Transition Guelph has always had a unique perspective on the collaborative model. The Transition model itself relies on collaborative efforts, and often asks the question: “Is someone else already doing this? Great! Let’s work with them.” When we thought about how we could share this perspective with the wider community, we realized that our organization could also have a lot to learn from others around us, and we decided to have an Open Space event to explore the issues of moving from a competitive model to a collaborative model in our community. The question we asked at the Open Space was:
“How do we move from competition to collaboration to promote the local good that is happening in Guelph?”
We had some amazing discussions that covered topics from practical applications to dealing with emotions like fear to making sure the right people are at the table. The information below is a summary of the discussions that happened at the Open Space; we hope that you will find it useful when looking towards future collaborations in your life, community, or business.
If you know someone who is working in a collaborative model and would benefit from our suggestions, please share this document with them! We would also love your feedback – do you have something to add to our list? A revision to consider? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know what you think.
Our friends over at Appleseed Collective had a busy two weeks gleaning berries, berries, and more berries! Here’s a quick update from Denise on their success:
To date, we have gleaned 314 quarts of strawberries from Marcy’s Berries – thank you so much to the Marcy family, who has donated their share back to the Collective, for distribution.
Other than the volunteers’ shares, these strawberries have been donated to food access distribution sites in Guelph: Chalmers Community Services Centre, Royal City Church Life Centre Agape Café, the Julien Project, the Welcome In Drop-In Centre, and Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis.
We have delivered large quantities to the Flamborough Food Bank -which is local to the berry farm- and the Salvation Army Food Bank in Guelph. We have also frozen several quarts of strawberries, to be used at a later date in a jam-making workshop.
[With apologies to "That's Entertainment" (Weller, 1980)]
Knees red from squishing ripe ones,
Belly sore from too much sampling,
Snails and thistles, i just swallowed ten fruit flies,
But I have to smile, ’cause i’m giving it all away
That’s berry gleaning,
That’s berry gleaning
Waking up at 6 am on a cool morning,
Out in the field and breathing in positude,
The bull is snorting in a nearby yard, but
I’m not missing the tranquility of solitude
That’s berry gleaning,
That’s berry gleaning
On a cold, dreary day in February of 2014 I was sitting at the window wondering what to do when I grow up. How to take what I knew and what I didn’t know (yet) to make positive change in my life and perhaps someone else’s, too.
At first, the only thing I could see was the reflection in the window. A quiet room, a sleeping cat, a dusty table, a mature (?) woman ready for change. But as myeyes adjusted to the light, I began to see the garden. Dirty snow, wet mud, a few frozen weeds – not very inspiring, that’s for sure!
My partner and I rent this house from the Holody family. The first generation of Holodys who came from Poland made their home here. The matriarch of the family, Barbara Holody, tended the large garden and fed her family and neighbours from the harvest – mostly potatoes. When she passed, her son, Joseph, (owner of Holody Electro-plating and past owner of the Guelph Platers) continued the tradition by keeping the garden planted. Each year, for the past four years that we have lived here, we have had a small plot of our own. Mostly for fun because Joe kept us and everyone else in his circle supplied with tomatoes, peppers, and mostly potatoes!
As the cat moved to another spot to continue his nap, I began to think about the garden in a different way. What if it became a place where people could plant, tend and harvest their own food? The snow that began to fall tried to squash my excitement but it didn’t succeed. What if our landlords let me turn their garden into an intentional community garden? An email request came back very quickly – “Yes, go right ahead!” Oh my, a February garden dream is quite different than an actual garden. How would I make this dream become a reality all by myself?
Enter Transition Guelph’s Backyard Share (Volunteer) Program Coordinator, Mike Barber. Mike came to visit us on a cool, sunny day in late March. We stood outside and talked about the garden (I am good at talking…not as good at soil preparation or rottotilling). Fortunately, Mike is a doer. He co-dreams, sees the steps necessary to make it happen…and then gets to work. By the end of April, the garden was nourished and tilled, plots were marked. We had neighbours and other Guelphites, as well as our nieces from Toronto, anxious to begin planting. But, the weather wasn’t cooperating yet. One day in early May, as I sat at the window, a few February snow flakes floated by. That day I went to a Seed Share and we selected seeds with mittened hands! Peas went into the ground…little, tender tomato plants waited on the window sill…waiting, waiting.
