Unleashing the Collective Genius of San Francisco. Interview with Beverly Pitzer, TransitionSF by Willi Paul, Permaculture Exchange
* Nurture membership base with relevant programs and tangible ways to take ACTION and engage in community resilience projects
* Continue active involvement in Food-related organizations like SF Seed Library and Kitchen Gardens SF
* Strengthen relationships and collaboration with local government
* Program Structure includes ** AWARENESS through community meeting programming ** that inspires and calls for tangible ACTION related to theme ** followed by MOVIE night that further informs and inspires hope and effective action
* Being nimble and adaptable enough to hold a spontaneous event if current events and community interest call for it, encouraging working groups of all sorts to form and collaborate
* Integrating short Heart & Soul workshops into Community Meetings, supporting members in connecting with the program content (and often challenging issues of our time) and feeling empowered to take action from a place of being grounded and healthy
* Maintaining metrics on project and program progress that will help us to see what is working best and make smart decisions
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Interview with Beverly by Willi
What is this so-called Transition, Beverly? From where to where?!
From living in a way that is dependent on an oil-based economy to living in a way that communities cooperate together to meet needs in a much lower carbon way
From Individual Isolation to Community Connection
The Transition movement was started in the United Kingdom 5 years ago by Rob Hopkins. TransitionSF was formed in 2009 by Ania Moniuszko. Acknowledging Peak Oil and Climate Change, it is a social experiment on a global scale that includes communities learning, experimenting, and achieving results to build local resilience in the face of these grave issues. Transition has a cheerful disclaimer. It is: Transition is not a known quantity. We truly don't know if Transition will work. It is a social experiment on a massive scale. What we are convinced of is this: If we wait for local government, it'll be too little, too late. If we act as individuals, it'll be too little. But if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time.
I belong to (too) many groups. Why should I join TransitionSF?
We are very lucky in the Bay Area to have so many groups doing the work of transitioning to a lower carbon life, encouraging community resilience, and nurturing the planet and people. My take is to keep doing what you are called to do, continue the collaboration with your communities and groups, and our paths will inevitably cross in wonderful ways. At every TransitionSF gathering, we have at least one brand new person who has found us through an internet search on Transition Town or from another posting that attracted them to the program topic. At this point, TransitionSF does not have a formal membership framework.
When you show up, you are part of the group. Our hope is that people who arrive feel welcomed and respected and have several ways to engage as part of TransitionSF. We welcome collaboration with many different groups, and we would love to transition together. I keep coming back for many reasons which you'll probably discover in reading this, and the *people* involved in TransitionSF is a very big reason.
How do you see the role of competition in the Transition Movement?
Personally, I don't see competition really playing a role in this movement. For this global experiment to work, we need cooperation and lots of it. Competition and a built in sense of scarcity have been the basis of our economy for a long time. As experts like Richard Heinberg share, we have reached the limits of growth, and operating in the same competitive mindset will not help us to build community resilience.
As a “Next Economy” consultant, what firms are emerging in this sector?
I have found myself drawn to work with organizations that are not reliant on the unending growth/ cheap oil based model. To offer an example, Kitchen Garden SF (KGSF) is a wonderful organization that educates individuals, families, and organizations on the benefits and methods of growing your own food. For example, among others, they have completed two edible gardening education series at the Veteran's Administration and have designed and installed countless edible gardens in people's front, side, and back yards (including container gardens). Through a partnership between TransitionSF and KGSF last year, I became much more involved in KGSF and hope to continue collaborating with the bright and impassioned partners there. Growing food locally has benefits on so many levels! I also know a friend who is starting her own Home Healthcare business. She integrates her formal experience as a nurse practitioner with a caring consciousness and practical approach to the whole person: eat clean, healthy food; take care of your home environment to make it safe and comforting; engage with your community in ways that make your heart sing.
