8/1/12, Kingsley Association: Fred Brown's Conversation with TransitionPGH about his further involvement with Transition
Executive Summary (background, analysis, and full notes are after all this):
We reaffirmed some of what TransitionPGH will be doing in the next weeks and months: education (on the issues, using movies and talks), skillsharing events (raised bed building!), and action events (Grow Food Party Crew!)
Fred, to secure his involvement, needed TransitionPGH to have more specific methodology & strategy, and less of the disorderliness, than in the past. He seems to be onboard, now. Though he sure as heck doesn't want to be the “posterchild for poor, black neighborhoods.” He's got more to offer than that—certainly being a liaison for the communities and planning circles he's part of.
As always, you must secure a community's understanding, involvement, voice, and approval in your plans in order for the community to use your plans. Which is not always how it's been done in Pittsburgh (in fact it may well be that this hasn't been done effectively much at all).
If Transition is to be successful in Pittsburgh neighborhoods with populations that are either transient and/or hard-hit by economic distress, we need to demonstrate clearly how Transition is going to supplement people's incomes in the short term (in a few months, even). Some possibilities:
Community solar (Standard Solar, Zero Fossil)
A Grow Food Party Crew to help create gardens in peoples' places.
Transition obviously needs to tread lightly in places like Larimer, rather than barge in; Transition can't try to take over or try to act like saviors, but it can mold its way around the systems already in place and act like a support structure; we can be mortar between the bricks that is others' programs and efforts, reinforcing the overall effort.
One thing we can do: Transition Larimer's Arts initiative could start an evolving art wall like in Chicago (made of pounded tires) that tracks the community's development over time, scrapbook-style, that anyone can post to.
Some of that infrastructure we build around others' efforts could be simply information-related:
Mapping apps like Imagine Larimer could have larger applications, such as online maps of economic & environmental resiliency in all neighborhoods across Pittsburgh, inspiring healthy competition between neighborhoods. We can set metrics and goals online, and talk about them more and more.
A big resource list of Pittsburgh organizations and programs: that's something no one's done yet.
Having someone coming to events & documenting would be useful
Directors manage volunteers from Pitt & whatever else
the volunteers track 3+ projects, get data, put em up on the site
(Further down the road, a more developed TransitionPGH could be doing analysis of the nonprofit/government/business landscape in Pittsburgh, preparing/giving reports at fees of $100 or so.)
We can act as a technical assistant for getting programs off the ground: not “we help you plant seeds and install solar panels,” but rather, “we take you to people who can help with this and that gardening and solar matter, and then WE help you navigate the bureaucracy and setup groundwork for your project.”
We (I) still need to inventory members' abilities, call whomever's been trained, previously, see what they're up to now, and what they WANT to do.
Background & Analysis: Fred Brown, Alex Dale, Mark Dixon, and I sit down at the Kingsley to talk to him about the current state of TransitionPGH, give him a general overview of where we're headed, and try to outline IF he'll continue to be involved and how he'll be involved. Fred's just been to Chicago, where there was the Transition THRIVE training , an advanced course for people past the initial “LAUNCH” training stage (this is also known as the Training for Transition, though it's been renamed), and the “Training the Trainers” training, which essentially is trying to make more Tina Clarkes.
The Transition Movement's international trainers and organizers apparently want to hear more about what Fred's doing in Pittsburgh vis-a-vis Larimer—that he can tell them. But they also want to know about how that crosses over with what Transition Pittsburgh is doing, and that's hard, since he's not as involved with us. And he, to be honest, hasn't had good experience with past years' leadership with us. The involvement of Alex & Mark—as opposed to people less experienced in high-level planning and community organizing like myself and previous leaders—is a positive sign, something that he, at the end of our conversation, seemed to feel was a reason to be hopeful about his relationship with us, and reason enough to start thinking about future plans with us and TransitionPGH.
I'd love to say that at this point that I know exactly where we'll be 3 years from now. I only have a vague idea..And beyond that, we are going to try to be the mortar between the bricks that are others' organizations efforts, providing some data and marketing-related infrastructure, and, longer-term, offering consultant-type skills.