And suddenly it is a warm and breezy June day and I am sitting outside, on the other side of the window, at a donated patio set near the community garden (we also have donated chairs, a kids’ table, and other gifts). Each plot has a different “flavour” much like the gardeners that tend them. We are getting to know each other as we share the soil that is beginning to grow our food. We talk about what is growing well, share garden tools and use water from the rain barrels. The children that come to garden create beautiful sidewalk art and blow bubbles (to keep the rabbits away). Sometimes there is lemonade and munchies on the table…sometimes a parrot-like bird (Sophie) and a beloved gardener’s pet (yes, Ted, this is you!) visit. Strangers walk by and stop to chat about what we are doing…next time they walk by they are no longer strangers. Often, I am working inside or not at home when gardeners come by. It is so much fun to come back to the garden and see changes – new plantings, transplants, a pot of seedlings on the back porch with a note saying, “Please share these”.
In the center of our garden there is a designated community plot. Extra seed and seedlings have been planted here and the produce will go to the Welcome In Drop In Centre, the Guelph Food Bank and any other place where fresh food is needed. Another plot has become the pumpkin patch (with cantaloupes and squash, too) mostly planted by our kids. And our latest gardener has tucked some hot pepper plants in available spots.
On June 29, 2014 from 2:00 – 4:00pm, one of our gardeners is offering a Garden Stepping Stone free workshop here. Some materials will be provided and small stones, shells, beads, rubber gloves, etc. are welcome. And, we are having a Potluck Picnic on July 11, 2014 at 6:00pm. Everyone who is interested in gardening, community, and eating food is welcome to come to one or both of these events! Please contact me at email@example.com for more information and/or to reserve your place.
Dreams are amazing things, aren’t they? Who knew that my desire to grow up in a new and better way, on a cold day just four months ago, would bring such change to my life? A community garden… a garden community… a dream that became a reality… didn’t happen on its own… it is taking an entire community (garden) to help me grow up.
Appreciation is extended to the Holody family and the wonderful people at Transition Guelph (especially Mike and his supportive family), who are teaching me about inter-dependence and resilience. And to my dream-partner, Elizabeth, who went from saying, “This is your idea, I don’t want anything to do with it!”, to researching and building trellises so that we may grow vertical zucchini and other squash. Thank you!
Surrey Street West Community Garden
I just wanted to post a quick note to say what a great weekend we had coming together with Tina Clarke! Her care and facilitation were really great to experience. I am also so impressed and touched by the energy of those who came together for our weekend sessions and gave their presence and participation – you all really helped to make the weekend what it was.
On Friday night Tina gave a talk about Transition and community resilience, which really helped to kick things off on an inspiring note. Saturday and Sunday were full of discussion, idea generation, group-forming and path-blazing – what a productive and useful time! Keep your eyes peeled for a more detailed post about the weekend workshops as Kelly and I marinate in, digest and otherwise process all of what happened. What I can say now, however, is that I believe that the work that happened this weekend will go a long way towards strengthening and growing our Transition Initiative here in Guelph.
Thank you Tina! And thank you everyone who came and gave it their all!
If you haven’t heard, Tina Clarke is coming to Guelph and we are pretty excited. The last few weeks have been a mad dash to plan events, let people know, and generally prepare for the international Transition Trainer to be with us this weekend. Being relatively new to Transition Guelph, I haven’t had a chance to meet Tina before so I’m especially excited to meet the woman that everyone speaks so highly about.
