Socio-Ecological Transition Competencies for Trainers and Catalysts

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Introduction to Socio-Ecological Transition Competencies

The socio-ecological transition competencies are presented in ways that enable Trainer & Catalyst Competencies to be considered, as well as the competencies that are needed across Individuals, Groups & Communities to activate, support and expand socio-ecological transition processes (presented in the Appendices). This enables the relative levels and qualities of competency across a community to be understood realistically, and to recognise that Trainers & Catalysts are active elements of the wider communities they work with, whether they live in those communities or not.

This also helps develop an understanding of progression in learning, and learning pathways, so that individuals, groups and communities progress to higher levels of competence over time, and that some members of any community are likely to progress to become Trainers & Catalysts.  

This competency framework takes the position of considering the competences that are needed for both a) putting in place a significant and meaningful process of transition and b) achieving the overall transition goals or outcomes that process aims to achieve. For this reason, the overall Competency Framework is extensive.

As community-scale and societal transition is the goal, the assumption and basis for identifying the competencies needed by trainers and catalysts working in this field is that the general goal is for trainers and catalysts to always/typically work as part of a team. There may be a few exceptions, but generally one trainer or catalyst is not going to be able to bring about transition at community scale, for a variety of reasons! Of course, there will be occasions where Trainers and Catalysts are working independently. However, to set out a realistic framework for Trainers and Catalysts it is most valuable to identify a range of competencies that ideally would be in place across a Trainers and Catalysts Team, so that individual trainers and training collectives can determine how to put in place, strengthen and enrich the individual and collective competencies both in their team, and subsequently across the community they are working with. In considering trainer competencies and catalyst competencies, the essential differences between these two important roles is:

  • Trainers: advanced or expert levels of competence in the design and delivery of training and self-directed learning to bring about transformative outcomes, often but not necessarily accompanied by a depth in subject knowledge in one or several areas;
  • Catalysts: advanced or expert levels of competence in engaging and mobilising people, and facilitating group work and purposeful collective action, with advanced or expert levels of Intrapersonal and Interpersonal competence, often accompanied by strength in areas such as Visioning, planning and organising.

These competencies may exist within the same person, but often they may exist within different people working as a team. The combination of Trainers and Catalysts competencies are particularly important for sowing the seeds of transition competencies in others, and then growing, nurturing and enriching those competencies across a community over time.

Intrapersonal (Being) Competencies for Socio-ecological Transition for Trainers & Catalysts

INTRAPERSONAL (BEING) COMPETENCIES in which individuals, collectives and communities are developing their inner world and way of being, transition competence consists of the generalized capacity to manage individual and group behaviour and emotions to achieve their personal and collective goals. In the context of transition competence this includes: Current & Target Level of Competence
Starting and Target Levels of Competence for Trainers & Catalysts - the Minimum level is Proficient (4) moving to ->Expert (5) over time - trainees / apprentice trainers or catalysts would normally start at least at the Competent (3) level in many areas

SE1: Recognising multiple identities, intelligences & worldviews

Indicators of competence:

  • Recognises a range of ecological / holistic worldviews that are also based in social justice and inclusivity
  • Adopts a worldview that integrates the inner and outer worlds, and the individual and collective dimensions (the Integral worldview)
  • Is able to translate an appropriate worldview to a local-to-regional level
  • Recognises mental narratives and behaviours that are culturally conditioned and have roots in colonization, patriarchy and white western cultural domination, imposition and bias

SE2: Nurturing healthy & constructive mental habits or patterns & demonstrates life affirming dispositions & attitudes

  • Nurtures, demonstrates and communicates a positive, solutions oriented attitude and is able to understand and accept the deeper nature of problems or challenges as means of identifying and enacting meaningful and appropriate responses.
  • Recognises the importance of ‘Walking the talk’ and reflects on their own real or potential action-awareness gaps i.e. is practising regeneratively sustainable living, personal transformation, healthy living
  • Is able to digest and respond in healthy and appropriate ways to issues that can feel overwhelming in scale or complexity

Interpersonal (Relating) Competencies for Socio-ecological Transition for Trainers & Catalysts

INTERPERSONAL (RELATING) COMPETENCIES comprise the generalized ability to express ideas and interpret and respond to messages from others. In terms of transition competence, this includes: Current & Target Level of Competence

SE3: Engaging diverse sectors & audiences

Indicators of competence:

  • Relates to individuals and groups in ways that enable them to engage with and experience transformative transition learning and action processes and outcomes, individually and collectively

SE4: Conveying & communicating relevant complexity in accessible ways

Indicators of competence:

  • Is able to understand and communicate key concepts and practices in accessible ways, in language that is appropriate to the group
  • Is able to understand and communicate in terms of ‘simplexity’, to digest and communicate important aspects of complexity in relatively simple (but not simplistic) ways

SE5: Engaging participants in building community and working collectively

Indicators of competence:

  • Is able to encourage and facilitate participants for working in groups as part of their learning experience, and for group work on community transition initiatives
  • Is able to facilitate collective processes for visioning, planning, decision making etc in the context of socio-ecological transition;
  • Is able to develop healthy group cultures of trust, authenticity;
  • Is able to facilitate participants to work through conflict and uncertainty;
  • Is able to facilitate others to develop good communication practices, including an understanding of power and rank dynamics, and factors that generate collective and individual well-being including celebration, gratitude, giving and receiving feedback.

