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6 Jul 2010

Some Reflections on ‘The Big Society’….

A few people have asked me what my thoughts are on the whole ‘Big Society’ concept being promoted by the new British government.  I have attended a couple of events over the last week that have given me space to think about it all, so here I am with a few reflections.  Last week I attended the Community Land Trust conference, and yesterday I was at the launch of the Sustainable Development Commission’s ‘The Future is Local’ report.  So, for those new to the idea, the ‘Big Society’ idea is David Cameron’s big idea, focusing on localism, returning power to local communities, making central government smaller and shifting its role to the devolution of power wherever possible, calling for “a massive, radical redistribution of power”.  Here he is talking about it….

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxXqkLDdOzQ

At the CLT conference, the new Housing Minister, Grant Shapps MP, gave a rousing talk about how the government is committed to CLTs (albeit in a slightly altered version called ‘Local Housing Trusts’), and wants to see them everywhere.  They want to see communities taking charge of creating their own housing, raising their own financing and building housing which is in community ownership in perpetuity.  All sounds great.

One part that was slightly alarming was when he said that in the forthcoming ‘Localism Bill’, there will be a provision that if 90% of a community supports a development, it will be able to bypass the planning process.  This raises a number of questions.  90% of which population?  Street?  Neighbourhood? Parish?  Town?  How do they vote?  Then, even if you did get 90% support, is it really, at a time where the need is to promote zero carbon housing, sensible to allow housing to bypass planning?  Will it just lead to rubbish housing?

Will Day speaking at the launch of 'The Future is Local'

At the ‘Future is Local’ launch yesterday, the various speakers offered different insights to the whole Big Society discussion.  Will Day of the SDC said that the aim of the report is the explore “integrated area-based approaches to upgrading infrastructure”.  The thinking goes like this: we have x million homes that need to be retrofitted, the government has no money (well, not much), and we need to promote retrofitting and use that to also create energy security, quality of life, a sustainable economy (fascinating term that…) and jobs.  The idea is that a piecemeal approach isn’t anywhere near as cost-effective, the ideal is to work street-by-street and to use that also as an opportunity to engage communities.

Richard McCarthy of the Department for Community and Local Government spoke next, starting by talking about why localism is important.  It is about, he said, giving people the freedom and space to develop their own responses, free of government regulation and interference.  For him, the Big Society represents “an opportunity for things to happen at a local level”.  The new government plans to get rid of Regional Development Agencies and of Regional Spatial Strategies, and to reprioritise Local Plans, and for those plans to focus on neighbourhood led plans.

Mike Reardon of the Greater Manchester Environment Commission spoke about the work they are doing there to retrofit the city.  He said that they are looking at the process trying to work out how to maximise the economic benefits to the city of the retrofitting work, working on, as he put it, “the engine of retrofitting”.  The challenges they have faced, he said, are their own capacity and capability, realising that there is a significant skills gap, and that they need a new workforce capable of delivering it, hence they are planning to create “A Low Carbon Centre of Excellence” (sock darning MScs…).

Ged Edwards of Sustainable Blacon Ltd talked about the fascinating work they are involved with in a suburb of Chester, which offered some insights into what a post-EDAP Transition initiative might look like.  Blacon is an area of significant disadvantage, and Sustainable Blacon are focusing on 4 things, green transport, green energy, green spaces and green social enterprises.  They are set up as a not-for-profit, with 3 functions, firstly offering services, secondly working as a regeneration consultancy, and lastly promoting Sustainable Blacon.  Their board is made up of resident stakeholders, organisational stakeholders, and expert advisors.

The last, and the most challenging speaker, was Philip Blond of Respublica, who was interviewed recently here at Transition Culture.  Blond is one of the architects of the Big Society concept, and has the ear of David Cameron, for whom he acts as a great inspiration.  I took a lot of notes of his talk, which I will reproduce here because it will inform some of the following discussion.  What, he asked, is the great difficulty with all this talk of localism?  The fact that there is not actually much society, society has become very disassociated.

Very few people out there are ready to engage, the poorest people are 2.5 times more likely to be lonely than the wealthiest.  People, he continued, no longer associate, there has been a diminution of social capital, the different classes mix less often than they used to.  So how do we get to a more associated society?  The answer, he argued, is to begin where people are at.

What we need is a Big Society, and that requires something for people to associate with first.  What do we do when there is no collective identity?  How might we, in an increasingly fractured society, get people to form together in groups?  The environmental movement has, he argued, gone about things in a very dangerous way.  It took an issue of concern to all, and captured just one part of the political spectrum which meant that those on the Right and in the Centre had no interest in it.  Secondly it has failed to communicate carbon reduction in a way that anyone can visualise and care about.