Since becoming a Certified Transition Trainer in 2008, Tina has worked with over 120 Transition communities, given 42 of the official Transition weekend courses in the U.S. and Canada, and provided hundreds of Transition presentations. That’s no small feat for a movement that is growing so quickly all over the world. Tina draws experience from her background as a trainer, program director, and consultant. During her years prior to full time work with Transition, she supported and guided leaders in 400 local, national, regional, and local organizations. She’s worked with faith-based communities, Greenpeace USA, the Veterans Education Program, the Western Mass Funding Recourse Center, and more. She’s worked on campaigns dealing with energy and environmental justice. More recently she’s participated with 350.org and the Sustainability Institute as a consultant. With a background so diverse and accomplished, it’s no surprise that Tina’s reputation proceeds her.
Collaboration, Resiliency, and the Transition Movement
On Friday evening, we are hosting a public event where Tina will share her thoughts on “all things Transition”. If you’re new to the Transition model, Tina can give you insight into the movement to help explain what Transition Guelph is all about. If you’re more familiar with the movement, you can be inspired by Tina’s insight and learn how we can keep our local initiative moving forward. Tina will be talking about how we can work together as a community, and what a more resilient community could look like in Guelph. I am both ready and incredibly excited for a healthy dose of inspiration and energy that I think Tina will bring to this event!
Transition Guelph Workshops
Over the weekend, Transition Guelph members (that could be you!) will have the opportunity to work with Tina in a number of workshops to look at our local initiative, see where we are, and take aim to improve in the future! On Saturday, we’ll be meeting to talk about Sharing, Creating, and Working Together at 10 Carden from 9 am to 12 noon. During this workshop, we’ll be talking about how to be effective in our working groups and looking at each member’s individual gifts that can help the movement. On Saturday afternoon, we’ll reconvene at Tytler Public School to chat about Charting the Future: Assessment and Direction from 1:30 pm to 4 pm. During this workshop, we’ll focus on roles and responsibilities within Transition Guelph and look at the future of the organization to make sure we are on track!
On Sunday, the workshops will continue again at 9 am to 12 noon at 10 Carden to meet with the new steering group and existing board members to look at how we can effectively work together and ensure that people are comfortable in their roles. We’ll also talk about how the two groups can work together. If you’re interested in being part of the steering group, please try your best to attend this workshop! In the afternoon, we are back at Tytler from 1:30 pm to 4 pm to start Resilience Festival 2015 planning! We’ll also be looking at how to effectively run Transition Guelph events to make sure that everyone gets the most out of them. If you’ve been interested in getting involved with TG but didn’t know where to start, this will be a great workshop for you!
Come and Be Inspired!
Over the last few months, I’ve met a lot of people that didn’t know what Transition Guelph was about. Some people have never heard of the Transition movement (we are working on changing that!!) and other have strange ideas about what the movement is all about. Coming out to any of these events is a great way to learn more and what Transition Guelph is up to and where we are moving! You can register for the talk tomorrow on Eventbrite, or just come to the door! All are welcome. Hope to see you there!
About three weeks ago on May 10, Transition Guelph, along with Bike-Friendly Guelph and GCAT, hosted an “Introduction to CanBIKE” workshop on cycling survival skills for urban riding. The tag-line for the workshop was “I don’t feel safe on my bike!” and the accompanying promotional material went on to explain that this was the primary reason most people gave for not riding their bike in the city. In particular, cyclists often cite lack of respect or awareness on behalf of car drivers for their trepidation around riding on city streets. Let’s face it, while awareness is high around the health and environmental benefits of cycling, this can be somewhat mitigated by the attendant awareness that getting smacked by a two-ton automobile being driven by some guy more intent on texting than on the road can somewhat compromise at least the health benefits.
Certainly, that tag-line had some personal resonance for me. My anxieties notwithstanding, I still do bike as much as I can, preferring to reserve my car for situations where I am transporting stuff that can’t possibly be moved around on a bike, like loads of lumber, or my stack of guitars and amps (which damn near doesn’t even fit in my car!)
