ROCkers Meet and Discuss Regional Resilience

On Saturday November 1, 2014, the ROCkers (Regional Organizing Committee) met for their first in-person gathering to discuss increasing resilience in the New England region. We were hosted by Greg Sankey and others at Revive the Roots, a Transition initiative based at a beautiful farm and common space in Smithfield, RI.

ROCkersThe day was divided into three main parts. After introductions, we discussed “Our Story and Our Network.” Secondly, we focused on two key values: Equity and Resilience. After an amazing lunch of soup and eggplant parmesan–made from eggplants grown right there at Revive the Roots–we discussed next steps and hosting a Spring Gathering for the full network.

Our Story and Our Network

The New England Resilience & Transition network (exact name yet to emerge) has met four times over the past two years. We thought a bit about this history and what led to the formation of the ROCkers. We also delved a bit into “network theory,” noting that networks are based in connections, and can then move into alignment, and finally into action. Trust is the basis of a functioning network, so “whatever else we are doing, we had better also focus on building trusted relationships,” as one ROCker put it.

Source: Lisa Fernandes

Source: Lisa Fernandes

Our Values: Equity & Resilience

Next, we did an exercise to learn a little bit about each others’ class backgrounds. The exercise highlighted how complex and idiosyncratic our backgrounds are. We also had a wide-ranging and rich conversation about the race and class dimensions of our organizing. We used the following statements as prompts:

  • Equity is intrinsic to true resilience.
  • In order to succeed, we need to build a diverse, cross-class movement.

We noted that there are challenges to increasing diversity within our local initiatives, and with building alliances with groups doing related work who come from different class and race backgrounds (such as environmental justice groups). We discussed these challenges and also the successes some initiatives are seeing, as well as the importance of forging authentic relationships.

Next Steps

After lunch, we discussed the need to create a “network map” of both the initiatives involved in the bigger network and the greater landscape of activity in the New England region.

We also began a conversation about convening the full network of New England grassroots groups for a full Spring Gathering. We considered where and when to hold this gathering. A subcommittee is forming to examine this question further – please email to join it. We’d love your input.

See the notes from the meeting here.



Transforming Businesses into Cooperatives – Bringing the New Economy to Scale

On Tuesday, October 28, 2014, New England NET hosted a webinar with the Cooperative Development Institute about bringing co-ops to your community.

Download the slides (PPT)

Watch the recording:

Webinar – Transforming Businesses Into Cooperatives: Bringing the New Economy to Scale from Sarah Byrnes on Vimeo.



Rob Brown

robbrownRob Brown is a Cooperative Development Specialist and the Director of CDI’s Business Ownership Solutions (BOS) program.  BOS works with business owners to help them consider whether conversion to a co-op would meet their needs, and with employees and community members to facilitate conversions to worker and/or community-owned cooperatives. Formerly, he was the Maine Housing Program Specialist in CDI’s NEROC program.  He has a background in community organizing, communications, non-profit and for-profit business development, and public policy development and advocacy. Rob studied economics and public policy at the University of Maine and College of the Atlantic, specializing in rural and community economic development, and has completed the Maine Association of Nonprofits’ Executive Leadership Institute. He has founded several non-profit and for-profit business organizations in Maine, and, nationally, was a William Jefferson Clinton Distinguished Lecturer at the Clinton Presidential Library and School of Public Service, a founding member and Steering Committee member of United for a Fair Economy’s Tax Fairness Organizing Collaborative, and a member of the National Skills Coalition’s Leadership Council. Most recently, Rob was the founding Executive Director of Opportunity Maine, a statewide organizing, research, and advocacy nonprofit focused on education and workforce development, energy policy, and economic development.

Matt Meyer

mattmeyerMatt Meyer is a Housing Program Organizer under CDI’s NEROC Program and a Cooperative Development Specialist focusing on Southeast New England and has begun to offer consultation for the formation of new group-equity housing cooperatives in the Boston area. He has a diverse background as an organizer and has worked extensively in leadership training and development at a national level. Matt is nearing completion of the CooperationWorks! Cooperative Development Certificate Program, a 120-hour training. He is also a founding board member and organizer of a Boston-based housing cooperative.

New England Can Feed Itself. Here’s How.

