The Free Press, Mankato, MN

February 17, 2013

Mankato in transition: Community group aiming for national certification

By Robb Murray
Free Press Staff Writer

MANKATO — When the organizers of the Transition Town movement in Mankato planned their first official event — one in which they announced themselves to the community and showed a film that explained what the movement was about — they weren’t quite sure what to expect for turnout.

By the end of that first night, they were no longer uncertain whether enough like-minded people in this community would be willing to join the movement.

More than 50 showed up on a cold, snowy night to attend the first-ever meeting of a new group, called Transition Mankato.

Now, if you know anything about nonprofits and the difficulty they sometimes have in attracting people to their causes, you’d know that getting 50 people to come to anything can be a challenge.

“There was a lot of enthusiasm, and there was widespread participation by everyone,” said Jane Dow, one of the organizers. “It was a very energetic, energized group.”

The idea behind the Transition Towns movement — which has taken hold in dozens of other cities around the country — is summed up in its mission statement:

“Transition Mankato is a grassroots movement focused on building community resilience and sustainability in the face of the challenges brought about by energy depletion, climate change and economic instability. Transition Mankato seeks to raise awareness, involvement and empowerment of the larger community in actions to increase community resilience, reduce carbon emissions and strengthen the local economy.”

What does this mean in practice?

Walking school buses, community gardens, tool exchanges, ride shares, organized tree planting, revisit recycling, increase volunteering.

Transition Mankato would be the place people turn to get help mobilizing ideas that fall within the spirit of the mission statement, a statement informed by the mother ship, the Transitions Movement.

There are a few places to look online to find the engines behind the movement. One is the Transitions Network (transitionsnetwork.org), a worldwide organization based in England. Another is Transition United States, (transitionus.org) which works in close partnership with the Transition Network.

Both are recruiting people all over the world who want their individual towns, cities or villages to embrace the idea of sustainability. Many already have and fulfilled all the requirements to become so-called “transition towns.”

Similar to the local Mankato Area Fair Trade Towns Initiative, the Mankato group pursuing the transition movement is aiming for an official designation, a certification from the national movement as a full-fledged transition town.

To do that they’ll have to show progress and proof that they’re establishing a presence and taking action to improve the community and, hence, the lives of the people who live there.

“The heart of a community is its people,” said Erica Idso, one of the steering committees members.

Idso is spearheading a project called Heart and Soil. The plan is to establish community gardens all over town where people can grow vegetables if they’d like, but where people can also acquire food without the prerequisite of contributing.

If you’re interested in ideas such as sharing vehicles with people to save on gas and money, coming up with ways to getting to know the people in your community, creating a community that relies less on limited outside resources and more on itself, then Transition Mankato might be for you.

For more information or to get involved, contact Erica Idso at 701-212-9429 or ericaidso@gmail.com, or Jane Dow at 625-5092, 469-5537 or janedow@hickorytech.net.