Nevertheless, there are still plenty of situations in which I am far from calm while peddling; biking up Edinburgh Rd, for example. Should you not have had the exquisite pleasure of riding up this road for yourself, allow me to explain. First of all, while the lane width is perfectly adequate for Smart Cars, Austin Mini’s and Isetta’s, your average Canadian car occupies virtually the entire lane. When you add Hummers and Escalades, the situation is rather like trying to cram a hippo into an outhouse. They don’t fit! So where does a bike go? you ask. Well, you could try cozying up to the curb, but most the curb on Edinburgh is in such bad shape, and so riddled with four-inch deep ruts, gouges and sewer grates that you might as well just fall off your bike deliberately and get it over with.
So anyway with all this in mind, off I went to the May 10 workshop, which was facilitated by certified CanBIKE trainer and biker extraordinaire, Evan Ferrari.
The workshop was… er, “sparsely attended”, probably since we didn’t do a great promotional job, and also because a couple of confirmed registrants bailed at the last moment. Still, that was fine by me; it was great to have that level of personal attention!
The first part of the course was a bit of classroom instruction, in which we looked at the circumstances and reasons why we tend not to feel safe, and looking at some overall strategies for handling some of these basic situations. We looked briefly at biking in other countries, chiefly for the contrast: there are many countries where biking is an incredibly popular method of routinely getting around; Canada and the U.S. are something of anomalies in this regard. Finally, the classroom instruction touched on some brief, but highly effective! demonstrations of why biking is such a great idea, not just for the environment and personal health, but also for the overall structure, tone and people-friendliness of the city itself.
Then, on to a nice picnic lunch, and the on-bike portion of the day. We rode up to Central Public School and worked on some bike handling and control exercises in the schoolyard that started out simple, but became increasingly complex and challenging. Evan coached us on some excellent tricks for control and handling, which went a long way, just by itself, to increase our confidence. Many of us found ourselves doing things that previously would have scared us off or seemed completely impossible. A great confidence booster!
Finally, on to the roads. We started out on quiet residential streets and gradually worked our way up to arterial roads, heavy traffic and taking the lane in busy situations. Evan insisted on letter-of-the-law observance of all rules of the road. No rolling stops at Stop signs, no failure to signal a turn or a stop, and no two-abreast. And no skimming by parked cars! It doesn’t matter that you “don’t see anyone inside.” Suppose the driver’s bent over to pick up a dropped cell phone, then starts to get out of the car without looking? You could win, as Evan calls it, the door prize.
I came home with two big takeaways – both of which have made a huge difference in my confidence on the road.
The first of these is: don’t hug the curb! My previous response (and a quite reasonable, if incorrect, one) to riding on narrow, busy roads without bike lanes was to get as far off to the side as I can, trying to stay out of people’s way. If a car or truck squeaked by me so close I could feel the breeze from the side mirror on my arm, this would simply prompt me to get even closer to the curb, until all my concentration was focused on not hitting it with my front wheel. Guess what? That doesn’t work. All it does is make it easier for drivers to ignore you. One to one-and-a-half meters from the curb: that was Evan’s rule. So what if drivers have to go around you, mumbling obscenities under their breath? At least they’re giving you the room you need to ride safely. After all, you and your bike are a vehicle. You have every bit as much right – legally and in every other way – to occupy that lane as any car.
The second takeaway was: always signal! This is not necessarily about letting drivers know what you’re about to do – although that can be a useful side-benefit. It can also be about simply mystifying drivers as to your intentions, which is a good thing for you. Quite a few drivers are not very familiar with bike hand-signals, or at least, they have to sift through their rarely-used memories to try and dredge up what they mean. Thus, when you signal, it definitely lets drivers in your vicinity in on the fact that you’re about to do something. Just what that is may not be entirely clear to the driver, but when confronted by that uncertainty, they’ll damn well slow down until they figure it out! I saw this at work several times when biking downtown as part of the workshop, and several times since. It’s almost magical. Stick out your arm, point it up, point it down, whatever, and the vehicles around you halve their speed until they figure out what you’re up to. It’s even half-tempting to just make up a few hand signals in order to confound everyone! (But, that would be wrong…)
Anyway, the bottom line is, the course was totally worth the investment of time and money, and it’s helped to completely transform my urban riding. I feel a whole lot more confident. I bike Edinburgh, Speedvale and even Woodlawn (a bike death-trap if there ever was one) with a lot more self-assurance than I ever had before.