At least one thing has already materialized: talking to Andre Tucker and Fred more about how to do an Art Wall with Transition Larimer's Arts project—and I've mentioned it to the Larimer Green Team on 8/23. Seemed like it was possible to work into one of their projects.
As usual with these notes, taken stream-of-consciousness and then edited later, not everything is recorded or explained perfectly, and there's a lot of transitions from first-person to third-person without warning (that would be a heck of an editing job.) I'm happy to clear up anything unclear.
We start off the meeting. Fred says his piece:
Wants to know: how do we do Strategic partnerships with other organizations? [We get more into that later.]
We ask him about being on Transition's Advisory Board. Also, he doesn't want to become poster child for work in neighborhoods that are predominantly minority and disadvantaged—his range of experience goes beyond just being involved in neighborhoods like Larimer.
Specific strategy & methodology for Transition, that's what he questions.
First the basics: If 20% of people control 93% of wealth, how is it possible to do this Transition? [It's not a helpful or healthy balance.]
His continual rejoinder: finding people from suburban & rural areas to teach others "how to fish." That's workable.
Transition can't label the Larimer Vision to Action plan as Transition, obviously. So what else can it do in places that already have something going, like Larimer?
How about an arts plan. Transition Arts, involving perhaps things like Betsy Damon's water use plans, that's something that will be continued in Larimer.
Moreover, Transition as a Technical Assist--to help things gain momentum. Not necessarily technical in the “we help you plant seeds and install solar panels” way, but “we help you in navigating the bureaucracy to get your project done, we give tools and metrics to help you further your goals
Helps individual neighborhoods get things done on a more macro level.
Imagine Larimer: an interactive map that incorporates measurement of soil, air, gardens, puts it into a computer, shows where your neighborhood is in terms of certain measurable outcomes. Why not adapt resilience goals mapping software for Transition?
Make a website that tells people where they and their neighborhoods are along the path to having healthy relocalization levels. "We're RED and at ZERO for local food production levels?! We suck compared to this other neighborhood!"
We need to tell people upfront when they're volunteering how much time a certain project will take from them, and how much time the project will take from all volunteers, total: people need to feel sure their time is being used well, they need to see where what we ask of them fits into the overall plan.
Fred talks about what he saw in Chicago
He saw this in one redeveloping neighborhood: A giant wall of community events, happenings, memorabilia, and otherwise, posted-to scrapbook style, constantly evolving.
Chicago has immigrant communities defined by culture;
We in Pittsburgh have socioeconomic definitions: poor, black & white
3-5 generations of people in the same town--don't have that affinity here. WE came here cause there was a job, a cheaper house. No tie to the community. As opposed to Chicago.
WE gotta be more nimble--we CAN'T get from people such committment of geographic stay-putting-ness.
Gotta be instant change & help, HERE. Food on the table. A job. Can't be
Transition Streets got $750k from the Utilities companies
They think outside the box more readily
They have the resources & workers but not WORKFORCE DEV. No TRAINING.
Alex: Our current model: have a screening for a small group, offer workshops, small trainings, etc.
Fred (talking about the Transition Model when applied to various U.S. communities): “12 Steps for Transition” don't apply everywhere. The head Transition people internationally would like something different to see. They expect local Best Practices. They expect that from us: to create a list. So what are we doing here? What's going on with Pittsburgh? What's working here?
Major grants MIGHT be gotten for something LIKE Imagine Larimer w/at risk factors included in the online model.
Our infrastructure can't withstand an external locus of control.
Larimer, as a neighborhood, is still developing, and despite One Voice's existence (the PR/marketing arm), it can't yet say as one voice, “We need this. We like this. We respond to this THIS way.”
Here's what's going on in PGH as opposed to
Foundations have been raked over the coals for this report by PP & D:
over a 30 year period there's been no substantial improvement.
People are doing hood shtuff in a mansion. It's a nice mansion, and it's