A national service entity

Transition Towns Structure ideas

Begun on June 16, 2009 with Ruth Marsh (kerikeri), Natalie Hormann (Lower Hutt), and James Samuel (Waiheke) via a skype call, while collaborating on a shared document. This has grown out of discussion on this thread, amongst others.
If you would like to join in our next Transition Tuesday skype call (9am - 12 noon, June 16th) and be part of the online editing of a version we can begin writing into a Trust document, please connect with me via skype name: jmsinnz
Meanwhile, add your comments here and next Tuesday we can bring them into the collaborative writing on Etherpad.


- Transparency on all 'significant' decision and financial matters
- Decision making goes back to the people (Board of Trustees has as little power as possible)
- Trust is funded by constituents - and self selected donations
- Money is allocated 1/3 admin, 1/3 community projects (local or national level) 1/3 projects that are likely to give a return in the future (=loans)
- Trust "employs" (not necessarily full time, each position can be shared)
- one network facilitator
- one website administrator
- one funding person
- Collaboration facilitated at every stage to attract maximum input
- All coordinators have purely administrative functions. All other activity is run as "projects" with varying project teams/ working groups which come into existence and dissolve continously. These projects receive funding in consultation with the network (most likely through the website)
- Decisions within the Board of Trustees are made by way of concensus (Minus 1)


- To facilitate the flow of funds from various sources, to the projects which show maximum benefit
- To hold the national vision of Resilient Communities
- To facilitate communication flows and easy access to relevant information through the coordinators
- To be in service of transitioning NZ

Who are the Trustees

Those with the biggest vision and capacity to clearly communicate it.
Will be active individuals within their own local transition initiative.
Able to commit ___ (amount of time) for this purpose
Able to be accountable to the whole
We will seek nominations for trustees. Numbers not defined yet.

The goal is to have 12 trustees, and each two months one new one comes and one leaves - so at each two monthly meetings there are 13 present (a prime number).

Scott Willis's picture

Too many trustees (i.e. 12) -

Too many trustees (i.e. 12) - will make it difficult to have a meeting with quorum, esp. if decision making consensus (minus 1). Will need 11 or 12(?) people in communication for every meeting where action is taken (which is, I hope, every meeting).

Thanks Scott - valid point,

Thanks Scott - valid point, though let's not assume it is necessarily the case, it depends on other factors about how we agree decisions and actions are to be progressed. Let's bat this around in voice conf call. Are you up for being with us next Tuesday?

Natalie's picture

Had another (in fact several)

Had another (in fact several) conversations on this today. Some issues and possibilities that arose from these (and I am just putting this out there)

1 - Do we really need these (paid) roles?

2 - Do we really need to attract funding other than at a local level ?

3 - There is an opportunity to make use of a physical space here in Lower Hutt as a "space" for network administration. There would be someone there (full time) "holding the space" and able to coordinate activity therein. We could use it as a "drop in" centre for volunteers to come and do work for Transition Towns (mostly probably laborious tasks that don't need much instruction, I suppose). This space would be paid for for 1 year.

I personally think the website admin is probably the biggest "job" out of these and the one that is hardest to be shared amongst many people.

Having a "network admin" SPACE, rather than a person, I think is an interesting idea - not sure how that would work in practice though.

Again, just putting this out there.

Natalie's picture

I took the liberty to post

I took the liberty to post (for the complete picture) the reply from Daring Donna and James to the comments above: Wow at last I feel I want to contribute to this conversation happening in TT.  I have been reading all the messages about structure and the urgency of it and I just feel deflated for the "love in action" that I see happening at community level is inspiring, dynamic, innovative, cliff jumping .......and then to create a structure and a holding body with accountability  for this movement scares the shit out of me.  It feels like the same old same old.  Government funding for TT feels like a cop out and I cannot sign up to the ideas presented. 

I spend soooooo much of my time with the younger generation and the ones I work with dont want to be trapped by any type of structure, system or process, they see it hasnt worked in the last few hundred years and wont for this new time!!! They want to have freedom to explore what is possible beyond their imaginations and limitations that their schooling, parenting and general society has placed on them.  They want to jump - let them I say and then follow if you are scared!! or even better if you are scared then let them built the bridge.

Your email messages sang to my heart  - we do need some giant leaps into the unknown and here is a perfect opportunity to do so with this "love in action" project like TT that is taking off up and down the country.

Do we need the crutches of yesteryear to evolve into a kind, compassionate, peaceful, abundant world.
Crutches - banks, insurance, trusts, polictics, finance, economics blah blah blah even my friends doing the work in these crutches see that things need to change radically.

