some work booklets for the next course and another has offered their skills as a newly trained energy assessor.
Greener Fram had only five core members. We have over 200 email supporters. Now we have up to 16 more people from the course who are keen and have new ideas to explore how we can create a more resilient, sustainable local community.
As individual households the on-going benefits of the course are varied. All the households involved have a greater awareness of the resources they consume whether that is in the form of electricity, water, food, or fuel. One household plans to explore living off grid for a day. Another is replacing their present heating system with a more sustainable and less oil dependent system. Yet another is using an electrical energy meter for the first time and learning about the electricity used to power different devices.
The course achieved what we set out to do. Firstly it was great fun getting to know our neighbours and discovering how we could save money. Secondly the courses heightened awareness of the issues around climate change and peak resources. Thirdly, from that awareness, came practical lifestyle-changing action. Lastly we have decided to continue to meet to have fun taking more action together.
The ‘Transition Streets’ future in Suffolk.
We are intending, with cooperation from Transition Town Totnes, to run further courses in the local area around Framlingham. The message is getting out, that the course is enjoyable and worthwhile. We will be looking for funding for printing the work booklets for future courses.
As we used the original material for the Suffolk pilot, the work book had sections which were only relevant to the Totnes region and would need editing for use in Suffolk. I think I read somewhere that Transition Streets was to be revised in a more generic form and, if that were the case, then in Suffolk or indeed anywhere else, appendices would need to be added relevant to the region. If Suffolk were able to negotiate with Totnes permission to edit or were going to use appendices, we have available amendments and local contact details collected during the pilot course.
We are sending this report to a large number of groups and organisations to promote the use of Transition Streets in our county. We would thoroughly recommend the use of this course to help create more sustainable, resilient, communities. These communities, by taking the actions suggested in the course, will use less energy, will contribute less carbon to the atmosphere and be less oil dependent. They will also have taken the most important step, the first one, towards a simpler lifestyle.
If anyone wishes to know more about the course, then we can be contacted by email email@example.com and are willing to come and talk with you or you could go to the website for Transition Streets www.transitionstreets.org.uk/ .
Thanks for reading this report.