Speakers Brian Donahue, Eva Aguedelo, Karen Spiller, and Brett Tolly

Speakers Brian Donahue, Eva Agudelo, Karen Spiller, and Brett Tolley

By Sarah Byrnes & Orion Kriegman

On Wednesday October 8, one hundred people gathered at a church in Jamaica Plain, MA, to consider: Can New England Feed Itself?

The answer is yes, New England can feed itself – halfway. Food Solutions New England’s Food Vision, a rigorous analysis of New England’s history and natural resources, claims that our region could produce at least half of our own food if we farm three times as much land (up from 5% to 15% of our landmass) and shift from a “Business as Usual” diet to the “Omnivore’s Delight.” In a different scenario, called “Regional Reliance,” the Vision finds we could produce 70% of our food within our six states. Either of these scenarios represents a vast improvement over the current system, where only 10% of food is produced regionally.*

But before we get any further, it’s important to remind ourselves why we want regional food. “If we want a local or regional food system,” says Brian Donahue, the evening’s main speaker, “it’s important to ask: Why? What values are we truly serving?”

AudienceBrian is a professor of American Environmental Studies at Brandeis and a sheep farmer. He is also a lead author of A New England Food Vision, and he answers his own question by explaining that a local/regional food system does a better job at providing healthy food for all, supporting sustainable farming and fishing, and supporting thriving communities. These are the core values of the Vision.

So let’s get specific. In the Omnivore’s Delight scenario, New England would produce:

  • all of its own vegetables (half of which would be grown in small plots in urban and suburban areas),
  • half its own fruit,
  • some of its grain and dry beans, and
  • all its own dairy, meat, seafood, and other animal products.

We would continue to import grain for our animals and ourselves, tropical fruits like bananas and oranges, and items like sugar, coffee, tea, chocolate, and spices.

The Vision makes use of New England’s natural strengths, such as pastureland for cows and sheep, orchards for apples, and bogs for cranberries, while acknowledging that it is quite difficult to grow grain here. Grains are also a relatively good food to transport – they are comparatively light weight, store well, and can be sent on barges to local ports.

The Omnivore’s delight scenario also acknowledges that few people will be inspired by a diet that has no oranges, coffee, chocolate, or sugar, and so creates a Vision that still allows for these imports. Rather than push people to sacrifice and give up specialty items, Omnivore’s Delight offers an attractive alternative that could be enhanced if real crisis requires us to push further toward regional reliance.

There’s value to imports beyond simply taste, according to Brian. He noted that historically, when people have relied exclusively on a small area for their food, they suffered periodic cycles of mass starvation. The lesson is that in order to be resilient, a food system must be linked to other regions through trade. No matter what the future holds, Brian argues, New England would do well to import some food.

Listen to the event’s introductory remarks from Orion Kriegman
Listen to Brian’s remarks:

How Farming is Like Baseball

In order to achieve this vision, we will need a lot more farmers. To make this point, Eva Agudelo of the National Incubator Farm Training Initiative (NIFTI) asked the audience if anyone was familiar with baseball. Everyone raised their hand (except the one Brit in the audience), though no one in the room was a professional baseball player.

Eva made the point that every American, if thrust onto a baseball field, knows the basics of what to do:  swing the bat, run the bases, etc. “Farming should be like that,” says Eva. “Only the most ambitious and talented people will ever be full-time, professional baseball players—or farmers.” But there are many other levels of involvement, from Little League to the City League to Triple A. If every American knew the basics of farming—as in, how to “run the bases”—and many were good enough for minor league farming, we’d go a long way toward producing the food needed for the Vision. (Not to mention how much fun we’d have digging in the dirt and making fresh strawberry pie.)

Listen to Eva:

What’s in that Fish Stick?

The Food Solutions New England Vision relies on seafood for protein. There’s no way around it. But Brett Tolley pointed out that the seafood in the Vision isn’t anything like the fish stick you encountered at your school’s cafeteria. Brett is the son of a fisherman, and when he was in school he found these fish sticks not only disgusting, but “somehow embarrassing.”

To make matters worse, Brett’s Dad told him that the “fish” in the fish stick probably came from “very far away,” while the fish he caught here in New England also went someplace “very far away.” And in fact 90% of the fish we eat in the United States is imported from other countries, while most of the seafood caught in New England doesn’t stay here.