I also hear my dear beloved James talking about a bridge as many wont giant leap off the cliff into the unknown - slow me down and give me patience.  I have been jumping off the cliff since I was born and its inspiring and free and safe and what I do, and I honour those who like to walk across a well built established bridge.  AND to build that bridge - someone is going to have to jump - Transition Aotearoa is the perfect vechicle to show another way.  We are doing it in our local communities in many places around NZ, why not in the bigger picture for all of us.  Go Aotearoa show the world a different way.

I could rave on all day as my heart is full and I feel I could be listened and not judged by you James, Natalie and Juanita - however one can only disgest so much information.  I will finish with some cliff jumping ideas for Transition Aotearoa - just throwing them out there and would love to continue to be in an alternative conversation for a time and see if we can build a bridge by cliff jumping:

*    Jumping, jumping, jumping - put the message out to the world loud and clear in an inspiring way that Transition Aotearoa is a gift economy and people are doing what they do because they love it with no expectation about receiving monetary rewards.  Give, give, give and then give some more.  TA is cocreating a moneyless movement just for the love of it and we proudly stand on our own feet through mutual support and mutual resourcing.  By creating a message that is strong and inspring around this "love in action' people get behind it and give more of themselves and their resources because they feel they are on the cutting edge of cocreating something new in the world, I have seen this happen over and over again on so many projects.

*   There is no need for accountability because this is a vechicle for people to learn to trust in their fellow man.  Its a living example - we can talk about it tell the dogs stop barking.  Put in your 10 bucks a month and learn to let go and see what happens - have you ever done this - most people would answer NO, so now the opportunity to see what happens when a whole movement does.

Give this practise a form so that people have some stablility moving into a whole new way of giving for the greater good.  Not a trust and funding that is accountable - thats just so 70s, 80 and 90s its ridiculous teheeeeeeeeee TT is something new and amazing - why do we want to limit it with old thinking and structures - FEAR of the unknown ok I have compassion for this and so a form with stability to help people practise.

Better go out into the world and do.  Big love and open to all radical new ideas to cocreate a stable form in trust.xxxxxx

From: James Samuel <james.samuel@transitiontowns.org.nz>
To: "Natalie, Daryl and Finlay" <nafinda@slingshot.co.nz>
Cc: Juanita McKenzie <juanita@humanitysteam.co.nz>; Daring Donna <daringdonna@xtra.co.nz>
Sent: Wednesday, 17 June, 2009 7:06:14 AM
Subject: A moneyless future and TT structure

Hi Donna and Juanita,

I have taken the liberty of adding you into this reply to Natalie, because I feel it is an important one, and I am keen to make this a real dialogue with people who hold some more radical views.

We are living through a transition. I can well imagine and suspect that one day soon, we will have no need for money. At the moment some of us are struggling to meet the basic needs without access to sufficient cash. I need dental work and my glasses are desperately in need of being upgraded as I can barely read this screen and struggle to read the text on a normal page of a newspaper or a book.

How do we match these things? Can we create a simple structure and vessel into which to receive money that people may want to give. And some of those people who want to give desire some structure and accountability so they can be confident that what they give ends up doing the best good it can.

In the time of transition, I suspect we still need transitional tools and its up to us to radicalise them as much as we can, to show the way forward. Most people wont step off the edge of a cliff, but if we show them a bridge it might help them come with us.

Thank you all for the amazing service you are all performing for the greater good.




Scott Willis's picture

Jumping, jumping... Hi

Jumping, jumping...

Hi Natalie,

Enjoying your thoughts and I'd like more information if you can on those successful projects that work as a gift economy, especially in New Zealand. I do know of some that haven't worked so well.

Personally I don't see 'Structure' as a problem, a period piece, or a block, but rather an enabling concept that assists in planning and making long term goals acheivable (and I must admit to feeling inspired by activism from the 60's and 70's and 80's at times) . Without any overt structure (and structure always exists, whether we admit it or not) personalities prevail, making it hard to build anything that can endure beyond the individual efforts of those personalities.

Gift, trust, empathy - all these are very important things and without such TT wouldn't be, but do you remember the 'De-regulation' of the NZ economy in the 1980's (breaking down the structures)? This is a great example of how throwing out certain visible structural forms resulted in invisible structural forms emerging - in this case a devolution of power shared broadly and mediated by the state to power held more narrowly and tightly by corporate forms. 'De-regulation' was in fact 'Re-regulation' in favour of NZ and international corporates.