The New Age of Austerity Begins Now: 'refreshments' at the back of the hall during the launch of 'the Future is Local'....

The solution, he proposed, is to begin where people are.  If their idea of environmental work is to beautify their place , or plant trees, then start there.  What people will gather around and form groups around will vary between communities, it might be crime, or it might be beautifying an ugly place.  These projects can then become hubs for other projects.  The state’s role, he said, is to “facilitate civil association”.  The aim should be to create different groups with different intents, and then provide quick wins for these groups.. the role of civil servants then becomes to facilitate this.

In many ways, the new political landscape which I hope I have captured in the above snapshots looks like one in which Transition should feel instinctively at home.  Indeed, I do think that the ‘Big Society’ agenda creates a space in which Transition initiatives should really be stepping up to the plate, and seizing it with both hands.  Local community-led responses, delivering the low carbon agenda from the ground up, facilitating inward investment, returning power to local government and so on, all offers a new context that Transition initiatives should seize with both hands.   There is a very real difference though, between the concepts of ‘localism’ and ‘localisation’.

Localism is about the devolution of power, a devolving of decision making to the lower levels, to communities and to local government.  Localisation is about shifting the focus of economic activity to local markets, to meeting local needs, where possible, though  local production.  Localism certainly creates a more conducive context within which localisation can flourish, but localism, as promoted by the current administration, still takes place within the wider context of globalised economic growth, which in turn drives energy dependency and carbon emissions.

I do however have some problems with this new localism agenda.  As I listened to Blond’s talk, I thought, well is it actually true that we live in a country with not much society, that society has now disassociated?  I remember just before the election hearing Eddie Izzard, who had just run all around the country, doing 50-something marathons for charity.  He said he didn’t believe in ‘Broken Britain’.. everywhere he had gone people were much more community focused than he had expected.  My experience from visiting Transition initiatives is that community is there, everywhere, sometimes more obvious than other places, but the point is that community will organise when it wants to, it doesn’t need permission from government.

In the short film at the top of this post, Cameron says “I don’t believe that civil society springs up of its own accord”.  Well there are thousands of community organisations around the country, run mostly by volunteers, Transition initiatives, Low Carbon Communities, Greening groups and so on, none of them waited for permission from government.  They certainly sprang up of their own accord.  What matters is for the State to offer such projects meaningful support, and to remove the obstacles strewn in their paths.

Perhaps they might say, for example, that for communities wanting to install community owned renewables through a community ESCO, or similar model, they will put up 50% of the money, matching whatever the community raises through community share options or bonds.  Perhaps the £10-15,000 loans soon to be offered to homeowners for retrofits on a ‘Pay-As-You-Save’ basis could also be offered for individuals so as to raise the initial capital for a community energy company.  Perhaps government might give communities first refusal on land zoned for development, and allow the use of compulsory purchase orders by community groups for sites they want to develop.  Perhaps they might introduce something like the Low Carbon Fund which has run so successfully in Scotland, to which community groups can apply for anywhere between £1,000 and £1,000,000 for low carbon projects.

One of the bits I struggle with is the idea that government’s role is to devolve responsibility to communities, to devolve leadership.  In one way, I love it.  Of course communities have a key role to play in Transition in the wider sense, and need to be given that responsibility and trusted to take some leadership.  Transition has long argued that without active communities taking leadership, national decarbonisation/resilience building will struggle.  However, climate change, and the need to cut emissions sharply, also very much need strong government.  In Germany and Denmark, emissions have been cut by decisive and focused government action, while also empowering communities.

We need the empowerment of communities, the enabling of community responses, but we also need strong, imaginative government based on a strong agenda of slashing the nation’s emissions.  I’m not sure that we have that. For example, I live in Devon.  Almost every planning application for wind farms are refused by the predominantly conservative Council.  So, if the move then is towards local communities being able to decide whether they want wind farms or not, we’ll probably end up with even less. Without strong government, we will never get anywhere near the nation’s targets for installed wind capacity.  We need both.

Of course the cynic might point out that the reason for the Big Society is the sweeping cuts in public spending that are only just beginning.  If you replace the word ‘localism’ with ‘privatisation’, it is not that different in some ways from the Thatcher government’s agenda.  There is a challenge within it around what people are actually capable of doing in their spare time.  Working full time, and also running a school?  Working, managing a family, looking after an ailing relative, and running a Community Land Trust?  Of course there are incredible people out there who do that, but it will have its limits unless people are supported in other ways too.