In addition to many others that are out there, I think that personal livelihood/ business coaching is another great example. Speaking from personal experience, it can be very daunting to make a change in our livelihood, and it really helps to seek mentorship and trusted advice from people who are skilled and called to shepherd us through this process. Tracy Akresh, from Unpacking the Box, and Kevin Bayuk, from Next Economy Business Coaching, have helped me and many others in this process. Kevin, in fact, is leading a 2-part program for TransitionSF in which we explore our personal livelihood in the context of making this Transition and staying true to our social and environmental justice values. The second part of this program is on April 16; Kevin will share business resources and tools to help people in starting business that will help us meet our needs in this Next Economy model.
How does your experience with conventional business processes impact your work at TransitionSF? Can you tell us about any group issues that have come up since you started to develop and promote the organization?
My previous work experience in facilitating training classes and working on short and long term projects with people from many different teams has been very helpful in my work with TransitionSF. I love collaborating with people to share information freely and apply it to something practical and valuable. Like many organizations, we are all volunteers, and we have many commitments and priorities. I cannot think of specific group issues besides having issues with finding enough time to do the work we want to do. What comes up for me in response is that we are consistently trying to get the most accomplished in the period of time that people have to commit while also having fun at the same time. We are currently experimenting with doing much of the coordination and infrastructure work by email and phone conversations while saving the in person meetings for community gatherings like speaker series, movie nights, and small working groups to accomplish a specific goal. One exception to this was our beginning of year in person planning session that was open to anyone.
How many folks come to the meetings vs. participate online? How do you evaluate the membership?
About 20 to 30 people participate in our monthly Community Meeting that happens the 3rd Wednesday of every month at 7pm in the Gazebo Room at CPMC Davies Campus. We explore a different theme each month and tie this theme into an action we can take that month or ongoing. We further integrate this theme into the Movie Night that is the 1st Monday of the month at 7pm at the Happiness Institute on Market Street. There is plenty of room for many, many others to join in these events and in the community. Please join in the fun and action!
How do you implement and measure your “action” mandate?
I prefer to call it an "invitation" to action. Hopefully, people will feel inspired, and if that topic has meaning and value for them, they will take action. For the month of February, the San Francisco organizers for the California GMO Label campaign spoke at our Community Meeting. In that meeting, Frank Plughoff, from the Committee for the Right to Know, educated us on genetically engineered foods and the benefits of labeling this food. To get this initiative on the 2012 California ballot, 800,000 signatures need to be gathered by April 22. On the movie night 2 weeks later, Liz Krobboth, from the same organization, watched "Scientists Under Attack" with us and offered training on gathering signatures for the campaign. TransitionSF folks took action in many ways. Some acted by signing the petition at the meetings. Some donated money to help fund the campaign efforts. Some volunteered their time and are continuing to gathering signatures. In terms of measuring, TransitionSF could tally the number of signatures we gathered for this initiative. This would be one tangible way to measure that particular action.
What are the key alternative economic strategies that are working in the Bay Area?
I feel that I am still a student in this area and am eager to learn more and participate in these alternative economic strategies. I can share some of my observations and experiences. I've found the Bay Area Community Exchange (BACE) Time Bank to be a wonderful way to connect with others and meet our needs without using money. I've seen great value in it and plan to use it more and more. Bernal Bucks, a complimentary currency in Bernal Heights, seems to be going strong. I think it would be cool to see this expand to other neighborhoods. The student in me is curious about whether this would take away from the hyper local aspect that benefits a specific neighborhood.
I'd like to explore this further in a TransitionSF Program perhaps later this year. I attended a Slow Money day-long session at Fort Mason last year and see that as a beneficial movement. And we cannot forget Gift Circles! Alpha Lo came to one of our community meetings in 2010 and shared gift circles with us. The practice of coming together in a group to share your needs and your gifts on a consistent, regular basis is just what we need to foster community resilience and happiness. I am glad to hear that Gift Circles have spread around the world, and I think we'll see more and more of them. Related to this, I heard Charles Eisenstein speak about Sacred Economics in Berkeley last week. He addressed the fear that I have felt related to peak oil and climate change and also offered hope and inspiration.
What national, regional or local Transition groups support TransitionSF and how? What could be better?
