NERT-ing Out with the New England Resilience & Transition Network

On Saturday, March 21, fifty organizers and activists from all six New England states (plus one intrepid Californian) gathered in Keene NH to discuss resilience, Transition, and the future we want to create. It was an amazing chance to realize that we are not alone in this work!

After introductions, Cheryl King Fisher kicked us off with the Story of the New England Resilience & Transition (NERT) Network, which is now on its fifth regional gathering. We then heard three local stories. First up was Greg Sankey from Revive the Roots in Smithfield RI. Greg and three of his friends live in an old farm house that they are renovating into a community center and farm. Scott Vlaun of the Center for an Ecology-Based Economy in Norway ME is “helping people overcome their paranoia and fear so they can do cool stuff,” and Lisa Conlan’s New Hope Time Exchange in RI is serving low-income families and connecting with all kinds of amazing community groups. We also heard from two “kindred networks”: Food Solutions New England and the Post Carbon Institute. Folks then had a chance to pair up and share their own stories with each other.

Greg Sankey

Greg Sankey

We then we looked for themes in all these great stories. We noted that activities that are both fun and productive (“fun-ductive”) are the best way to get people involved. And, we agreed that you can’t force change, but that luckily many people are more open to new ideas than we might expect. We reminded each other to be persistent (but not forceful!), to actively listen, and to never let fear stand in the way.

To wrap up the morning, we looked at the in-progress map being created by Cheryl, Conrad Willeman & Elizabeth Marcus, which aspires to show all the resilience-related work happening here in New England (see below).

We then moved into lunchtime, with yummy food provided by Keene’s Community Kitchen. Folks then got to choose from six different break-out topics: Building a Regional Communications Network, Food Solutions for New England, Inner Resilience, Restoring Ecosystems to Reverse Global Warming, Skills for Building Equity, and Time Banking. The equity break-out group circulated some excellent resources after the event – check them out here.

MapAfter break-outs, we moved into Part II: Where We Are Now: Network Formation, facilitated by Lisa Fernandes. Lisa asked us to think about vibrant networks we are familiar with, and we brainstormed their characteristics, such as: clear identity, results, appropriate organizational structure, resources, transparency, trust, and relationships. Lisa reminded us that networks are made up of many one-to-one relationships between people, and thrive on connectivity (check out the slides here).

Importantly, a network must have three components: process, results, and relationships. “So whatever else we are doing, we had better also be building trust-based relationships,” she reminded us.

Lisa then asked people to brainstorm how the ROCkers could support NERT to move us forward. Lots of great thoughts poured in, including: developing an online resource so we can share best practices and lessons learned (one is in the works here!), continuing with the mapping project, connecting local groups to each other to provide one-to-one support, and providing more opportunities for skills-building, especially around anti-oppression work. There was also a call to develop a coherent story and identity for the network, so that we can “transform our collective efforts into a broad regional identity.”


We addressed this need in Part III: Where We’re Going: Our Common Story, facilitated by Charis Boke. Here we focused on expressing our Common Story, or our Common Identity. In two lines facing each other, we iterated different answers to the prompt: “What are you doing in the world? What do you hope to become?” Folks then noted the common threads in these stories. A small group of folks is taking this input forward and writing a version of our Common Story.

Finally, to conclude we sang a rousing version of “Row Row Row Your Boat,” with various creative lyrics interspersed throughout (“If you see a crocodile, don’t forget to scream!). We left energized and inspired, brimming with the knowledge that we are not alone in this work.

See the full notes from the day here.

Big thanks again to Katy Locke and Transition Keene Advocates for hosting us!