Having said that though, I welcome the potential that the Big Society represents.  It offers a context within which Transition can really step up to the plate.  It explicitly states that it wants to see communities stepping up and taking control, and that can only be to the good.  It has lots of hooks onto which Transition groups can hang their projects, and it also raises lots of questions which Transition initiatives have hard-won experience they can feed into.

We need inspired, motivated communities taking ownership and responsibility, but over that, I would argue, we also need to be laying localisation, seeing that, for example, retrofitting Manchester could stimulate not just new trainings, but also a wide range of other potential businesses and livelihoods.  While localism is a great first step, it will be when localisation is woven in too that we really start to get somewhere interesting.  When the Big Society meets the Local Economy, then we’re really moving, and it is that localisation piece of the puzzle that Transition brings to this discussion. This brings us to the need to redefine resilience, not as a state of maximum preparedness for the ghastly, but as a desired state, as a positive.  But that’s a subject for a later post…

Anyway, I would love to hear your thoughts on this…

Comments are now closed on this site, please visit Rob Hopkins' blog at Transition Network to read new posts and take part in discussions.

22 Comments

Nick Osborne
6 Jul 11:29am

Ahh, good one, as that is just what I have been thinking: the last comment about redesigning resilience as not just a state of preparedness, but a desired positive state. I think the concept of VIABILITY is much more useful here than resilience.

A local community needs to be viable in relation to the larger systems of which it is a part. Resilience is a part of this viability, but viability is much more than resilience as it is about the ways in which the local system ‘fits’ into its environment, not just about responses to change. As many of us probably know, its a concept taken from ecological science about the extent to which creatures/systems can survive by achieving a degree of ‘fit’ with their surroundings- goes back to Darwin.

And there is a great piece of work which has already been done to help us structure our communities and organisations to achieve this viability- its called the Viable Systems Model. It can be hard to get your head around, but it provides us with a recipe for how to do this.

I would like to find people in Transition who are using this model, or interested in doing so. The Ecovillage project called The Village in Cloughjordan is using the Viable Systems Model to structure itself around.

There is a guide to it here: http://www.esrad.org.uk/resources/vsmg_3/screen.php?page=home and a book on it called The Fractal Organisation which applies it to organisations. It probably needs a bit of adapting to local transition communities, but is probably worth the effort.

All the best, Nick

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Mike Grenville
6 Jul 11:49am

You quote Cameron as saying “I don’t believe that civil society springs up of its own accord”.

In response I point to this quote from the overview of Paul Hawken’s book Blessed Unrest:
“From billion-dollar nonprofits to single-person dot.causes, these groups collectively comprise the largest movement on earth, a movement that has no name, leader, or location, and that has gone largely ignored by politicians and the media. Like nature itself, it is organizing from the bottom up, in every city, town, and culture. and is emerging to be an extraordinary and creative expression of people’s needs worldwide.”

http://www.blessedunrest.com/

Co-incidentally while this Big Society event was going on, I was in another part of London at the post Trashcatchers Carnival seminar on ‘How do societies learn’. They had fought against what seemed to be insurmountable resistance of bureaucracy to be allowed such a simple thing as a short parade down the High Street on a Sunday.

The result, was an event that made connections across many parts of the community and in the words of one parent, “exceeded all expectations.

Instead of the anticipated maximum 500 people getting involved in making the Carnival happen, nearly 800 did.

As Lucy Neal commented, “so much of the future is in our imagination.” Tooting certainly showed what can happen when people come together and imagine.

Francis Macnaughton
6 Jul 11:57am

Rob,

I heard a similar message at the Public sector Low Carbon conference in Bristol a couple of weeks ago. Here a DCLG official was passing on the message from Eric Pickles as Secretary for State that local authorities and communities shouldn’t wait for further instructions but get on with their own local low carbon agenda. Combined with their plans to remove of much of the top-down hierarchy of planning policy, doesn’t this make it all the more important now for community groups, such as those in the Transition movement, to explain why peak oil and climate change will affect the local community and ensure that this is properly taken into account in local planning decisions? Not least by building up support for community owned renewable projects so that the true level of local feelings for/against are properly represented – I have been to local planning appeals for wind farm applications all too often where the objectors are entirely from the well-heeled and older part of the community and, I believe, unrepresentative of the true balance of local views. Active involvement by commuity groups can play an important part in shaping views – Sustainable South Brent’s recent sucess in getting approval for a 225kW community turbine is a case in point and it had no objectors at all!

stef
6 Jul 2:33pm

This territory is interesting, and worth pondering over for sometime, as its implications will be far reaching. Thanks Rob, for getting stuck into it. Past history says we should really keep our eye on how this concept ends up being delivered- you were right to point loudly to the 90% idea, and to the fact that it depends on how you look when quantifying social capital- the RSA’s work in New Cross shows this nicely http://www.thersa.org/projects/connected-communities.
What keep coming back to me time and time again is the phrase “decisions are made by those who turn up”- lets hope the right people turn up.

