I am currently part of a small study group using material from the online "PDC+++" course on the "People Care" module. Last week's class looked at why groups fail, and also discussed some communication strategies. One of the things that came up in our discussion was when we think of "Reskilling" in Transition, we tend to focus on the "practical" hands on skills, like how to grow a garden, or retrofit your home, or graft fruit trees. How often do we think about the importance of learning skills like how to become more skillful in our communication, or how to keep a working group together, or learning tools for building consensus? I've often wished that we at Transition Whatcom would find more time to make this kind of skill building more of a priority.
Another immediate opportunity is Alan Seid's "Change Agent Road Map" Whatcom Folk School class happening this Friday evening (12/09/11). I'm told registration has been extended for one more day. Angela and I used to help Alan produce his classes, so we had the good fortune to experience most all of them, and I've learned a huge amount that i think has greatly helped me to be a better agent of change. Alan has spent a lot of time searching for the best tools available, and then he took the time to become an expert at presenting them. I don't know all that Alan will cover Friday evening, but I imagine it will be some combination of Non-violent Communication, 8-Shields model of organization (Acorn), Financial Integrity, Dynamic Facilitation, Integral Sustainability, and Intro to Permaculture.
I was glad to read this morning the new Transition Culture post: "Transition: Thrive - Our New Sustaining Momentum Course Has Its Fir...." Transition Training in the UK has developed a 2nd level course in addition to the excellent existing course that basically covers an intro to Transition and how to get an initiative up and running. The new training deals with how to go to the next level with Transition, or how to deal with the myriad difficulties that tend to come up. Naresh Giangrande shares honestly about "those who have been at the coal face of Transition for a while" and some of the needs of these Transitioners.
One of the replies to the blog post above mentioned a wonderful book by Peggy Holman: Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval into Opportunity. I still haven't read this book myself, but I've been meaning to. Peggy gave a brief presentation on this book at the Permaculture Convergence last year, and I was so impressed with her wisdom. The blog replier from Transition Oakville (CA) noted that this book, along with the 3 others he mentioned, "will completely revolutionize the way you imagine social change happens (and loosened me from a fixation on ‘education’ to greater interest in co-creation and solidarity and emergence)." The best thing about it is the text of the book is freely available online.
Another thing I read this morning was a book review of the new Starhawk book: The Empowerment Manual: A Guide for Collaborative Groups. Reviewer Lindsey Curren, at Transition Voice writes, "This book could easily be the bible, the essential guidepost, the indispensable how to manual for those in the #OccupyWallStreetmovement, both on the ground, and sympathizing from a distance (or working in small towns for the same aims.)...Starhawk explains what to many seems the baffling process of consensus decision making. She also covers the necessary elements for healthy group processes, factors that undermine those processes, and how to guard against destructive elements."
I would be remiss, of course, not to also mention The Transition Handbook, and the Transition Companion, which i think are great resources, whether you're directly working on a Transition project or just trying to be the best change agent you can be.
Finally, another great resource that comes to mind is the project of former Bellingham residents Dave and Allison Ewoldt: the Coalitions of Mutual Endeavor(COME) project has collected most of the tools we used at Sustainable Bellingham, and I have found these tools to be extremely useful. In fact, some are the same tools that Alan Seid teaches (NVC, Acorn model, Dynamic Facilitation), which brings us full circle.
Alan says this about the Change Agent Road Mapclass: "In this class I will cover the four things all change agents need to be effective, as well as several of the most high caliber tools I have found for making a powerful difference. I will also give everyone some immediately actionable tactics, as well as previewing a year-long coaching program that I'm launching in March 2012."