Structure can be enhanced by charismatic personalities and free spirits, and the same can be enhanced by structure.


Natalie's picture

Yet another thought on this

Yet another thought on this debate -

I think the reasons for a "structure" are just as valid as the reasons against - I share the inspiration, but also the frustration of both arguments (funny that that is possible ;-)

So here is mes trying to mediate:

If we for now assume that work at the local level has been going well and will continue to do so even without financial support from a national body (so we leave that aspect aside), this leaves us with the three functions that were proposed (admin, web, fundraising). How do we deal with those?

Well - the first one is easy (for now):

Setting up a contact person that helps with network administration - contacting and engaging with local groups, gathering news and posting them on the website, taking phone calls and replying to emails. I believe we have a volunteer for this who is willing to even supply an address / space / drop in centre with it - GIFTING her time and financial support for one year. This offer we can accept and see what grows from it. And hope that by the end of it we have another answer.


As for the fundraising (which could pay for website maintenance, newsletters etc) - can we take the "structure" away from TT and form a "Friends of Transition Towns" trust that is totally independent from TT as an initiative from a few devoted individuals? Could it collect monies and "gift" these to the network by way of paying for some nice stuff that would benefit the network (like the above). This would leave the local initiatives completely out of this - they would just get the benefit of the "bonus" services  supplied (again, the website, the newsletter). But it would still give as an opportunity to do some of those things. (A little bridge, if you like - maybe a swing bridge?)


And then - if this is to be a "model gift economy" - can we PLEASE make this VERY VERY public, teach it and sing it from every roof in the country? So people can take note, watch and learn - and mostly: GIFT!!! - We need support for people doing hard work and needing to eat - and I have trouble accepting critisim for this from people who either do much, much less (but benefit from this work), are funded elsewise or don't have families to support. (Unless there is a trick to doing both (free work and support a family) that I don't know of - then please tell me about it!!)

I almost don't care what form this support takes - financial or in kind.

If we can make this work and show people that money does not get misused etc etc we can create a wonderful precedent, no doubt... If things go to custard - well, then we have all learnt the lesson that we are maybe too far ahead of our time or simply on the wrong cliff.




Hi All, Been watching with

Hi All,

Been watching with interest. As anyone who is familiar with the bazillion words I have already written on this subject elswhere in the TT nodes will know, that I'm with Scott.  There will always be some form of structure in the way groups of people organise themselves, whether they admit it or not. Just as there will also always be some form of money, whether it is the $NZ, the $US, the Euro, the Amero, or the Totnes Pound. Stucture is not the problem, nor in fact is money.The problem is how we choose to use these tools at the collective level and that of the individual.

My belief is that we have got to the present state of economy and of society because most of us simply do not engage with these fundamental structures at the conscious level anymore. Most of us have either "dropped out" or been "dummed down". So we find ourselves in a situation where, those that do consciously engage, the corporates, the politicians etc, manipulate it, take control, use it their advantage and consciously make it harder for the rest of us to actively engage.

It suits their purposes if we don't. Therefore I would argue that the only way to conciously co-create the world we want is to consciously engage in the very structures and processes that we do find so oppressive, simply because we as community need to take them back, breathe light and relevance back into them.

In my opinion we should be developing vibrant structures that reflect what TT is on about. We should be doing what the corpoartes do and get innovative in the way that we organise ourselves. Lets move TT forward. Lets create the space where we can collectively benefit from what we all do and build momentum on that. 

I still think a TT Credit Union would be the best structure to work on as it would be self funding, non threatening to local groups and give an example of the type of economy we want, that is cooperative rather than competitive.

But thats got as much chance as a "swine flying" ;0)



I agree with many of the

I agree with many of the comments above, and pay homage to those of us who are working tirelessly for TT, fitting in the work around our regular 9-5 jobs and other commitments. What disappoints me about some of the comments is the desire to recreate the structures that vest power in the few.

What is wrong with the current devolved model - is it not true to the notion of localisation?
Did any/all of us set out on this journey to create a national organisation?
and dare I ask the question do we need a national spokes person when there is only local action.

My view is let's leave it for a couple of years, lets put our energy in to doing the things that make a difference in the communities we live in.


