Supporting "Youngers" In Transition

The day before the International Transition Conference in England last month, I was one of thirteen participants from nine countries—Australia, Belgium, Brazil, England, Italy, Portugal, Scotland, Sweden, and the US—to participate in the first-ever international Transition gathering for self-identified “young adults” (or “youngers”), as well as adults who are focused on supporting young adult participation in Transition. The session was beautifully facilitated by Isabel Carlisle, Transition Network’s Education Director; Henry Owen a “younger” member of the Transition Network Board of Trustees; and Maria Cooper from the Transition National Hub in Scotland.

The day’s conversation evolved around the following questions:

·         How can we create Transition livelihoods, to support ourselves in doing this work?

·         How can we shift our traditional notions of what success looks like?

·         How can the Transition Movement “make space” for youth participation and leadership?

The day began around the theme of “livelihoods,” as so many Transitioners, and perhaps especially youth, are seeking to find or create meaningful work that aligns with their values. Indeed, with the student debt crisis here in the US, and the emigration of young people from countries like Portugal where unemployment rates are critically high, creating Transition livelihoods is necessary for enabling young people to participate in the movement.

Four of the participants – Isabel from TN and the team from Portugal—are engaged in a project called “One Year In Transition,” which supports youth in developing Transition-oriented livelihoods over the course of a year and is something we might be able to adapt or replicate in the US (Transition Lab is another great program in the US that supports youth—and people of all ages—create Transition lifestyles and livelihoods). The REconomy Project is another excellent resource for youth and entrepreneurs of all ages who are interested in developing businesses that embody Transition values.

Another important topic that came up was the challenge of shifting traditional notions of what success looks like—both in our own minds and in the perceptions of our families and friends. For example, “What do I tell my parents… who supported me in accessing higher education and don’t understand why I want to be an organic farmer and live in a Tiny House?” In response, we acknowledged and appreciated the alternative lifestyles and pathways already created by the many Transitioners who have gone before us, and committed to supporting each other in creating our own unique paths and staying true to our values despite societal pressure.

As the day progressed, our conversation shifted into how to “make space” for youth in Transition. Most of the participants recognized a lack of youth involvement in Transition in their communities or countries – with the exception of Transition Initiatives that had been started by young people. This seems to be a pattern in the US as well. We explored a couple possible reasons for this dynamic (in addition to the need for Transition livelihoods):

·         Transition is place-based, and young adults tend to have more uncertainty (employment, housing, etc.) and are less likely to be deeply rooted or financially invested in a community.

·         Group dynamics—particularly issues of bureaucracy, agency, and empowerment—can deter younger activists or entrepreneurs from formally affiliating with Transition groups. For example, several of us have witnessed instances of young adults joining a Transition Initiative full of energy and ready for action, only to have their enthusiasm dampened after a few meetings and then leave and start their own project.

In addition, we proposed a few strategies to support greater youth involvement in Transition:

·         Providing young adults with access to quality (trained) mentors, resources, and relationships.

·         Consider how to offer young activists and entrepreneurs in your community the benefit of Transition even if they aren’t formally affiliated with your group. In particular, we identified Inner Transition andpositive visioning as especially important tools for equipping youth leaders to be successful and avoid burnout.

·         More established Transitioners can offer housing in exchange for Transition participation on a “work-trade” basis (view this teleseminar recording “Relationships Through Transition” by Russell Evans from Transition Lab for tips on developing successful work-trade housing arrangements).

Overall, my biggest takeaway from this gathering is that it represented the beginnings of a shift in the Transition movement. The more attention we give to supporting distinct groups and marginalized voices in participating and leading Transition efforts in their communities, the more powerful we become as a movement, and the better our chances of handing over a livable planet to future generations.

We have a lot of work ahead of us to fully support the participation and leadership of "youngers" in Transition, but I am heartened by the potential and look forward to holding space for this conversation in the US.

If you're interested in being part of a conversation on supporting youth participation and leadership in the US Transition Movement, please email marissa@transitionus.org with some background information about yourself and your experience related to youth participation in Transition.

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