We have an enormous, and enormously important, task ahead of us if we want to revive our fisheries and ensure living wages for fisher-folk. Luckily, the folks at Brett’s organization, the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, are working on this. You can read more and get involved at their website.

Listen to Brett:

Is 50% Enough?

Food QuestionAfter the event wound down, the buzz in the room centered on a question many were uncomfortable asking publicly: is 50% really enough? It’s a big question. Food Solutions New England has their reasons for landing on a 50% Vision, but the conversation is far from over.

There is widespread agreement that the “Business As Usual” food system needs to change. And in fact it will change, as pressures from a changing climate, resources shortages, and economic instability create a new landscape here in New England. The Vision offers us an opportunity to educate ourselves on what is possible for New England even as things shift, and to dream about what is desirable.

Furthermore, a vision can provide some guidance for getting to the system we want, but getting there will take the collaboration of millions of New Englanders. That’s why Karen Spiller, the evening’s final speaker, urged us to make the Vision a living document. She reminds us: “We all have a lot to offer to make this a living vision, building it together, and enjoying it together.”

Listen to Karen:
Like anything else that’s going to be sustainable, our food system must be a labor of love. Luckily, growing food and catching fish have long been enjoyable ways of life for New Englanders, from the native inhabitants to today’s permaculture and urban agriculture enthusiasts. If we continue in this spirit of experimentation and enjoyment, and help others find their roles in the emerging system, then we’re on the right track.

Read the Vision here. Tell us what you think below.

* The percentages come from the number of cultivated acres required for various diets – for example, in the Omnivore’s Delight, half the acres under cultivation would be in New England, and half elsewhere, thus 50%.

Community Resilience 101 – How Your Community Can Thrive in Challenging Times

On Thursday, October 16, 2014 New England NET co-produced a webinar with the New England Grassroots Environment Fund (NEGEF) about “community resilience.” We discussed how we can all live well now and into the future, given the challenges of a hurting economy, climate change, resource shortages, and political paralysis.

Click Here to Watch the Free Recording of the One-Hour Webinar

CR 101

Download the Presenters’ Slides:

Tina’s Slides

Lisa’s Slides

Jamie’s Slides

Carlos’ Slides

Sarah’s Slides


Across the nation, grassroots organizers are working to create resilient systems for food, energy, transit, health, livelihoods, education, and much more—systems that will be able to weather the coming shocks of a rapidly shifting economy and climate.

In order to create resilience, people are coming together as communities, finding their inner passions, using their skills, and trusting each other. Truly resilient systems must be equitable, creating wellbeing for all across boundaries of race, class, language, and income. This work requires and enables us to reconnect with each other, repairing the torn social fabric we inherited.


Tina Clarke – Certified Transition Trainer & member of Transition Amherst

Lisa Fernandes – Organizer of the Portland Maine Permaculture group, & Director of the Portland Resilience Hub

Carlos Espinoza-Toro – Director of Community Organizing for the Jamaica Plain New Economy Transition

Sarah Byrnes – Co-Director of New Economy Transition (NET) New England Program at the Institute for Policy Studies

More about the Speakers

Tina Clarke

Tina ClarkeSince becoming a Certified Transition Trainer in 2008, Tina has worked with over 120 Transition communities, given 42 of the official Transition weekend courses in the U.S. and Canada, and provided hundreds of Transition presentations. Prior to doing Transition work full-time, Tina had been a trainer, program director and consultant for 25 years, supporting and guiding leaders in over 400 local, national, regional and local organizations. In Washington, D.C., she directed citizen training programs for 17 national faith communities, and she directed Greenpeace USA’s national citizen Activist Network. After moving to Massachusetts she directed the Veterans Education Project, the Western Mass Funding Resource Center, and a training program on personal financial management. She founded and led campaigns on energy, environmental justice and toxins for New England Clean Water Action. Most recently she was a consultant with, the Massachusetts Municipal Association, and the Sustainability Institute. Tina has an M.A. in Public Policy from the University of Chicago, a B.A. in Urban Studies from Macalester College, and is certified for mediation and consensus decision-making facilitation. Her passive solar, Platinum LEED, low-toxic, largely locally-built “Power House” won the Massachusetts utility company-sponsored competition, the Zero Energy Challenge, and the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association’s 2010 Zero Net Energy Award

