Ed Mitchell: Platform neutral

Half web producer, half group facilitator. Groups support: online and in the physical world.

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Campervan for sale

October 28th, 2012 · Uncategorized

Vanger the Campervan is for sale. We’ve loved him and now we have to leave him, and are looking for his next loving owner.

campervan in action

He’s a brilliant Volkswagen 1996 T4 Autosleeper conversion with a hard sided pop-top and just over 120K miles on his clock. He hasn’t broken down since I bought him in January 2011 and has flown through all his MOTs. The Alps and Pyrenees did finally take out his clutch though – which we have replaced with a brand new one.

Campervan cab

He has a hard sided pop top, which you can put up in under one minute and then sit smugly, and sleep snugly in gales and the worst rain Pembrokeshire can throw at you (which makes soft sided pop tops flap and leak).

bed in campervan

He has all the things you expect from a sorted campervan; 2 ring cooker, 3 way fridge, sink, cold water tap, 12V and 240V electrics with mains hook up, double ‘rock and roll’ bed in great condition (2 kids can sleep up top) rear seat belts, two tables, arm rests, swivelling passenger chair, great stereo, two gas bottles, wheel chocks, Fiamma side awning, Fiamma double bike rack etc.

cupboards in campervan

And he has all sorts of other stuff; sub-bass woofer for groovy sound, porta-potty if you like that sort of thing, two gas tanks ready to go, wheel tracks to get you out of mud (heaven forbid), side ‘tube’ tent for extra space, van cover for winter/general goodness, a small oinking pig to squeeze when road hogs get you down and more.

swivel seat in campervan

He’s sorted. We love him, but we’re in central Bristol (tiny roads) and looking to start a family (small car to dash around in), so it’s time to say adieu, or ‘Abschied’ and ‘Vielen Dank’ if you like to speak to him in German. Which he likes.

We are currently working out how much he’s worth by scanning ebay, asking our local garage (all VW nuts), and asking some dealers. Then we will put Vanger onto ebay, gumtree and justkampers.

If you are interested and want to look him up before he hits the market, drop me an email.

Some details:

Volkswagen T4 Transporter
Year: 1996
Engine size: 1896 CC
Fuel: Diesel
Gears: Manual
Mileage: 120,634 (28/10/12: in use)
MOT to April 2013 (no advisors for last 3 years)
Tax to February 2013
Annual Habitation check last done: May 2012
New clutch: October 2012
Last service: October 2012
V5 registration document present

Lift up hard sided pop top: up in under one minute, sleep soundly and dryly through storms (we did)
Swivel passenger chair
Fiamma awning
Separate leisure battery
Gas ‘Propex’ heating
Zig panel for water and electrics management
3 way fridge
Sink with tap off electric pump
2 ring gas cooker and grill
JVC CD/Radio/iPod dock with sub bass for woofing sound
Rock and Roll double bed (no stains,rips, tears) and 2 seat belts
Sleeping compartment at top for 2 children
Fully carpeted
2 tables
12V lighting
240V power socket
Rear seat belts
Fiamma double bike rack
Mains hook up and long cable
Side ‘tube’ tent for that extra space
Tyre treads for those muddy escapes
Two gas bottles, wheel chocks etc.
Porta potty included: great for those rainy nights …
New curtains


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End of project report for Transition Network web project

January 31st, 2012 · Facilitation, Strategy, Technology

This is as brief as possible a report on the Transition Network web project, specifically funded by Tudor Trust with £50,000 in 2008.

This report covers the period of January 2009 until December 2011. It is made up of some contextual background, brief outlines about the central project elements, two key stories, some figures, and a budgeted timeline. There is much more behind this report; to dive into more detail read Ed the author’s blog, or contact him directly with questions.

Transition Network staff and board after web project approvalIt is a big thank you to our funders, Tudor Trust, for giving Transition Network £50,000 for an unspecified and unknown web platform. We feel that we have used the money sensibly to build the new platform and open up new channels for the movement, and hope that Tudor feel that they made a good investment.

Another purpose of the report is to encourage other people responsible for web projects to do it themselves; take ownership of their project, accept the unpredictable outcomes and have a more resilient, affordable web system than an external service provider could produce.