Natalie's picture

Hi Belinda, just keep in mind

Hi Belinda,

just keep in mind that the last almost 2 years we actually HAVE operated with a "national organisation" (an informal group of a few people who have taken on national stuff) and a national spokesperson (=James Samuel). Whilst a lot of the work that was done at that level may have gone unnoticed at the local level, this is mostly due to the fact that it DID - quietly - get done by someone. This effort equalled at least one, if not more, full time positions. Therefore, it is not about creating something new that wasnt there before. It is about finding an answer how to actually create a mandate for the people doing this - mostly because one of the criticisms and reasons for lack of support towards their work was the fact they were "non-elected".

Also, I think we need to recognize that a growing network - as well as growing interest from other groups, requires new responses.



Well said Natalie, I second

Well said Natalie,

I second the fact that creating such a structure is not new initiative. The desire for a formal structure is merely to recognise the work that has been been done by a loose collective already operating at that national level but more importantly to democratically legitimise that existing work.

I would also like to make the point that the intent to develop such a structure should not be percieved as a threat. It is not to vest power in a few but to develop a structure that supports what the local groups are doing.

Finally I think we should be reflecting inwardly about this to a degree. A Trust structure is one that has been discussed repeatedly. The word "trust" says it all I think. Obviously any national Transition body would be made up of people already very active in TT. If we can not "trust" them to operate in the best interests of all the local TT groups then surely we are doing the idea of Transition a disservice.

For me TT is not simply about the local, it is about about making connections and linkages within our communities. It is about collaberation and building bridges to achieve a greater degree of resilience. I beleive being able to "trust' other people is a key to achieving that.



Natalie's picture

"Whilst there has been some

  • "Whilst there has been some opposition to the question whether there should be a “national level” of TT or everything should be left to the local groups to decide alone (see here for this discussion http://www.transitiontowns.org.nz/node/1745#comment-1170 ) I observe that this thread was taken from a local level to a national one for clarification. What can we learn from this observation and process?? "

    See this thread here: http://www.transitiontowns.org.nz/node/1761

    Here is the latest version,

    Here is the latest version, based on input from you all, and from dialogue on this Transition Tuesday skype call (June 22).

    The conversation today prompted deletions of several points, and thus a simplified approach. The key aspect is that we are proposing a "Friends of Transition Towns Trust". This trust is not claiming to be Transition Towns national, but be in support of the wider work being undertaken all across the country.
    - Transparency on all 'significant' decision and financial matters
    - Decision making goes back to the network (Board of Trustees has as little power as possible)
    - Collaboration facilitated - at every stage to attract maximum input
    - Decisions within the Board of Trustees are made by way of concensus (Minus 1)
    - To facilitate the flow of funds from various sources, to the Transition Network and its projects which show maximum benefit
    - To hold the national vision of Resilient Communities
    - To be in service of transitioning NZ
    Who are the Trustees
    - Self appointed trustees - who wants to step up to serve.
    - Trustee numbers not so important, whoever steps up to serve will e the ones
    - We would like those with the biggest vision and capacity to clearly communicate it.
    - Will be active individuals within their own local transition initiative.
    - Able to commit ___ (amount of time) for this purpose
    - Able to be accountable to the whole
    Scott Willis's picture

    Well done. Apologies for not

    Well done. Apologies for not being able to make the Skype, but the principle of making progress has been achieved and the discussion immediately above (Richard, Natalie) has been valuable. I would like to participate in the direct discussion and will try to familiarise myself with the necessary technology, however I think the basis for the necessary formal document is here. How about setting a deadline (say end of July) for a full draft of the 'Friends of Transition Towns' Deed?



    Silence does not equal

    Silence does not equal acceptance

    Natalie, Richard, James & Scott 

    I think the very small number of people engaging in this debate should be taken as a lack of interest in/acceptance of the notion of a nationally co-ordinated TT organisation. As part of an Officially recognised TT group, currently developing a constitution in order to gain some form of incorporated status, I get the need placed on us to have some form of official structure.  

    However, I still dispute that a national structure is needed and if you are worried about what would happen if we didn't have the "national activities". Then lets try this experiment - stop doing them. Let's see what happens. 

    Take care



    Just a quick thought if you are planning a further skype on this could you please do it at a time when those of us who work during the day could join in if we wanted to.

    Natalie's picture

    Dear Belinda, as you will see

    Dear Belinda,

    as you will see from James' last post - we have actually taken the concerns (and the silence) into account and stepped away completely from a national structure, coordination, roles etc. The current proposal of a "Friends of TT Trust" would be a seperate and different entity from Transiton Towns (hence the name) and be an independent initiative by people who feel passionate about supporting the aims of the Transition Network financially.

    Regards Natalie

    Natalie Thank you for the


    Thank you for the clarification.