Lisa Fernandes

Lisa-Fernandes-300x199Lisa Fernandes organizes the 1700+ member Portland Maine Permaculture group and is the Director of its non-profit home, The Resilience Hub. She is a trained facilitator and permaculture designer who believes that the strategies of resilience-building, re-skilling and re-localization are among the best we have for creating vibrant communities and for navigating future challenges. Lisa sits on the boards of the Eat Local Foods Coalition (ELFC), the Permaculture Institute of the Northeast and on the Grantmaking Committee of the New England Grassroots Environment Fund. Lisa participates in the Portland Mayor’s Initiative for Healthy Sustainable Food Systems. She is also active in the Cape Farm Alliance, Slow Food Portland, Portland Food Coop, Hour Exchange Portland and is a Master Food Preserver and Master Composter. Lisa attended Boston College and The Evergreen State College and has worked in the public, private and non-profit sectors, including a stint owning a software design firm with more than 100 client companies across the region. Lisa and her family are actively converting their 1/3 acre property into a demonstration site for resilient and abundant “post-carbon” living.

Jamie Capach

Jamie CapachJamie Capach is the Secretary and Assistant Web Editor of Transition Keene Advocates. She worked for seven years in community access media before moving to Keene, NH to study Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability at Antioch University New England. Her professional and volunteer activism has included marriage equality, transgender liberation, shutting down Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant, organizing community forums on affordable healthcare, and repealing the death penalty in New Hampshire. For the past three years, Jamie and her family have lived without an automobile and have relied on public transportation, bicycles, ridesharing, and the Monadnock Time Exchange to get where they need to go.

Carlos Espinoza-Toro

Carlos-Espinoza-Toro-150x150Carlos Espinoza-Toro is the Director of Community Organizing of the Jamaica Plain New Economy Transition. He provides critical support to the implementation of transition initiatives through engaging with diverse groups, building trust, and addressing the tensions between systemic thinking and on-the-ground development. Before joining IPS, Carlos worked as a Program Manager at the MIT Community Innovators Lab bringing together volunteers, community members, government officials, nonprofit directors, and academics to develop and implement neighborhood development programs to improve the lives of disadvantaged communities. Carlos holds a Masters in City Planning from the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Sarah Byrnes

Sarah ByrnesSarah Byrnes is the Co-Director of the New Economy Transition in New England, a program of the Institute for Policy Studies. She supports the local “Jamaica Plain New Economy Transition” pilot program and work to enhance the resilience of the New England region as a whole. Sarah also coordinates the network of Resilience Circles, small groups focused on mutual aid during this tough economy. Sarah has collaborated with many grassroots groups around the country to build community and enhance resilience, and has written about the importance of mutual aid, relationships, and community connections in activism and organizing. Before coming to IPS Sarah worked with Americans for Financial Reform, Americans for Fairness in Lending, the Thomas Merton Center, and the Center of Concern, and she has degrees from Boston College and Harvard Divinity School.

Fall 2014: The New England Resilience Round-Up

It's Harvest Time!

It’s Harvest Time!

Ready, set, it’s almost fall! And with the falling of the leaves comes a lot of Resilience & Transition activity in New England. Here’s a sample of what’s afoot.

The ROCkers are live! The Regional Organizing Committee for New England Resilience & Transition has formed and will meet in-person this fall. The ROCkers will discuss ways to support horizontal communication among initiatives through a spring in-person gathering and enhanced online communications, and consider potential collaborations. Want to get involved or weigh in? We’d love to have your input. Email Sarah Byrnes to jump in (

Concerned about local food? If you’re in the Boston area, join us on Wednesday, October 8 for “Can New England Feed Itself?: A “New England Food Vision.” If you’re not in Boston but want to learn more about the Food Solutions New England vision, check out the wealth of information on their website, and stay tuned for a recording of the event and other follow-up.

Also, stay tuned for announcements about our Fall 2014 Webinar Series on Community & Regional Resilience. We’ve got webinars in the works about energy, small group organizing, and more. (Want to tell your story on a webinar? Reply to this email and let us know.)