Hal
6 Jul 4:49pm

Thanks for this, Rob, very helpful. Commentary of this quality and relevance needs to be read in the broadsheets and picked up by other media in the mainstream.

After the work you have put in to this post, you are only 30 mins from having a press release that can really travel. Or even less to make it a letter to Times, Telegraph or Guardian.

The strongest thread that cuts through all you have referenced here is just how relevant Transition is, with answers to many of the big question being asked today.

Lets not keep this to ourselves. I would love to know my extended family, councillors and many other people i have never met are reading this.

Let’s see Transition find its voice in the bigger public domain. We have got so much to say and so much to offer, particularly to this debate. And all the fledgling Transition Initiatives out there have so much to gain by Transition getting some acknowledgement and becoming a more commonly recognised name.

You’ve gone and done a press release now, lets see some more.

Shane Hughes
6 Jul 10:49pm

Nick, re viable systems – not sure if you know about Jon Walker? I met him at the 2009 conference. Here’s his site http://www.esrad.org.uk/resources/vsmg_3/screen.php?page=home. I’ve sent you a PM with some more names.

Wonder how pattern language fits with viable systems?

Shane

[...] – a bit fluffy, you may say (I love them!). There’s an interesting article by Rob Hopkins here on Cameron’s ‘The Big Society’, which reminds us that localism, as promoted by the current [...]

Mark Brown
8 Jul 10:37am

I fear “Big Society” may become all things to all men: the media think it will be local people running their hospitals and schools, Transition-folk think it will be cooperative ESCOs and farmers’ markets, the Government will think it is local services provided for free without Tax Payers’ money. Rob’s raised some valid points here about what our fellow “local” people think about things that are dear to OUR hearts. Anyone who followed my Tweets today will hear how disheartened I have been in Wycombe’s Local Community Partnership workshops. Our fellow citizens in civic society are not talking or thinking about localisation, resilience, peak oil or climate change. These don’t even make the agenda. They want BIGGER roads and better Car Parks. Our only hope HERE in High Wycombe is actually National and Local Government leadership. Our local authority is engaging in constructing a “Carbon Reduction Framework” and we hope that Transition can contribute. As it stands today Civic Society is so off-message that we fear the the Local Authority may just ignore their own citizens in building the framework. I do feel that Local GOvernment still has a role in offering leadership and education so that the Local Community Partnerships can become part of the Carbon Reduction Framework. Otherwise we all be pulling in opposite directions.

Mike Grenville
8 Jul 10:48am

Democracy has been defined as rule by the lowest common denominator.

Mick
9 Jul 5:23pm

In the beginning was the word and the word was localisation. I’ve never been much enamoured with this perspective and this piece by Rob just convinces me that it is/was not and never will be the answer to ensuring a more intelligent relationship with Nature.

As Rob concedes, the Conservative government position follows on from the opportunities for privatisation set up over a long period of time, from the Thatcher years and on through the Blair and Brown governments and now being rammed home with a vengeance to ensure the majority not only suffer the consequences of the greed and theft that are continuing to take place of the financial resources (value), that doesn’t really exist except on a computer hard-drive, but are also expected to take responsibility for running the assets that they themselves are paying for. If they can’t manage it, then let them eat soil, or words to that effect.

One of the mainstays that Permaculture has promoted from it’s earliest days is the relationship with the land. My question is, which land? The majority don’t have any. It’s owned by a few and the means of production is owned by the few. Until this fundamental is addressed the present government is going to attempt to have people running about, giving over their lives to running all the facilities they rely on, gratis, and those facilities you can’t afford to access well that’s just too bad, and the services that fail, well that’s just the markets expressing their will – i.e It’s no use to us if their’s no money to be made.