And here’s the best news. We’re doing it again! Back by popular demand, Transition Guelph, GCAT and Bike-Friendly Guelph is offering the same one-day introductory course Saturday, June 21. The cost is the same, $60, and bear in mind that all revenue over and above cost is donated to Transition Guelph!
So check it out; come out on June 21; improve your skills, improve your confidence, and improve your abilities. I highly recommend it.
Sophy Banks tends to be hailed as an initiator of the Inner Transition aspect of the Transition Movement. She, along with her friend Hillary, joined early when Rob Hopkins and Naresh Giangrande were beginning to talk about a Transition Initiative in Totnes. Hillary thought there should be a component that looked at the psychology of change – how do we as human beings respond to difficult information, and how do we undergo change as a group? For Sophy, Inner Transition is an absolutely essential part of the Transition Movement.
We live in a society, within social groups and families who teach us their values from the time we are born. Sometimes this is a conscious teaching. More often it is subliminal, subconscious or otherwise indirect. One of the major values we are taught from the society we live in is oil dependency. Some argue that this could even be classified as an addiction. Another major value that we are often taught is an ego-centrism – I need to secure my own resources regardless of what this means for someone else! These days there are also many pockets of our society where we see more and more distrust of “strangers,” of anyone we don’t know personally.
The Transition Movement is very much about envisioning a future we would like to live in, and making that happen. In large part, it means learning to be less oil dependent and to leave a lighter footprint than what’s currently “normal.” The Inner Transition aspect of this part is to look at what personal, internal shifts we need to make in order to make the external shift. At some point, if I am going to make the changes necessary to be self sufficient, I need to believe that there is a need for it. Not everyone involved in Transition projects will make this shift, but there is a need for at least some of the members, particularly those at the centre who are most involved, to inwardly accept that what our culture has taught us about being in the world is not good enough and in some cases is downright wrong. This is an inner transition, and one goal of the Inner Transition work, according to Sophy, is to support that and to understand what happens to people, families and groups when they begin to shift their thinking and beliefs.
Another side to Inner Transition is envisioning the “softer” aspects of a future we want to live in. Sophy suggests that we live right now in a time of record low levels of community trust, caring and love. She asks the question, how do we create a loving, caring, trust-ful community? What are the steps that we need to take to create a “good society,” as she puts it? How do we move from being so worried about securing our own resources to a more collaborative, sharing-based model?
As a message of hope regarding this aspect of transition, Sophy reminds us that in times of crisis there is often a reaching out between people and significant community building. She believes that we should be telling each other stories of how this has already happened in the face of difficulties and crisis – during wars, hurricanes, times of personal tragedy. We don’t want to be stuck on negative events, but there is learning to be had from the way communities pull together in these times – perhaps we can we learn to bring this learning into our lives without waiting for another crisis.
A final idea of Sophy’s that I would like to share with you is the need for “deepening.” The idea of deepening is hard to define, but I would suggest that in this case it could mean a continued movement towards a greater, more nuanced understanding of a belief, or a stronger sense of alignment with it. For Sophy, this need for deepening in relation to the core values of the Transition Movement is essential, especially in the people who are central to a particular initiative. With these central members experiencing ongoing new understanding or inspiration with relation to the principals of Transition, it continues to breath new life into the initiative. Without this aspect of Inner Transition, the initiative will stagnate.
In closing, I encourage each of you to consider your own inner transition. Where are you right now in relation to the Transition Movement? Do you just enjoy participating in the occasional event? Are you fully immersed and looking for how you can do something positive about your understanding of what the future may hold? How did you get to where you are? How do you feel about that? How could you deepen into your personal inner transition?
See the following link for a 10 minute interview with Sophy on this topic.