Onward for resilience,
Sarah Byrnes & Orion Kriegman

More News from New England and Beyond…

People’s Climate March! In case you missed it, there’s going to be a huge climate march in NYC on September 21. Read more here.

2015 Boston Permaculture Design Course. Be part of creating a better future. A six-weekend format for the internationally-recognized full Permaculture Design Certificate Course (PDC), running January through May 2015 at the beautiful Boston Nature Center! Read more and register at

Maine Common Ground Fair, Sep 19 – 21. Hey Mainers – if you’re not going to the Climate March in NYC, come to the Maine Common Ground Fair in Unity, Maine. Take part in the Transition discussion at 10am, Sunday, Sept 21st in the Social and Political Action Tent’s workshop area. We’d love to hear about your Transition projects there. We also invite Transition groups to display their information at the Maine Transition booth in Social and Political Action tent #1. And if you’d like to serve a shift hosting at the booth in exchange for a Fair ticket (while they last), contact Susan Cutting of Belfast Transition,

New Economy Week is October 13 – 19. Sponsored by the New Economy Coalition, New Economy Week will feature online and in-person events that highlight successes, ask tough questions, and give life to the claim that another world is possible. Submit your event or story here.

Report: Weaving the Community Resilience and New Economy Movement. This fascinating report from the Post Carbon Institute finds that the future belongs to community-oriented, re-localized economies based on mutual support and cooperation. But, we could have told you that. Read the report here.

Can New England Feed Itself?: A “New England Food Vision”

NEFV coverWednesday, October 8, 7pm
First Church JP Unitarian Universalist
6 Eliot Street, Jamaica Plain MA (map)
RSVP on Facebook!

Co-sponsored by the JP Forum, JP New Economy Transition, and the Boston Collaborative for Food & Fitness

What does it mean to “buy local”? What’s our vision for supporting local youtube to mp3 hd farmers and fishers, engaging in sustainable agriculture and fisheries, and changing our broken food system?

On October 8 Professor Brian Donahue of Brandeis University will present A New England Food Vision, a collaborative report that considers the future of food in our region. The Vision calls for New England to reach a bold goal of producing at least 50% of our food by 2060 – food that will be clean, fair, just and accessible for all.

Brian Donahue

Brian Donahue

Incorporating more than three years of collaborative research and input from hundreds of voices throughout New England, A New England Food Vision imagines a future in which food nourishes a social, economic, and environmental landscape that supports a high quality of life for everyone, including generations to come

A panel of experts will respond with additional reflections about food justice, challenges for new food producers, and the state of our land and ocean resources. In addition to Professor Donahue we will hear from:

Karen Spiller – former director of Boston Collaborative of Food and Fitness, and MA Delegation leader to New England Food Summit

Eva Agudelo – National Incubator Farm Training Initiative (NIFTI) Coordinator, New Entry Sustainable Farming Project, food justice and what is happening with new immigrant farmers

Brett Tolley – Community Organizer, Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, is from a four-generation commercial fishing family. He’s working to advance social, environmental, and economic justice throughout the seafood value chain

There will then be plenty of time for Q&A and discussion. Bring your questions, and see you there!

The ROCkers (Regional Organizing Committee)

Members of the ROCkers

Members of the ROCkers

New England Rocks! And to increase resilience in this historic region, a group of resilience-building rockstars have come together to form a “Regional Organizing Committee” (aka the ROCkers) to support the New England Resilience & Transition (NERT) Network.

The ROCkers is an open, flexible, and transparent group. Its purpose is to enhance local resilience in the New England region. We do that by:

1. facilitating horizontal communication among initiatives, both in-person and online, and
2. collaborating on local and regional strategies and actions.

The ROCkers:

1. Are each active in a local resilience, permaculture, green, energy, food, sustainability, environmental justice, new economy, time banking, Transition, or other group.
2. Support the purpose of the ROCkers (above).
3. Commit to supporting and attending one in-person gathering per year, which will vary in location from year to year per the group’s decision. They also commit to attending three remote meetings per year, via conference call or online platform.

The New England New Economy Transition program is providing support for the ROCkers. For more info, contact Sarah Byrnes at Read more at the NERT Network site:

Join the Regional Organizing Committee (ROCkers)! – New England Resilience & Transition

A letter from Keene attendees to grassroots groups in New England

Do you want to ROCK resilience regionally? Join the ROCkers!

