Transitioning to a More Connected, Supportive Community
Two years ago, Macalester College, the City of St. Paul, the Science Museum and the Jefferson Center undertook a joint project in several St. Paul communities, educating people about climate change. After people really understood the issues, they were asked what were most important things their communities should do to prepare for what lies ahead. Several communities said "know our neighbors."
They were on to something. Emergency planners know that communities with strong social ties do better after a disaster. They use resources better and they are more able to bounce back. Socially connected communities are more resilient.
We don’t have to hope our communities will pull together, we can do things today to build stronger, closer social connections. If a weather emergency never comes; those relationships will yield positive benefits every day. People who are more socially connected live longer, healhier and happier lives.
The Unique Role of a Transition Community
When it comes to behavior change – like starting to compost or riding a bike more often – one of the most effective means of supporting lasting change is social relationships! Role modeling is key to showing how change can happen. And as more and more people take on new actions, it becomes the new norm. It’s just “something we all do.”
Transition provides a unique opportunity for people to expand their impact in a variety of caring, social, and even fun ways.
- Community Visioning: It's common for Transition groups to host community visioning sessions and invite people to identify what they would like their community to be like at some point in the future. The group then engages in a process called "back-casting" to identify what would need to happen at different times in order to reach those goals. (Transition Twin Cities can connect you with skilled facilitators who can assist with this process.)
- Asset Mapping: Every one of our communities is rich in some way. Some communities have a lot of gardening knowledge, some have available land. Some have legal know-how or political connections. Some have lots of students and teachers, ready to try new things. Some have community foundations and some have anchor nonprofit institutions. Invite people in your community to identify your unique assets by making an “asset map.” Include the skills and knowledge of people in your group.
- Problem Solving: Transition is a practical, solution-orientated movement that works to address real challenges in the community. What's going on near you? Do people need help with home weatherization, with safer walking or biking, with improved access to healthy food? What creative ways might you make a difference. like hosting a home weatherization work party or a bike repair day or helping people install gardens.
- Create one-time and ongoing social opportunities: Transition isn't "work" (or at least not all work). It's also fun. Groups look for ways to know one another better with potluck picnics, neighborhood walking groups, book groups, outdoor art activities or movie nights.
People of every age, ability level and all walks of life have something important to contribute to the important work of transitioning to a more sustainable future. In a society that segregates people in so many ways, Transition can be the place that holds all of our visions for a positive future.
Community Building Resources
- The Resilience Website
- "Six Foundations for Building Community Resilience," by Daniel Lerch
- Local Initiatives Support Organization (LISC)
- LISC Twin Cities
The arts is often a key contributor to community building. A few organizations that do work in this area are:
Feel free to contribute your resources for community building or creative place-making in the Twin Cities.