Kelly posted earlier in the week talking about the power of story-telling in the Transition movement. I am a horribly practical person who has difficulty imagining what things may look like in the future unless I can see the steps that are needed to get from here to there. My involvement with Transition Guelph has revealed to me a number of elements that I was unaware of, and that have now empowered me to envision a future I am more interested in living in than the one I feared was on its way. For me, the most impactful element has been connection with like-minded people. Being in touch with people who see similar story lines flowing through the world, and who want to live similar stories in the near or distant future has shown me some of the steps I needed to see, and has given me enough belief in our power to shape the future that I have been able to begin envisioning my story.
My story still feels modest and new to me, but it’s where I’ve been able to start. I believe that as I see parts of it falling into place, I will be able to dream bigger and add to it. It has been a very interesting exercise for me to write down my story, and I would encourage others who feel even some interest in it to spend some time writing theirs as well. I would love to read what you write – please post a comment if you have something you’d like to share.
Without further ado, here is a part of the story I want to live…..
I wake up in my Alice St. house in Guelph. It’s 7:00 am on a July morning and sun is flickering across my bed. I rub my eyes, absorbing for a moment the solar energy coming through my window, and then roll out of bed. My partner meets me in the kitchen and together we prepare our morning meal of toast, yogurt and berries. The toast is from home made bread, the flour for which was ground with the mill we bought with our neighbours. The yogurt was made by our neighbours – I give them a loaf of bread when it’s fresh from my oven and in return they share their yogurt. The cherries and raspberries grow in our backyard, from trees and bushes we got from the Treemobile a few years ago. The meal is sweetened with honey from down the street.
We sit in the sun on our porch, savoring the flavours of our locally-born breakfast as we talk about the day to come. Once our dishes are cleaned up we head out to the back of the house to garden. Over the next hour, our housemates join us in caring for the food that sustains us through the summer and that we preserve in fall to get us through at least part of the winter. We weed, we harvest, we turn the compost.
Mid-morning we head to a neighbour’s house – the one we trade bread for yogurt with. Their greenhouse needs a repair; one of the supports needs reinforcing and they’ve asked for a couple extra hands. As we work another neighbour comes by – she needs to run an errand and wonders if we would watch her kids for an hour while she’s out. She offers eggs from her backyard chickens in return. The little ones run around, enjoying the flowers, while us bigger ones finish the greenhouse repair and get some food ready – an omlette from the eggs and some backyard veggies. After a shared meal, my partner and I head home.
In the afternoon we welcome a new friend over. We have connected with her through the Guelph-Wellington Time Bank and she is here to do some maintenance on our bikes. When she’s done we share a glass of local iced herbal tea, grown and mixed by yet another neighbour who owns a small herb business. I bought it earlier using Guelph Dollars, our local currency, which I receive as part of my regular salary.
For dinner we head to a street-wide potluck. Many of our neighbours have gardens and have prepared dishes from their yards, and we light a fire in a fire pit to cook meat from our cow co-op. Wine made from grapes from a few streets over is poured. Discussion is lively. One group shares news of old neighbours, another welcomes new ones. Another pocket of people chat about about local energy companies – they’ve been looking at Transition initiatives in the UK which have started cooperatively owned solar companies in their communities. Others look attentively over a map that my partner recently put together of the easiest and safest bike routes through town – suggestions are offered and taken, a group trip to a second-hand store is planned. The neighbourhood message board is busy too – people put up offers of things they would like to share (a bike trailer, camping equipment, rides to a hardware store) and requests for things they need (a meal for a busy day next week, help choosing plants for a tricky garden patch, a knitting lesson).
As the light begins to fade, the solar-powered garden lights that the neighbourhood invested in together come on to guide people home. Conversation continues quietly even as the crowd disperses – the final details are settled for a work bee to set up a new garden and a meal train for a neighbour with a new baby. My housemates, partner and I head home as well, talking about the conversations and connections we shared over the course of the evening. We are happy, connected, well fed.
Storytelling plays an important and valuable role in making the transition to a post-peak oil culture, although it may not be an obvious role at first. When I was introduced to the Transition movement, areas like storytelling and inner transition seemed fuzzy to me. I wasn’t sure how they fit into the picture of resilient living, but the more that I read about Transition and the more documentaries I watched (which was a lot!), I began to understand the power that storytelling holds.
