Mena participating in the garden

Earlier in the year, we had a visit by an MSc student from Edinburgh called Mena Grossmann. Mena, as she describes below, used Transition Town Tooting as a case study to explore diversity within the Transition Town Movement for her MSc research project.

For us and the Transition Movement as a whole, engagement with academic research has to be 2-way, with both parties benefitting. We hope Mena’s research will give us real insight into who we are reaching through our work in Tooting.

Mena will be publishing her dissertation after it has been marked, we can’t wait! And will share it when we can.

If your Transition Initiative is interested in engaging with academic research, The Transition Network do have suggested guidelines to help negotiate the first steps of partnership between a Transition Town and a Researcher, these can be found here. There is also the Transition Research Network who focus on this area and provide a forum to link a researcher with an Initiative. However, we sort of made it up as we went along…

Over to Mena…

“Somebody told me that Tooting was like an onion, because it has many layers. During my 2-week stay in Tooting, undertaking interviews and participating in TTT’s activities as part of my MSc dissertation on diversity and participation in the Transition Movement, I was able to have the incredible opportunity of unpeeling some of those layers.

Coming to TTT, and Tooting in general, as a complete stranger, my first days felt like when you’re cutting an onion; eyes watering furiously and impaired vision. However, after a few fascinating days visiting the community garden, going along to a neighbourhood planning meeting and undertaking a couple of interviews, a map began to develop bit by bit in my mind as I started to develop an understanding of the functioning of TTT, of the multitude of community groups working in the area and of the social networks and connections that link them.

Of the many wonderful impression I take with me of TTT and Tooting a few have particularly stuck in my mind. One is the massive dedication and motivation of the TTT core group. Incredible amounts of time go into organising events, maintaining, developing and improving longer term projects, as well as building working relations and friendships with other actors in the Tooting community. And each is done with a sense of joy and passion. TTT offers an incredibly wide range of activities from community gardening to restart workshops (to repair broken gadgets), thus appealing to people with different interests. It also collaborates with a large number of local restaurants, charities, politicians and schools through events and projects, thus embedding itself in the community and playing a part in strengthening the sense of community in Tooting.

This leads me to my next impression, which is the incredible generosity and willingness of the people of Tooting to be of assistance and to openly share stories with a stranger. I experienced this first hand when, on one of my first days, I went to a restaurant called Al Mirage to ask the owners about their collaboration with TTT during the annual Foodival. Without quite realising what was happening, I was promptly ushered to a table and invited to have lunch free of charge with the owner and his son whilst talking about TTT, the restaurant and life in general. For me, this one event characterises my entire research trip to Tooting. The openness of people outside of TTT to tell me about their experiences of collaborating with them is certainly a testimonial to the favourable reputation that TTT enjoys among the wider community.

On this note I would like to thank all my interviewees within and outside of TTT, to Richard as my main point of contact in TTT and who worked tirelessly to organise interviews, to all in TTT for making me feel welcome and to Al Mirage for setting the tone of my visit.”