Transition Whatcom

I had an action item from the May 9th meeting to write a draft a process for our Actions for Resilient Communities (ARC).  This is the result.

The Transition Whatcom ARC (TWARC?) is proposed as an alternative to an EDAP.  If we were to create an EDAP, it would likely be similar to those produced by other Transition organizations.  The TWARC, as you will see if you read on, is vastly different.

More detail is required to complete our ARC process, but what follows should be enough to stimulate discussion.  One hopes that most of that discussion will occur here, and can be concluded at our next meeting. 

But first, for reference, the purpose of Transition (from the TW ning site) is:

To support community led responses to peak oil and climate change, building resilience and happiness.


The purpose of the TWARC is proposed:

To be an inclusive, collaborative and ongoing process that collects and disseminates practical guidance on resilience enhancing actions to individuals, groups, businesses, and local government in Whatcom County.


And finally, the ARC Process works like this:

A simple procedure allows TW members to become ARC contributors.  Besides subject matter expertise, ARC contributors would be expected to have some familiarity with the TW organization, its goals, and its values.

ARC contributors enter practical information that helps people increase resilience into the TWARC Wiki. A Wiki is a public, web-based information repository that is available to us without cost.  Only recognized ARC Contributors can add new content to the Wiki.

Contributors’ information is stored, discussed, and maintained as "lessons" in the TWARC Wiki.  The general public can read and comment on lessons (but not create them).  When first created, the lessons are considered “experimental”.  They are intended for use by those who are most motivated, most desperate, most skilled, and/or perhaps most willing to experiment with new resilience enhancing techniques.

The Wiki also contains descriptions of TWARC administrative processes.  These are therefore available for public review and comment.  They are subject to modification, within reason, in response to popular demand.

Experimental ARC lessons that have been reviewed, tested, and verified as useful by early adopters will become  “certified” lessons.  In some cases, it may be desirable for the experimental lessons to be edited and restructured for instructional purposes.  This need not be done by the original contributor as it ideally requires instructional design expertise. Experimental and certified lessons are at least logically separated to avoid confusion among the uninitiated.

Certified ARC lessons are available as instructional materials to the public .  A mechanism for accepting comments on the materials is provided.  Comments from instructors and “graduates”  are used to expand, refine, and enhance the instructional value of the lessons.

ARC Lesson materials may be formatted in a variety of ways depending on the nature of the subject and the various learning styles of the audience.  For example, the information might end up as text, automated tutorials, or videos for on-line self instruction. Or ARC Lessons could also be lesson plans for instructor led , face to face, group instruction, or whatever else is found to be popular and works.

The ARC is maintained over time as follows:  Lessons may gradually adapt to changing circumstances and new challenges, and thus remain relevant, useful, and generally available.  Lessons which remain static or unused for a long time may lose certification. 

The details of uncertified lessons that remain unused for some period of time would be logically or physically removed from the “active” on-line environment and archived.  Summary information might remain public to ensure that late blooming lessons are not prematurely demoted.  

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Replies to This Discussion

Tris, I hope your proposal goes through as you state it. The "lesson" idea will be especially valuable as people actually try to descend from dependence on commercial energy, not just discuss it. I hope to be able to contribute a lesson when the machinery to do so is in place.

We have a good start to a discussion here. Here are some ideas:


People who might be interested in contributing to this Wiki would need to know what the expectations and requirements are for becoming an ARC Contributor. Some people will very easily grasp the Wiki's needs in terms of ARC Contributions. Although there will be varying degrees of understanding and ability in those that wish to be contributors. One suggestion for the first set of contributions to the ARC Repository, which if successful could become the first "certified" lesson is: A guide for becoming an ARC Contributor.


Related to this thought stream is the question: What is the appropriate response to those individuals who want to be ARC Contributors but have not met the requirements for becoming an ARC Contributor? I will not propose to know how to answer this question now, but surely it is important.

David MacLeod asked a couple of important questions that were stimulated by a comment on my blog.  I'm replying here just to keep the ARC discussion all in one place. 

He asked: Do you envision the ARC as a 'How To' manual?

The answer is "Yes", but it is both a "What To" and a "How To" manual - except of course that it is dynamic and somewhat interactive rather than static as a conventional printed manual would be.


Why would speculation and discussion about theory be inappropriate for the ARC?

I strongly favor discussions about theory and reasoned speculation. I'm proposing we do just that in my blog. But my suggestion for the ARC is to keep it focused on providing practical (and eventually proven) techniques for enhancing resilience.  IMHO, the ARC should not be seen as the single, all encompassing solution for TW's communication needs.  We can and should undertake other initiatives.

For example, if there are enough other people interested in working up some future economic scenarios, to pick an arbitrary example ;-), we should find a convenient place to do that.  It could be here on the ning site, in Google Docs, in another Wiki, or wherever people think will work best. 

We might want to evaluate some of the practical techniques in the ARC on the basis of our economic scenarios at some point, but the two need not be coordinated during development.  And therefore there is no reason I can see to have them in the same place.

We can always pull certified lesson from the ARC and comnbine them with other material to produce a more comprehensive view of Transition if and when we need to.

IDEAS for Discussion

1. What kinds of things -specifically- would be included in this document? How to begin growing your own food? AND A list of resources ie; people, community gardens, links, places for materials, etc... to help you get going on growing food?