Storytelling has become a bit of a catch-phrase lately. It’s important to be able to tell a story about your vision. This idea applies to conveying new ideas to potential customers, but also applies to movements around social change. In some ways, it may be most important way to reach new people. In his amazing talk, Andrew Stanton, a wonderful filmmaker, shares he knows about storytelling. (warning: contains some graphic language!) Andrew shares what he believe are the key elements to telling a great story.
Looking beyond the concept of storytelling, there is an idea which is core to the Transition movement called “visioning“. Visioning is a special kind of storytelling which asks the storyteller to not just tell a compelling and convincing story, but to lay out what they believe will come to pass in the future. It is their vision. Visioning allows us to imagine a future rich with possibilities and then work to make that vision a reality.
One of my biggest “aha!” moments was reading through the Transition Handbook. Author Rob Hopkins was sharing visions from follow environmentalists and each was describing what a successful post-carbon world would look like, smell like, sound like. They described how we would spend our time, find meaningful work, and connect with our communities. Collectively, what these people shared provided a future that I could believe in and help work towards. By sharing their vision, their story, they have reached countless individuals who have a hard time imagining what our world might look like in 20 years! Another great example is the storytelling in In Transition, a documentary which introduces the concepts of the Transition movement.
Of course, following up with action is then the next step. In looking at the visions we have created, we can then start to think about how that vision might become reality!
The next time you’re hanging out with friends or family, try striking up a conversation about how they see the future when we no longer have access to cheap oil. A word of warning, you may be faced with a lot of “I don’t know…. what do you mean?”s. Try asking questions like “If we didn’t have cars, how would we get around? Where would we find work? What would we do for vacations?” and I think you’ll find that you’ll get some inventive ideas!
I was reading The Power of Just Doing Stuff (Rob Hopkins, 2013) the other day and came across the Bristol Pound. What is this, you may ask? In 2009 a small group of Bristol citizens, inspired by what they had seen happen in Totnes, Brixton and other transition towns decided to try out a local currency in their own home. At 12 noon on September 19th, 2012 at the local Corn Exchange the Mayor held up a note and asked loudly, “What will anyone give me in exchange for my Bristol Pound?” A local baker offered a loaf of bread and the currency was thus launched.
What is a local currency?
A local currency is a complementary currency – it does not seek to replace federal currency, such as the British Pound or the Canadian Dollar, it aims to operate along side it. Once one has traded federal money for local dollars, the local dollars can be spent at any participating business or organization. In Bristol, business can even pay municipal business fees in Bristol Pounds.
A neat feature used by some local currencies right now (in Brixton and Bristol, UK, for example) is the pay-by-text service where a business patron can text the total amount of their bill from their account to the account of business they are purchasing from. The business gets an instant confirmation text and the transaction is complete.
Why use local currency?
The main benefit of local currency is that it encourages local spending. When federal currency is used at a big chain store, most of that money is immediately funneled out of the community where it was earned and spent. It is shipped off to the bank accounts of some big company that likely has little invested in the many individual communities where it has built stores.
When local currency is in use, however, people spend more money locally, in ways that keep more of that spent money within the community. This retained money is recycled within the community and results in more local economic activity. Rob Hopkins estimates that the £180 000 that has been turned into Bristol Pounds will generate £1.8 million worth of this vital local economic activity (The Power of Just doing Stuff, p 57). As a result, more local people have more opportunity to be paid, to use services, to purchase local products and generally to support the great things their neighbours and other community members are doing. Sounds good to me!
Where does this happen?
Local currencies can be found on every continent (well, except Antarctica…) but Europe seems to be the global hub for local currency action. Germany has around 15 and the UK, France and the Netherlands each have close to 10. In Canada there have been a number of initiatives worth noting. Calgary Dollars (noted as being one of the most active local currencies world-wide), Salt Spring Dollars and the Kawartha Loon are just three examples.
And what about our hometown? So far Guelph doesn’t have it’s own currency, though there are Downtown Dollars – gift certificates that can be bought and then used at any downtown business. Maybe this is something we could grow into our very own local currency!