(Picture: Most of Transition Network staff and board after web project approved, June 2009)

This blog post has the introduction and the context and role sections (without the nice pictures). It does not have the other sections on:

  • The central project elements (Technologist group, core information directories, webhosts, content strategy, community emergence, web survey results, the Sharing Engine)
  • Two case studies (Ingredients directory and Social Reporting ‘Stories’ project)
  • Budgeted timeline
  • Achievements and figures
  • The big last thank you

For those you need to download the documents below:

The whole report

Just the case studies sections


Working in complex situations on multi-stakeholder systems can be like being dropped into an intimidating forest, but seeking others to do your work isn’t the answer! In this sense, the report hopes to be like a breadcrumb trail in the forest, left by a group who mapped their context, and want to support others who doing the same thing.

The big lesson from our experience is that it would not have been possible to have predicted where we would be now, then. Because so much changes as you progress.

Transition Technologist group November 2009If we had produced a detailed and fixed project plan with a product roadmap (which we could have done) it could have felt reassuring in ‘the deep in the dark forest days’ of early 2009, but it would have been wrong for late 2011.

The web project we see now has grown out of experiences and connections from all of the stakeholders, working together in a ‘constellation’ on and offline, facilitated rather than project managed, in iterative technical and social loops hung together with communications and agility, rather than control at its core.

(Picture: Transition Technologist group meets for the first time, November 2009)

This is illustrated with the two case studies which show that our two biggest products were at best just twinkles in peoples’ eyes in 2009, and the result of exploring the connections between people and ideas and technology, rather than having a big vision, then trying to predict, control and micro-manage the future and the unknown.

This is also a thank you to all the staff at Transition Network, the Transition Technologist group, and all the Transitioners who got on board with the project, all of whom worked on an un-defined project that deliberately tried not to control the future, but share responsibility for understanding and optimising the present.

“It gives a wider perspective on transition activity than the local group can achieve. I think it is important to continue showing the bigger picture and offering encouragement to local groups as it can sometimes be a struggle to remain upbeat.”

“Helps us remember that we’re not alone, because it can be hard to keep up the big effort required.”

(2011 web project survey response)

Context and role

A great deal has changed since the web project officially began. Indeed it could be argued that ‘change’ itself is accelerating in a world that seems to get more and more bizarre and challenging every day.

map of UK groups 2007Amid this context, the Transition Towns movement has grown rapidly in numbers and matured broadly in concept. Every day there is something new from somewhere new. Initiatives are springing up all over the world facing different challenges with different people trying different projects in different cultures, with different needs.

Needless to say, Transition Network offers pragmatic support for the emergence of the movement; it is grassroots led so we do not seek to control it. It is a highly charged and creative environment, making for intense professional and personal challenges. There is never a moment at which things are quiet, or ‘the same as yesterday’, or something is not urgent, or brand new and requiring immediate action.

Thus the web project began in an endlessly changing context. Unlike a standard organisation, it is keeping up with a movement that is moving too fast and unpredictably to second guess. This is a challenging situation, particularly if you try to predict what ‘web product’ a movement will need in the future.

In light of this, the web team focused on three interconnected things:

  1. Identify the boundaries. Build a shared view of a Transition web ‘constellation’ or ‘field’ with all the various initiative websites, social networks, blogs, etc. and the flows between them, and do not put Transition Network in the middle
  2. Work with the ‘field’. Build relationships with all types of users and facilitate the emergence of supportive social groups (editorial, technical, facilitation) across the field to share roles and responsibilities as they spring up
  3. Produce a robust, flexible technical platform that any reasonable developer can learn about, and work on without too much trouble. See it as a hard working shared bicycle rather than a specialised work of art!

In this plan, the platform could be extended in many directions with a facilitation model to handle the social requirements arising and share the power among the users. Then, ultimately, the Transition Network ‘website’ could move from being a highly visible, central website owned by Transition Network toward a transparent web service, moderated by Transitioners to support and promote the initiatives websites.

diagram illustrating the Transition web constellation

(diagram to explain the wide array of Transition related activity on the internet, and how the Transition Network website is not in the middle of it, preferring to see itself as part of a ‘constellation’ supported by a ‘Sharing Engine’ using web standards and services)

This worked for us. Transition Network is comfortable with navigating the unknown, and changing plans when the need arises, rather than sticking to one grand plan.