    How about testing it - have a

    How about testing it - have a TT hui?

    I was about to say something along the same lines as Belinda. I found in the ten years I have lived in NZ that Kiwis will often not tell you that they don't like what you propose when you propose it, but later on "vote" with their actions (or lack of them) - would that be a fair comment? Works differently in different countries I guess. Last thing all of us would want probably is for some Transition Initiatives to possibly distance themselves from a "national structure" because they don't like the principle? I think the strength of the Transition movement in New Zealand is that is has a united face (this website), so far courtesy of some very dedicated individuals.

    How about we test the idea of the national structure, and perhaps the Friends of TT Trust, by organising a national Transition Conference? I would love to see us come together!

    How much time would it take for something like that to be organised? 3 or 4 months, one person emplyed plus volunteers? Could we try to raise say $10,000 for somebody's salary to organise it, and some more for the cost, through our local funders and our local activities?

    Do it somewhere where it's easy to get to from all parts of the country (e.g. Wellington), have it over a weekend, have some good speakers, parallel presentations of the various Transition groups, field trips...? Tag on on one side of it a TT training session for those of us who missed it previously? People staying with locals, to keep cost down? Have a sliding scale fee?

    I haven't been to any of the Permaculture huis yet but they sound great and maybe a similar format would work? Has anybody got direct experience with organising something similar?

    Perhaps this would be a better forum to decide if we need/want a national structure, or what alternatives there may be?

    Looking forward to your thoughts,

    Cheers Diana

    PS I too would like to ask for any future skype conferences to be outside of "normal" working hours, please, would be fun to put voices to names.

    Natalie's picture

    Hi Diana, thanks for your

    Hi Diana,

    thanks for your contribution. Funny you are bringing that up - organising a Transition Conference was actually one of the main reasons (besides the website and paying for a national newsletter) why we wanted to form a national trust - in order to have a reasonable show to raise some money to be able to do just that. Without a bank account in Transition name, it has proven very very difficult to raise funds at this level otherwise. Certainly not at the scale this would require.

    But yes yes yes!!! I am all for a conference, lets get together, get to know each other, have a party and discuss this. Wellington is a good, central location and I think we have some people here who would support and help organise.  We just have to work out how to pay for it - cause it won't be cheap and it will take someone working on it full time for a while. So, following one of James' suggestions - forming a Trust to channel the money and at the same time "desiging it's demise from the onset" (the end date could be the conference) would work then?

    I like your observations about the NZ "ways". Hehe.




    Scott Willis's picture

    Hi Natalie, Belinda and

    Hi Natalie, Belinda and Diana,

    National Hui, Conferences, etc, are all good things, but I don't often go to things like that because a) the cost of travel, both economic and environmental, and b). too busy getting tasks done. I don't think we should be worried about having friends whos' agendas are pretty widely known, offering support. Isn't this what is proposed (Friends of Transition Towns)?. It is a pretty non-threatening way of getting things done, and enabling other stuff, such as National Hui, Conferences, etc - as Natalie's suggestion makes clear. I guess it is a fine line between making a valid critique and creating barriers and no-one is ever going to be happy with everything but as long as the least damage or threat is there, and real activity can occur, then surely that is a good thing? Silence: acceptance or opposition? Perhaps just neutral? I know that I often avoid debate because I have other things to achieve. Discussion is good, but lets be sure that it leads somewhere too: there's not much time for arguing, carbon emissions are on the rise and we are in an Energy Crunch. If we can do something about it, lets, and if people want to do it, or help, why not?

    I just think a hui would be

    I just think a hui would be great.

    So my post was not a comment on the establishment of a Trust or not. I just felt that the converation wasn't going anywhere else.

    Direct interaction is not to be underestimated - you can only go that far with posting/electronic communication (I personally don't enjoy it - after a day behind the computer I just want to go out in my garden and see after the chooks, or talk to intearct with people). We could have had the whole conversation in this thread done within an hour or so. I don't travel much these days for the obvious reasons but would for a Transition Conference.

    I think I will start - when I get a chance - another post about the hui to uncouple it from the national body or not debate.

    This dialogue has evolved and

    This dialogue has evolved and is now going to the next step. If you want to follow it from here, please drop over to this discussion, titled "Friends of Transition Towns Trust" you are still welcome to jon us on the Transition Tuesday Skype calls, referred to above. 9am to 12 noon every Tuesday. Here are some names of people you can contact during those hours:

    Skype Names:

    jmsinnz  - James
    earthwhile-1  -  Ron
    nafinda  - Natalie