TransitionUS and Transition Greater Bay Area (encompassing all of Northern California) have been great resources for us. We will continue to share and deepen those relationships. In 2009, TransitionSF participated in a Community Resilience workshop with Bay Localize. TransitionSF collaborates closely the San Francisco Permaculture Guild. In 2011, KitchenGarden SF was chosen by the TransitionSF community as an organization in which we wanted to work on a joint project. Some commented that this was their favorite event and project of all as we designed and installed an edible garden at Karen's house in one of the foggy neighborhoods. Additionally, there is great overlap of TransitionSF folks who are also active in the Non Violent Communication (NVC) community. I personally want to become more educated and skilled in practicing NVC. I see great value in this.
Do Occupy and permaculture integrate into your vision? Examples?
TransitionSF has deep roots in Permaculture, and we embrace that here in San Francisco. Most of the TransitionSF Initiating Group members have completed a Permaculture Design Course, and we often collaborate closely with the Permaculture Guild. Additionally, we strive to incorporate the ethics and principles of Permaculture in TransitionSF projects and ways of being/ designing. One example is the San Francisco Seed Library. It was started by Ania and Moniuszko and Karen Schulkin and is a joint project by both TransitionSF and the Permaculture Guild.
How do your personal values relate to the values of TransitionSF?
I love nature, and I love people. And I sometimes feel overwhelmed and fearful of what the future will hold. I want to be contributing my time and my gifts and my heart to strategies that will help us to nurture the environment and be connected in community. I feel that this will help us to build the resilience we need in the face of the challenges that we may be feeling now and could feel yet to come. I am drawn to the hopeful aspect of the Transition movement, and I'm drawn to the fact that we also cooperate to get things done, ideally in a joyful and fun way while we're doing it. I also value the time with my partner, Matt, and we have a very strong bond over food. I'll spare you our first date story that involves a chance meeting at Udupi Palace in the Mission, but we love growing and sourcing local food and spend hours in the kitchen delighting in cooking and eating together and with friends. Our most recent excitement is about the blueberry bushes bursting with berries and are eagerly awaiting a harvest, hopefully early next week.
Is there a spiritual component to TransitionSF? What happens at your “Heart & Soul” Workshops?
The East Bay has a Heart and Soul group, and I feel that TransitionSF has a lot to learn from them. These workshops help people to connect with the tough issues we face today yet move forward in a way that we can take action and stay whole and honor where we are. There are folks in TransitionSF who will be integrating even more heart and soul into our events.
Tell us about your goal to work with local government(s). Can you point us to a track record?
Early in TransitionSF's development, we heard from the Daniel Homsey of Neighborhood Empowerment Network, a group that works within City Hall to help neighborhoods become more resilient. In June and July of this year, we are pleased to have experts in local government speaking at our community meetings. In June, City of SF Emergency Planner, Jill Raycroft leads a program on the city's emergency plans and how we can collaborate. In July, 20+ year veteran in SF City Planning Office, Paul Lord leads a panel of experts that speaks to the work of the Peak Oil Preparedness Task Force and how we can build on their previous work. This is very much in line with the Transition model of the Energy Descent Action Plan which we have made small steps in starting and want to further expand.
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Beverly Pitzer Bio -
Ms. Pitzer believes it is possible for individuals to come together in community and realize abundance while respecting our natural ecosystem, local resilience initiatives, cultural diversity, and collective creativity. Beverly is drawn to the Transition Initiative as a way to proactively and positively respond to the real challenges of peak oil, climate change, and the economic crisis. She is contributing her time and energy to this initiative by leading the 2012 TransitionSF Program Development that includes speakers/ panels/ workshops on relevant topics, taking tangible community action related to those topics, and integrating play and fun into gatherings. For the last 15 years, Beverly has worked with businesses large and small, helping them with marketing and sales aspects of business development and with adopting new technology through strategies in change management, adult learning methods, and effective group facilitation.
She is currently in a career shift of redirecting her business expertise into the growing wave of Next Economy businesses including social entrepreneurs, NGOs, and worker owned cooperatives. In addition to business development and training program consulting, she also offers assistance in the research and infrastructure aspects of starting a new business. Beverly finds joy through dance when time seems to stand still and the world feels completely connected.
Beverly Pitzer, Program Development - TransitionSF
beverly.pitzer at gmail.com