The idea of communities coming together to express their own political and collective creativity is of course an old one, but I believe has been expressed most forcefully and progressively in the model of the Soviets. These where Councils of Action and set up to counter the tyrannical and abusive Tsarist regime. The form is now very different; a different place in time and space; a cultural difference that makes clear the limitations of simply attempting to impose this theoretical and practical paradigm. Nevertheless, the content of that period hasn’t fundamentally changed and the need for a managed relationship with Nature as a transitionary step towards a genuine creative and egalitarian flowering of society on a global scale is, I believe, the only answer to an economic system that cannot be negotiated with and is simply not interested in a future for humanity. the facts speak for themselves, regardless of the ideological rhetoric.

If permaculture, in the form of Transition Towns, is now considering allying itself with a Tory government intent, then it has surely lost its way. In philosophical dialectics, this is where the interpenetration of opposites finds its home and at a point of qualitative change the socialspeak of the Tories will become its opposite and leave us buried in the middle of the 18th century or inhabiting the world described by Jack London in ‘The People of The Abyss’. Expropriation is the only word worth discussing in this context; to allow the organising of an infrastructure to meet the needs of the majority and to give way to a materialist world, where humanity has a respect for itself and the Natural world. The people of Greece are leading the way; Bring on The General Strike.

Melissa Worth
10 Jul 3:36pm

One of the problems with devolving power directly to communities (enticing as it sounds), is that there is not only a time deficit, as Rob points out, but a skills deficit. The local great and good in my hometown have done a good job within their own field of vision, but the community groups they lead (in a very 19th C sense) serve their own needs, and are not great at inclusion.

They have also so far failed to make much of an impact on the town as a whole, despite there being a lot of public support for some of their projects. They have been bogged down by dysfunctional partnerships, political in-fighting and incoherent aims and objectives.

What they really need is some Transition Town type training – on large group consensus methods such as Open Space, or via courses such as the ‘Permaculture for Groups’ which would enable them to develop a coherent group vision. Despite us having significant local expertise in VSM, people are still attached to out-dated and hierarchical organisation structures and practices. There is lots of ‘leading’, very little consultation and listening, and absolutely no accountability. The group I am thinking of has been sitting on hundreds of thousands of pounds for the best part of 20 years and have delivered nothing beyond argumentative letters in the local press and a few depressing headlines.

The thought of these people gaining control of local facilities such as the library, care homes and schools depresses me beyond belief – I see a future where the running of such core services is devolved to the ‘community’ amid much fanfare. The services are then run to the ground through self-interest and beign incompetence, and are eventually ‘saved’ (bought up) by the private sector.

It seems to me we are in danger of losing yet another ‘commons’. We urgently need to train our communities to shoulder the responsibilities being passed on as the state is ‘rolled back’.

Re the issue of whether or not communities need state intervention to prosper, ‘The Future of Community: Reports of a Death Greatly Exaggerated’, by Clements et al is interesting, if polarising…’

Nicholas Roberts
12 Jul 6:19am

so what happens to BIG BUSINESS in the Big Society ? I assume its left alone to be BIG and to continue to dominate the LOCAL. All the big corporates operate in the local, they have to touch the ground somewhere, and its local niches where they make their money. Big government is the only institution that comes even close to the power of big business, and often its not even possible for a powerful national government to go against a big business lobby.

Trugs
13 Jul 1:24pm

Expropriation can work both ways – what’s to stop Transition folk from “hijacking” “Big Society” to create ESCOs, CSAs etc and demonstrate the workability of our concepts and ideas ? If this is the prevailing political dogma, we can seize the bits we like and use them. In permaculture we don’t wish for things that aren’t – we get on and use what’s there and around us don’t we ? How many big businesses do we expect to survive the peak oil induced economic storms anyway ? Their business models are invariably predicated on the norms of the cheap oil era – we can expect most to fall…And what happens in natural systems after the mighty oak falls ? Doesn’t fresh lush new biodiversity emerge…?

Guy
16 Jul 9:59pm

As a town planner working in a Conservative controlled part of the south east I have relatively recently dealt with a planning application for a wind turbine. In that case it wasn’t the planners or the council that were against the turbine. As a planner my role is to look at the pros and cons of the application within the constraints determined by national, regional and local policy and come to a conclusion accordingly. However in this case the level of antagonism from the local populace to a single turbine was astounding. The applicant withdrew the application. This example showed me how localism can lead to a, “not in my backyard” attitude to development irrelevant of the wider need.

Having recently attended the Royal Town Planning Institutes annual conference the issue of localism was on many lips. The Conservatives have abolished the regional level of planning which provided indepth research on such issues as how regions would address issues climate change. When addressing how ecosystems will adapt to changing climates a regional level provides a framework within which local authorities can work.

