In response to the topic of Inclusion and Diversity recently posted on the Transition Network website, I feel it is important not to inadvertently put up barriers. This may happen if people are thought of as "those people", people on the outside of Transition. I'm tired of hearing people speak as though people of different cultures and ethnicities are so different from each other. We are all humans, and are all in need of the same basic rights and necessities. All humans are concerned with their health and well being, and desire access to fresh and clean food and water sources. We all have a need for affordable transportation, housing, heating, and cooling. People all want a secure future. These are all things that Transition can help with. The fact that people are even discussing being perceived as a "white middle class", "hierarchal power" makes me ill. Presentation is the key. How Transition presents itself to others, and how others perceive Transition will create success or failure.
People of different cultures and backgrounds have so much knowledge that pertains to the Transition movement. People from many countries live daily with "reduce and reuse" as a way of life because it is a necessity. They have balcony and rooftop gardens because they are necessities. They conserve water and electricity because it is necessary. Therefore, immigrants of these countries have firsthand knowledge as to how to apply these ideas and can perhaps help us to integrate them into our own way of life. It is now just a matter of obtaining their help. Once we achieve this, I believe a natural occurrence will happen and we and they will become us, the Transition community.
For example, in my community there is a large Chinese community. Many Chinese here have amazing food gardens, thriving with exotic herbs, fruits, and vegetables and these gardens were created with trellises and containers made from recycled materials. Their knowledge of how to create these types of functional gardens would benefit the Transition community. It seems to me then, that it is in our interest to approach knowledgeable people in our communities, and explain to them in brief summary what we are a part of and what we want to achieve. Then express that we are seeking people within our community with skills that would assist us in our goals and that we would be honoured if they would pass on their knowledge to us in whatever way is most comfortable for them. Perhaps they would be willing to hold some workshops or presentations. I believe that instantly people will feel a sense of pride in their knowledge and their culture. I think people will be eager to share in this way, and it will immediately tear down bridges. Obviously there may be obstacles such as language barriers, but I have no doubt that a person in the community, perhaps at a nearby university, would be willing to help. We need to stop being so scared and start being resourceful.
This may help to get people on board once their interest is sparked in this way, but there still needs to be more. I think it is important that a Transition representative seek out leaders in other communities, cultures, and backgrounds, whether it be a nearby Italian community, or your local school for the deaf. We need to start approaching people and letting them know who we are and what we are about. Then we need to ask how they feel this movement pertains to them and their community and how they think we can all best work together to achieve common goals. I think Rob Hopkins says it well in his draft on Inclusion and Diversity:
Building an Initiative that integrates all the strengths and concerns in your community means starting with everyone in that community and interweaving diversity into everything you do. In practise, it’s about a lot more than putting up posters in a few carefully chosen places. Rather than inviting people to your meetings and expecting them to come along, it’s about going out to other people and listening. It means finding out about the strengths, concerns and the passions that fuel the fire of everyone in your community and then together with your own ideas, using that as the building blocks for creating an inclusive vision that informs everything you do. The result will be a just, fair and infinitely more resilient Transition.