2. Could the Transition US site/organization be a resource to get started on this? Here is a web address to a page on the site with free slideshows we could look at to get some ideas:

RE: Idea 1 - I think we  could brainstorm a short list of topics and then recruit "topic champions" to administer ARC contributions for that topic. We can publish a process for expanding the ARC to include additional topics so that the range of topics can expand based on public interest.  Bacically,  whenever there is a new topic, adiministrator, and the prospect of a few contributions we expand the scope of the ARC to meet that need.

RE: Idea 2 - Yes it could. I suspect there will be some intersection between topics in existing EDAPs and what we want to address, in practical terms, in the ARC.  Refer to the discussion Action Plan: Step One... on the ARC Work Group page.  ( You have to click "view all" at the bottom of the discussions to see it) for the existing list.  Feel free to check out the TUS slide show and add your recommendations to that discussion.


Kyler Boyes said:

IDEAS for Discussion

1. What kinds of things -specifically- would be included in this document? How to begin growing your own food? AND A list of resources ie; people, community gardens, links, places for materials, etc... to help you get going on growing food?

2. Could the Transition US site/organization be a resource to get started on this? Here is a web address to a page on the site with free slideshows we could look at to get some ideas:

Now that the permaculture principles class is almost completed, I'm back to trying to wrap my head around our ARC project. The class has been very helpful. Somehow, even though I read the Transition Handbook, I missed the whole connection with permaculture. But then I figured permaculture dealt with just gardening and home building. I am definitely drawn to the more social and cultural aspects of the principles.


Tris, I love the idea of both experimental and certified lessons as well as the position of ARC contributors. I especially love the idea of having a diversity of lessons from text to tutorials and videos. We could even have a tutorial on how to create a personal energy descent action plan. That was brought up in class last week. And I agree that discussions about theory (beyond comments on lessons) belongs on the TW Ning site and not in the ARC space.


I've been thinking about how to build our ARC with some basic structure but lots of flexibility. I can see some topics that might not lend themselves to online lessons. There could be quite a diversity of responses. How about a structure where each topic answers three questions – What? Why? & How To? The What would be the description of the topic, be it seed saving, alternative currency or biofuels. The Why would encompass the vision – why is this an action toward resilience? And the How To could be one or more lessons, experimental or certified. But it could also be resource links to schools that offer classes, or links to websites with the information already available or a description of a locally developed product with contact information or . . . (use our imaginations). For instance for local investing, the How To could be information on contacting the new Whatcom Investing Network. Perhaps under a topic dealing with Heart and Soul issues, we could have a selection of local poetry on dealing with energy descent. I envision starting with TW groups and moving outward. We provide some structure, such as using the Why, What & How To format. Then each topic could be linked to one or more of the major categories. I'm seeing more of a connecting web develop.


As far as categories are concerned, I've been struggling with the categories suggested under the “Step One: Developing a Framework” discussion. I wasn't sure what was missing for me until I saw the seven domains from the Permaculture Design System Flower. They are

  • Land and Nature Stewardship
  • Built Environment
  • Tools & Technology
  • Culture and Education
  • Health & Spiritual Wellbeing
  • Finances & Economics
  • Land Tenure & Community

I have two reasons for proposing these. First, it would keep us linked to the Transition Movement's roots in permaculture. And two, you will notice Energy is not a category since it is imbedded in all of them. That is the whole point of energy descent; it affects everything. A good place to learn more about these is at




Linda -  Thanks for your comments.

I like your “What, Why and How” suggestion as a starting point for the structure of ARC contributions.  For those contributions that are actually instruction (as opposed to just links or whatever), I would also like to see something that explains what the student will be able to do at the completion of the lesson.  These statements were once called Behavioral Objectives, but there’s no need to be technical about it.  This could go in the What section along with a general statement of the topic as you suggest.

I really like the personal EDAP concept. That is sort of what I had in mind when I was talking about the Transition University idea.  A personal EDAP could be the final requirement for Bachelor of Transition degree.   Implementation could be done at the graduate level!

I’m assuming that the basic idea of the categories is to convey to contributors what kinds of topics are relevant, and to make it easy for our “customers” to find a lesson that meets a particular need. Categories are cheap.  I don’t see why we shouldn’t have as many as are useful to optimize access.

In that context, I do disagree somewhat about ignoring Energy as a category. I think there will be great interest in learning how to obtain the energy one needs for food preservation and cooking, for heating, and, if any is left over, for transportation.  Being able to access the topics via an Energy heading seems useful to me.

Of course, at the next level under Energy, you might fine subheadings such as: Energy for food preservation  (Which would link to Food Preservation topics that address the energy issue) or Energy for cooking  (Which would link to Cooking topics that discuss types of stoves and ovens). 

One could also say that economics affects everything people do, so we ought not have an economics category.  If you have to leave something out, that omission would make more sense to me.  I do think an understanding of basic economic principles is vitally important.  But it isn’t something that is an immediate concern to the average person in crisis.   

Economic issues related to housing could better be discussed in practical terms along with other housing topics, for instance.  When someone has a housing crisis, they’ll look under Housing and (one hopes) find the economics info they need.

However, I think we will learn what categories are effective from feedback as we go along.  For now we just need some sensible starting point.  I’m not going to get emotional over where we start.


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