Now local authorities are being told that they should work with neighbouring authorities and if they see a need to work at a wider scale that there is no reason that they cannot organise themselves at this scale. However with the removal of the regional level the government is saving the money previously spent whilst failing to provide additional resources for LA’s to work at this strategic level.

This is in a climate where many planning departments are expecting cuts in the nature of 30%, which effectively means job losses.

The skills that existed at the regional level will be lost as those working at that level have lost their jobs and with many local authorities not perceiving climate change let alone peak oil as a priority work in this field will reduce.

Working in a LA covered by the Green Belt where for example house development is actively discouraged by many residents, localism will simply mean even less houses are built whilst the need for additional housing only increases. The Conservatives have removed regional housing targets with the result that local authorities can determine the targets within which they will work.

Localism where local people in the majority accept the need for urgent action on climate change and peak oil may work but where the majority are not supportive the level of progress will only diminish. The consequence will be a patch work with no overall plan to address the wider issues.

D Wright
23 Jul 12:50pm

I think the Big Society is a big con.It’s a way of putting responibility onto anyone but the government

Mud
5 Aug 10:30pm

Of course, back in the 40s they realised that the way to beat Hitler was to dissolve to the local level…digging for victory was all very well, but all the weapons that were needed could be made in people’s sheds and garages…yes it worked then and it will work now.

Nick
3 Sep 12:22pm

>It offers a context within which Transition can really step up to the plate. It explicitly states that it wants to see communities stepping up and taking control, and that can only be to the good.

This really does seem astonishingly naive. Here are some reactions from transition members that I know personally:
“any community group associating itself with this agenda is cutting its own throat”
“this idea is total bollocks”
“ego-fuelled mission creep”

How can they “step up to the plate” with no resources to do so? Resources are being withdrawn, not somehow transferred to the community. It is not cycnical to suggest this is a cover for privatisation, it is evidence-based. Please go away Rob, and read Naomi Klein’s “shock doctrine” and reconsider how “cynical” this is. Here is just one concrete example of the ‘big society’ in action. Southampton is set to have 100% of its central music funding withdrawn. How exactly can this be replaced by people “stepping up to the plate”?

I fear that by inserting ourselves into this agenda we will alienate much of the transition membership, and the good work and goodwill that has so far been done will wither and vanish as we become guilty by association.

Nicholas Roberts
3 Sep 6:33pm

I think you will discover very quickly the limits of the non-confrontational, non-divise approach to transition. What happens when the non-divisive, non-confrontational niches shrink smaller and smaller as the state becomes even more top heavy and austerity measures roll-out ? when people get kicked-off welfare, services get cut ? do you really think the Transition Network is capable of dealing with that ? I think the Trapese Collective where prescient to write the critique The Rocky Road to Real Transition http://sparror.cubecinema.com/stuffit/trapese/rocky-road-a5-web.pdf
While it may seem obvious to try and
limit political wrangling in a burgeoning movement, this position
raised some serious questions about the effectiveness of a depoliticised
movement and was one of the motivations for us to write this booklet.

michael Dunwell
6 Sep 1:51pm

Thank you Trapese Collective for The Rocky Road; very thought-provoking for a Transitioner becoming more and more involved with Local Authority activity. There’s an aspect of this you don’t mention but does receive a lot of attention from Transition Training: personal resilience in scary environments – an inner counterpart to your facing the realities of power out there and not hiding from them. I hope both will give us strength.

Nicholas Roberts
6 Sep 4:52pm

I expect that Transitioners wont have too many problems with working with local governments. Its larger government agencies and corporates that will be harder. As the Cameron-Brown-Blair neoliberal austerity roll-sout smashing down local government, services and programs I am sure it will be easy to develop more solidarity with a lot of local governments, even Conservative ones. But all of your problems will be coming down on high, Westminster, Whitehall (national government) etc and the City of London (corporates). I think that you will have big problems if you keep your scope purely local and maintain a blind spot or blinkers. You need to anlalyse the power relations and follow the money. many times following the power/money will take you offshore on up-scale.

De-politicisation might be a nice tactic for certain projects, campaigns etc. But as an overall strategy for a movement, its organisational suicide

Feeling good about yourself, and maintaining love in your heart while someone puts their boot on your neck or closes down your school or your hospital and kicks your poor out of their homes… I dont think thats the radical pacifism that Jesus had in mind. He was about non-violent direct action and wasnt afraid of taking it into the Temple

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