This is a call to action to join the Regional Organizing Committee (aka the ROCkers), a New England network of resilience rockstars.

The ROCkers is an open, flexible, and transparent group. The purpose of the Rockers is to enhance local resilience in the New England region. We do that by 1) facilitating horizontal communication among initiatives, both in-person and online, and 2) collaborating on local and regional strategies and actions.

To join the ROCkers:

1. You must be active in a local resilience, permaculture, green, energy, food, sustainability, environmental justice, new economy, time banking, Transition, or other group.

2. You support the purpose of the ROCkers (above).

3. You commit to supporting and attending one in-person gathering per year, which will vary in location from year to year per the group’s decision. You also commit to attending three remote meetings per year, via conference call or online platform.

The structure and function of the ROCkers will be determined by its members at an in-person gathering we will co-create in the fall. Please come with your ideas, your wit, and your willingness to act!

To join the ROCkers, simply reply to Sarah Byrnes ( by Tuesday, July 15. We’ll then immediately start planning for our in-person fall gathering.

Discuss a “Regional Organizing Committee”

A letter from Keene attendees to the network of New England grassroots groups

When Resilience & Transition groups gathered in Keene on March 15, 2014, the facilitator asked whether New England is ready to form a regional structure for Resilience & Transition groups in New England. The answer was a resounding “yes.”

In response, we’re inviting you to discuss a “Regional Organizing Committee” (ROC – pronounced ROCK) – to take our region-wide resilience work in New England to the next step. We will affectionately call this Committee the “Rockers.”

The purpose of the Rockers will be to facilitate horizontal communication and action among initiatives, both in-person and online, to enhance local resilience in the New England region. In particular, the Rockers will ensure that the regional network of groups in New England convenes in person once per year (or more). Other purposes for the Rockers will undoubtedly emerge over time. We imagine that the Rockers would convene four times per year, once in person at the annual gathering, and three times over the phone or online.*

We are inspired by Rob Hopkins’ observation that local Transition initiatives often experience a “donut effect,” where a group’s energy drifts into projects and a gap develops at the center. It is exciting that projects to support regional resilience are happening in New England: a regional network of academics is forming, there is a regional Photo Slam, and folks are talking about a “Whole New England Catalog.” The Rockers will be designed to “hold the center” of this regional work and ensure that core region-wide communications carry on.

The Rockers will be an open, flexible, and transparent group. We set out these three simple parameters for membership:

  1. Members are active in a local resilience, green, energy, food, sustainability, environmental justice, new economy, time banking, Transition, or other group
  2. Members believe in the purpose of the Rockers and support the idea that local groups should be connected to each other across the region to enhance regional resilience
  3. Members commit to one in-person and three remote meetings per year, and have the technological capacity to meet over the phone and/or online.

This proposal is up for discussion and reaction. Please join a phone call about the Rockers on June 26 at 7pm. To attend, RSVP to Sarah Byrnes,, and we will send you the login details.

We are eager for your thoughts and need your involvement to make this happen! Please join us on June 26!

Josh Arnold, Global Awareness Local Action
Dakota Butterfield, JP NET & Transition Trainer
Dale Bryan, Tufts University & Mulling Over Medford
Sarah Byrnes, New England NET
Jamie Capach, Transition Keene Advocates
Steve Chase, Transition Keene Advocates & Transition Trainer
Dan Jones, Transition Town Montpelier
Jennifer Kleindienst, Coginchaug Area Transition
Orion Kriegman, JP NET
Conrad Willeman, Transition Newburyport

* Of course, we don’t expect the Rockers to shoulder all the detailed work. As has happened in the past, a group of folks will need to commit to various organizing tasks. For example, leading up to the events in Boston, Brattleboro, Portland, and Keene, a region-wide team of 6 or 7 folks worked with a local team to organize each event.

How to Measure Progress? Replacing GDP with the “Genuine Progress Indicator”

Stories from Vermont, Massachusetts, Maryland, and the Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub 

On May 22, New England NET hosted a webinar about the Genuine Progress Indicator. Download slides from the webinar here:

[Recording coming soon!]