The Wayland Training for Transition is over!
I admit I had underestimated the amount of work that goes into organizing it – and commensurately, the relief and gratitude one feels when it all ends well.
If you’re ever tempted to try it yourself and you’re like me (a total novice at this kind of thing), I can break it down to four big tasks: (1) finding the venue, (2) outreach, (3) feeding the participants, (4) breaking even.
The training – thank goodness – is taken care of by the trainer, and the trainees.
A T4T s a weekend-long affair and the institutions most welcoming to open their doors to you are religious centers, which need their buildings on either Saturday or Sunday mornings for their services and socials afterwards.
The option of holding it on Saturday at a Church and Sunday at a Temple is very much in the Transition spirit of inclusion. But what with the Temples in Wayland having Sunday school (who knew), it didn’t work out for us in Wayland. We found our Sunday venue at an assisted and independent elderly living center, which welcomed us with open arms. Unfortunately, all the events for the residents of the center had to be moved and rescheduled.
I wasn’t attracted to the Town buildings: they are not very inviting and also expensive to rent. AT4T budget bursts at the seams if the venue cost runs over $100.
My difficulty in finding a venue and the fact that the library’s community room is booked months ahead reveal a weak spot in Wayland’s community service: there is no inviting, accessible, free common room. This gets me off on my usual rant about the lack of the commons in this country, which I will leave for a later date. Needless to say: it’s a problem the Wayland community struggles with (Girl Scouts for instance hold their get togethers at the mall for lack of a good common space!) and one that Transition Wayland should address.
We threw this together in one month: one month from conception to execution. Don’t do this! Give yourself more time.
First you let your nearest and dearest know, your own Transition initiative and groups, then the religious institutions and other groups in your town and neighboring towns. Do this preferably by telephone, not by email. A month is too short for all that. Churches and libraries, for instance, wanted to put notices in their newsletters, but these are monthly and we had missed the relevant mailing. Tracking down and calling all those people, while great for community outreach in general and a fantastic opportunity to introduce yourself, takes lots of time and energy.
After this inner and second circle you hit the listservs and meetup groups and ning sites, because you want to attract people from all over the region. But there is no real centralized list out there, and though many people want to help with dissemination, it soon gets out of your control and you end up duplicating contacts and skipping gaps. If you have more time, you can strategize better.
Not the least problem with such short notice is that those who would love to come to a training are also taken unawares: it’s not easy for people nowadays to clear an entire weekend.
I was concerned about the food because I have never cooked or provided food for so many people for breakfast, lunch and snacks for two days. So I was very grateful when I mentioned this to my fellow-organizer from Arlington and she said: Oh, that’s what I do! Turns out she is used to cooking and planning meals for 40 people, and she took up that side of the challenge. Another case of “whoever comes, is the right person”!
You can spend a lot on food, or a little and still have two great lunches, a decent breakfast and healthy snacks.
In the spirit of Transition we go for local, organic, simple and healthy. In our case, most of the veggies (mache, claytonia, and winter lettuce) came straight from my garden, one mile from the venue and eaten within an hour from harvest! We don’t serve juices because of the packaging, so drinks were teas, coffee and water and BYO, in BYO mugs. We served on recycled and reusable plastic plates, with my own stainless steel cutlery, and I brought cloth napkins in paper rings that everyone put their names on so they could reuse it the next day.
Our Sunday venue had no kitchen or even sink, so that took some organizing, but my house was a two-minute drive and I popped out to do some harvesting and heating up and we were good. Don’t let the absence of a kitchen disqualify a venue!
If you have more time, you can ask places like Whole Foods to donate some of the food, in which case you can considerably lower the cost and fee.
Food is also the area where you have the most leeway. Watch those receipts!
(4) Breaking even
I felt this to be my greatest responsibility, to find the lowest price possible for participants, with enough for scholarships, while also covering all the costs and the trainer’s fee. My goal was to break even and to give what little profit to a charity. Transition and grassroots, in my eyes, are not for profit, volunteer, and shoestring.
We broke just about even with 13 participants at $180 full fee and a good amount of $120 scholarships. When it looked like we wouldn’t make it, our trainer generously suggested she forego some of her fee, but I didn’t feel that was right, because she works her heart and soul out for two days, and deserves that income.
If you have more time, you can organize donations and sponsorships. Your participants too can organize sponsors for themselves.
I loved being at the training, and think everyone who participated had fun too and came away with a good foundation in the Transition model and a good idea of what to do in their own town.
What’s next? Onwards, together!