Friday 13 January 2012

Transition Circle West and the Great Reskilling

At our next Transition Circle West meeting, we will be discussing skills-sharing, so I thought it would be a good idea to use this guest blog post to explore ideas about reskilling. From storytelling, to textile crafts, to growing and cooking seasonal local food, and creative recycling, reskilling has been a central part of the Transition project, and a common theme on this blog. But why is this so important? What is wrong with our existing skills? And what could reskilling mean for Transition Circle West and Transition Norwich?
My current project
Reskilling can be motivated in part by nostalgia, a desire to retain traditional skills which might be useful in our everyday lives or in future; but also as a statement of shared identity and a connection to our heritage and the places we live. Reskilling is a deeply meaningful activity, but it can also have more immediate benefits. It is extremely satisfying to master a new skill, particularly in a society where we increasingly work with computers or in customer service roles, and people are beginning to talk of the fulfilment of working with their hands.

Working with your hands can help you to engage differently with your task, and enjoy watching your progress and feeling a sense of achievement when it's finished – a feeling many of us experience rarely in our working lives. Learning new skills is also a great way to meet new, like-minded people or to reconnect with people you already know. Reskilling is part of the transition project of building community, and it helps us to improve our own personal resilience: for example growing our own vegetables, making and mending clothes, and learning to maintain our bikes. Therefore reskilling is about living better, helping us to slowly change our lifestyles, not only to adapt to environmental challenges, but also to make them more fulfilling and resilient.
So what might reskilling look like? It can be organised formally through alternative currency networks (like Local Exchange Trading Systems), where participants within the network are able to trade units of their time to either teach or carry-out certain skilled tasks, making the most of their particular skills sets. Such networks can be international in scope, encouraging both virtual and physical interaction and sharing. Perhaps more often, skills-sharing occurs in more informal or ad hoc ways – in fact, we might not even realised we are doing it!

Websites like Gumtree are used to exchange skills such as language and music teaching, and it’s possible to learn to knit, crochet or even cook from scratch with the aid of youtube alone. But reskilling is perhaps most productive when it occurs through our existing social networks, through groups of friends, or common interest groups like transition circles. Close bonds of trust and friendship can stimulate learning and sharing, and it’s always a confidence boost when you know you can call up a close friend or relative for advice about your veg patch, or to fix your latest knitting mistake.
Even bikes as pretty as this can be temperamental!
People are constantly reskilling themselves, without a particular project in mind, just out of necessity and as their lifestyles evolve. I took up cycling properly when I moved to Norwich, and I’m still slowly learning how to look after and fix my bike. Our families are also hugely important in influencing our skills sets. I have my parents to thank for my love of cooking, my musical skills, and my ability to knit and sew; but they might also be responsible for my fear of all technical tasks and dread of gardening! It is also possible to encourage reskilling by design. Transition projects like farmshare offer members opportunities to learn about food growing in a relaxed friendly environment. And our forthcoming Transition Circle West meeting will hopefully stimulate some new skills-sharing networks or encourage people to seek information and help elsewhere.
Reskilling has always been at the heart of the Transition initiative, equipping communities with the skills they need to live well and build their resilience against threats like climate change. We can encourage these activities within Transition Norwich, through both formal and informal initiatives. For example, engaging people through circle meetings and connecting with other TN groups. Reskilling is a wonderfully fulfilling, frequently exciting, and vitally important task for transition. Helen Pallett
Transition Circle West next meets on 25 January. For more information about the group and our forthcoming meetings contact

1 comment:

  1. so pleased you included textile reskilling in your post, Helen!

    For seeking information and help elsewhere, can I suggest weavers guilds and handspinners guilds? There are directories here and here

    Handspinning allows you to use local wool much the way cooking skills let you prepare local food, and you can start with an inexpensive drop spindle.

    I've been reskilling by design the last three years, focussing on handmade textiles. I chose it rather than food because I had no allotment. Through my local guilds I have found skills, new and used books and tools, local suppliers, and feedback and support.