Charlotte and Mike at the Transition Towns conference 2011Importantly, it also promotes the concept of accepting responsibility for unknown outcomes, successful or not successful, without blame. This means that individuals carry great responsibility in the team, but not fear of blame in case of failure; indeed ‘failure’ is seen as an entity where no learnings were extracted from an unsuccessful piece of work.

This is common sense to us, but we found that it is contradictory to most organisations’ web strategies, which are there to reflect a central institution’s self-image, and indeed, many people’s expectations; we are trained to respect centralised power. Our plan had been from the start to challenge centralised power – especially our own.

(Picture: Charlotte (Stories editor) and Mike (Newsletter editor) at the 2011 Transition Network conference)

After an initial burst of work to get the platform up, technical work was handled in focused phases with small budgets, delivering required enhancements and maintenance, identified by the users and prioritised by the web team.

“… It keeps me well intentioned, to create something that the world can believe in. I am so excited when I see my project featured on the side of the projects map, after adding content to my page. This keeps my project exciting, that there is a global network which my project is connected with, despite its small size. This is good, I believe, because despite its small size, the potential is there for great ideas to spawn. thanks, so much”

(2011 web project survey response)

For more, please download…

The whole report

Just the case studies sections

cat picture

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How we handle our emotional response to conflict

March 21st, 2010 · Facilitation

I was thinking about the recent Nestle Facebook punch-up while putting my potatoes in this afternoon and, aside to the rational discussions about facilitation, rules, law and so forth, I wondered ‘how did that *feel* for the online facilitator/moderator/host?’.

I bet it hurt a lot; I mean – that much conflict and anger and finger pointing and this and that, it’s going to take it’s toll isn’t it?

As community managers, we find ourselves in an interesting position – we’re right in the middle between brands or organisations or institutions, and the people they are trying to support or service or engage with via the online platforms. This is an environment that runs enormous risk of stress and burnout; we have huge responsibility yet varying authority, we represent the movement to the organisation and vice versa.

We’re facilitating like mad in an endlessly changing context, looking for paths through this complexity, seeking a balance of power, and ‘genuine’ atmosphere, and other good things.

Asides to the workload, that’s a tough emotional challenge. Especially when it kicks off like it does sometimes, and people behave astonishingly badly and you have to maintain your cool throughout. I thought I might burst into tears if that sort of ferocity kicked off on my patch to be honest. I know I would have real problems trying to keep calm, and keep the outburst in perspective, and not take it personally and other feelings.

Of course, I’d deal with it, but I wondered if anyone had any ways of understanding our own emotional response to these situations and methods to ‘ease the pressure’. Like counsellors – who have regular counselling sessions of their own in order to help themselves handle their responses to their clients’ sessions.

So I had a question or two:

  • How do you handle your emotional response to punch-ups in your spaces?
  • How do support your facilitators when it kicks off?
  • Do we account for the stress inherent in our roles and how that will affect us?
  • Do we have mechanisms to help us stay calm, and reflective time to process the experience?

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Community Rules

March 21st, 2010 · Facilitation

Some excellent examples of community rules from a range of online communities looked after by members of the e-mint mailing list

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Gurteen Knowledge Cafe: Ethics

January 16th, 2010 · Events, Facilitation

The next Gurteen Bristol Knowledge Cafe is going to be held in the exceptionally ethical Pervasive Media Studio, Bristol, on Thursday February 11th, from 18:30. The cafe proper will begin at 19:00 prompt as usual.

It will be introduced by Andy Wistreich from Essential Education, who has kindly offered to raise the topic of ‘Ethics’. This is an important, complex and often problematic issue for the individual and society.  By sharing our perspectives we can all learn something to help us in our ethical challenges.

Here’s the blurb:

It looks like ethics is about right and wrong, but it is never black and white.  For me the fundamental issue is motivation – why do or not do something?  I am also interested in the fact that laws and ethical codes seem to come from out there in society whereas our choices about how to behave seem to be made in here in our minds.  Again, this is not a simple division.  I’ll try to introduce these general points in the intro and then people can take it where they want with examples from their own work and practice.

Ethical consumerism is still consumerism

Ethical consumerism is still consumerism

As usual, please come along and enjoy while meeting and deepening your understanding of this topic, and book yourself in using the event booking page below.

