Regenerative Leadership Training for Social Change

Blog by Apurva Munjal, Transition Bournemouth volunteer

The hugely popular hill resort town known by the name Shimla in India where I was born and had lived in since childhood has always been beautiful and charming. Unfortunately, over the years it has been drawn into the vortex of deleterious climate change. The sure-fire and predictable event of snowfall in my town on Christmas every year- a regular feature for scores of years- unfortunately, turned into a guessing game for the townsmen. I gradually woke up to the fact that the worsening climate situation elsewhere had impinged on my beautiful town.

I saw my town moving from a place of naturally occurring water sources to water shortage. This led me to lead a campaign and raise awareness and literacy regarding rainwater harvesting structures at home. I also learnt that haphazard urbanisation and development in my town had led to rampant deforestation which led to the loss of naturally occurring carbon sinks. It led me to participate in a seven-day tree plantations camp as a member of the National Social Service. 

My curiosity and my sensitive concern with the changing climatic conditions continued as I moved on in life and shifted to the UK. I felt increasingly concerned about climate hazards and their far-reaching effects. I thus made some practical lifestyle changes by making use of local schemes in Bournemouth; like cycle to work, plastic free refill stations, eating locally produced fruits and vegetables to reduce environmental impact and to contribute to the robust economic development of the local economy.

However, I still felt despair and the need to connect with like-minded people for inspiration and interaction to build a community of hope and positive long-term change. This is when I found a group of Champions and Volunteers running the Transition Bournemouth group. I sent an email expressing my willingness to join the group and I was welcomed with open arms by an upbeat and enthusiastic team working together to re-build the local community, here in Bournemouth.

As I was trying to find my feet within the group, I was introduced to “Transition Leadership Training” for current and aspiring leaders who can act as catalysts to shape the future of their communities through a coherent networking model. A model which has previously and significantly aided the human quest to meet the SDGs. This is the Transition Model which focuses on the local and city scale as a central focal point with a forward-looking pathway for local sustainability and environmentalism, adopted by many diverse groups in the world to act now and act collectively.

During the Transition Leadership Training, I became aware of some leading examples of Transition Towns like Totnes who started by creating a small, collaborative group to help guide Transition in the town but also other cities like Lewes and Bristol that began to copy Transition Town Totnes approach.

Interestingly, this training did not expect you to be or become an expert on every aspect of our global effort to lead positive social change. Also, it clearly identified that most challenges we face today are interconnected and there’s no one right way to describe or deal with these challenges. Instead, it encouraged a new paradigm through community involvement, information flow, feedback, and a power shift to deal with the challenges we face today.

To build self-reliant and resilient communities and develop a roadmap for an alternative and abundant future, concepts like IKIGAI, and the Imagination Sundial were discussed and suggested. It was also highlighted how these concepts can be used to rekindle our imagination and connect with a purpose. Another process discussed and highlighted as a success is to establish a baseline vision forward in time, and backcast to the present.

As we got to the most difficult part in the training; identifying stakeholders and keeping them engaged, almost all of us agreed how important it was to involve the local community and place trust and confidence in the public for decision making.

What was difficult however was coming to a consensus on how to nurture these relationships, and establish shared understanding and interests for longer term collaboration. The key takeaway from this session for all of us trying to establish or successfully run/be a part of a Transition Group was that we must start with a vision, a set of values and goals, and then look for those who share the same vision, values, and goals. To reach out to our wider community, nurture diversity, difference and expect disagreement. Next up, identify and focus on the wisdom or skills people can bring, align your effort, and catalyse the ongoing development of supportive targets, policies, and programs in the town/city. Finally engage in shared adaptive learning practices and action.

Now, after all this, each of us had different viewpoints but it turned out we agreed on a list of solutions, including providing information to people about problems that are explained through casual and interesting talks and discussions. As we went on to discuss prospective solutions in the breakout rooms, many of us agreed on identifying problems that are relevant to people and show them new ways of doing things. We also agreed in the power of social media and to use it as a platform to reach out to people.

There is so much more I’d like to share, but my intention here is not to go on but to reach out to as many of you as possible, who are worried and concerned about the future of their local communities and the world at large, to encourage you to join your local transition groups and lend your skills and expertise for a positive long-term change.

For eight weeks, my passion and concern for a better planet and future was nourished, my ideas and beliefs were supported by many, and contested by a few. However, every support or challenge I received along the way helped me learn, evolve, and believe that change is possible.

I hope to see my passion for a better community outgrow the gamut of this training, paving way for combining both vocation and avocation in the field and a life of fulfilling experience. I wish for those of you who feel the same about their local communities to come forward and join the Transition Bournemouth Team and help us achieve the organizational specific mandate moving towards the broader greater good- a sustainable future.

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