If you want to stay up to date via the email distribution list, the link follows, and if you’re a facebook kind of person, Michael Corbett is the man behind the Bristol K-cafe group and is usually around for a good conversation…

Event booking and venue information link

Bristol Gurteen Knowledge Cafe mailing list link

Bristol Gurteen Knowledge Cafe Facebook group

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Next Brrism event: Time, Politics and Community

January 10th, 2010 · Events

The next Brrism event looks interesting – a range of conversations from politics, time management and community.

Go direct to the Brrism site for more information and booking, meanwhile, here’s the blurb:

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NEF’s bigger picture event: little write up

November 4th, 2009 · Events

The New Economics Foundation held a ‘Bigger Picture‘ Festival on Saturday 24th October. It was a good gig. Just like salesmen who like being sold to, as an event designer, I love going to a good gig.

The range of workshops, debates, discussions, talks was excellent; it was solid with attendees full of interesting ideas in a cool building. It was a bit noisy for me at some moments, and you couldn’t get any food without going outside and therefore re-joining the enormous queue, but there you go. I could only be there for the morning, but the highlights for me were:

Why magic bullets don’t work – with David Boyle (NEF fellow), Fred Pearce (New Scientist), Vikki Johnson (NEF).

Fred discussed the myth of population explosion. He says it’s not rising exponentially and that this is one of the great green bogey men, where we assume that it is the exploding populations around the world which need to be curbed in order to keep C02 emissions under control (I was at a different lecture by Ronald Oxburgh in Bristol since where he regularly referred to the population explosion around the world and offered technical solutions to handle it). For starters, Fred indicated that women are having less babies than ever before, of their own accord.

As well as this, the populations of Europe and the USA are generating far more emissions than anyone else per capita, so we and our addiction to consumption, are a vital part of the problem. This reminded me of a recent George Monbiot article ‘Stop blaming the poor, it’s the wally yachters who are burning the planet‘ and a more recent piece from Fred on the hogwash greenwash about corporate jets and their carbon footprints.

Balloon at NEF event

Balloon at NEF event

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Transition Network food project database beta launch

November 4th, 2009 · Facilitation, Technology

Food project case studies is the first web service to come out of the Transition Web Project. Transition Network Web Co-ordinator Ed Mitchell gives us an outline and invites you to participate.
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Gurteen Knowledge Cafe: language and leadership

October 30th, 2009 · Events

The next Gurteen Bristol Knowledge Cafe is going to be held in the leading edge Pervasive Media Studio, Bristol, on Thursday November 26th, from 18:30. The cafe proper will begin at 19:00 prompt as usual.

Introduced by Mike Zeidler, facilitator, coach and connector, driving force behind the Bristol Hub, Association of Sustainability Practitioners and more.

Our subject is ‘language and leadership’. Here’s the blurb:

Words send men to war, make stocks and shares plunge or rocket and can completely change the feel of almost any situation.  Many leaders feel safer with facts, figures and physical materials because feelings are soft and fluffy.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Mike will be talking about the immense power of language, and how skillful use can make leaders of us all.  If that sounds like a recipe for chaos to you, you should definitely come along..!

Do as we say, not as we do (Carnyville, Bristol)

Do as we say, not as we do (Carnyville, Bristol)

As usual, please come along and enjoy while meeting and deepening your understanding of this topic, and book yourself in using the event booking page below.

If you want to stay up to date via the email distribution list, the link follows, and if you’re a facebook kind of person, Michael Corbett is the man behind the Bristol K-cafe group and is usually around for a good conversation…

Event booking and venue information link

Bristol Gurteen Knowledge Cafe mailing list link

Bristol Gurteen Knowledge Cafe Facebook group

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Media Sandbox showcase and publication launch

October 5th, 2009 · Events, Technology

I am a big fan of the iShed‘s ‘Media Sandbox‘ programme. I have been lucky enough to facilitate some of their big events, which have been excellent learning opportunities as well as good facilitation excercises.

The launch event for Media Sandbox 2009 included an exercise we called ‘Golden rules‘ which is now providing me with invaluable salient wisdom and advice as I put the Transition Towns web platform together. Here’s one of them:

One of the golden rules for platform development which is now very significant to me

One of the golden rules for platform development which is now very significant to me

To round off this year’s work, they are holding a showcase, and they’ve published a lovely book about it all too, which is beautiful and inspiring. I’ll be going along for sure.

If you fancy going along, check the events page on the Media Sandbox website.

In the meantime, here’s the blurb:

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