SE6: Responding and adapting to specific bio-cultural and values-based contexts

Indicators of competence:

  • Is able to draw on a wide range of experience, tools and methodologies in order to respond or adapt learning content and processes to any particular cultural, geographic, climatic or community contexts including any values that are present or dominant in the learning group, or the wider community

Cognitive (Knowing) Competencies for Socio-ecological Transition for Trainers & Catalysts

COGNITIVE (KNOWING) COMPETENCIES consist of what individuals, collectives and communities need to know to generate transition. In addition to the core Blended learning literacy and Transformative learning literacy, and communication abilities, the following is needed for transition: Current & Target Level of Competence

SE7: Knowing how to think systemically and strategically

Indicators of competence:

  • Is able to see and think in terms of systems, patterns, relationships and interdependent processes, promoting resilience, understanding tipping points and feedback loops
  • Understands and conveys the importance of Future Thinking, Visioning and Strategic - backcasting, recognising heritage, intergenerational equity; Design, planning, decision making, implementing, addressing challenges, organisational development, use of action-reflection cycles.
  • Is able to see and think in terms of local, personal and collective responses to local-to-global solutions and in terms of ‘simplexity’, as a way of working with complexity in relatively simple (but not simplistic) ways
  • Is able to see and think in terms of inclusivity and social justice
  • Is able to see and think in ways that generate creativity, innovation and adaptation i.e. to generate new regenerative solutions (social, economic, ecological) and / or adapt existing forms to become regeneratively sustainable solutions
  • Is able to see, think and respond in terms of appropriate models e.g. the Integral Model; Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for addressing different types of individual or social needs.

SE8: Developing critical literacy in sustainability, regeneration & resilience

Indicators of competence:

  • Is literate in terms of knowledge of appropriate visions of regeneratively sustainable and resilient futures (the What?) and realistic transition processes to manifest those visions (the How?), and the key components and relationships they require (e.g. ecological, social, economic, individual, collective) including the general principles for socio-ecological transition, for example:
    • Significant demand reduction i.e. in energy and resource use; and shifts to sustainable / renewable supplies
    • Localisation and regionalisation, shifting from an imbalance toward globalisation
    • Enhanced equity and inclusivity
    • A sufficiently diverse system, that exhibits dynamic stability, adaptability and resilience to maintain health, and recover from shocks to the system, which generates mutual benefits for elements of the system
    • Enhanced and protected biodiversity and ecosystems
  • Has knowledge of socially just and inclusive approaches to engagement, identification of needs and formation of strategies to meet those needs e.g. understanding the important relationship between ‘sustainable living’ and ‘ethical living’.
  • Understands the full range and depth of competencies needed to bring about socio-ecological transition across communities - and uses competency-based thinking, methods and strategies for transition, to develop a coherent diversity of individual and collective competencies across a community.
  • Develops literacy in social, economic and political dimensions - to recognise, understand and adjust social, economic and political power dynamics and structures that prevent or provide opportunities for advancing sustainable/regenerative modes of living and working,
  • Identifies and understands a) how sustainable actions are affected by biases about how choices for action are influenced or inhibited by our comparisons with others, and b) how humans relate to risk (basic knowledge of behavioural theory) e.g. how a behaviour associated with a previous investment of time or money biases toward continuing that behaviour, even if it is bringing no results or benefits (‘sunk cost fallacy’).
  • Knows how to identify and balance priorities to generate significant outcomes that address the multiple dimensions of socio-ecological transition, including:
  • Environmental dimensions (carbon footprint, ecological footprint, biodiversity, etc)
  • Social dimensions (social justice, EDI, health, etc)
  • Economic dimensions (equity, economic structures, ethics within economic activity, appropriate work and career choices, etc)
  • Key Areas of Lifestyle Impact, covering homelife, work-life and community life, for environmental, social, ethical (workers rights, human rights, animal welfare, etc) and economic impacts, specifically:
    • Energy
    • Food
    • Homes & Built Environment
    • Travel & Transport
    • Consumer Choices
    • Technology & Digital
  • Understands the links between knowledge, skills, attitudes and experience, critical thinking and framing of objectives and purpose etc for specific technical, organisational or professional disciplines, the capacities and attitudes for working across disciplines, and abilities for expressing multiple ways of learning and knowing.
  • Is aware of relevant social innovations elsewhere and Is able to copy or adapt them to the local context; have the ability to generate, facilitate and embed new social innovations at the local level.

SE9: Knowing how to select and use tools and methodologies that support socio-ecological transition processes

Indicators of competence:

  • Has knowledge of appropriate individual tools or methodologies for specific contexts or needs, and tools or methodologies in combination, for a variety of contexts, processes and audiences e.g. carbon calculators;
  • Knows how to assess relative impacts and select priorities for change at individual or household level and community level (what?+how?) e.g. often in the context of imperfect knowledge, resource scarcity and limitations in capacity/capability;
  • Knows how to check progress (qualitative and quantitative progress) towards goals, and take appropriate positive action if progress is not on track, or goals have not been achieved, and to Is able to adjust the direction or goals to achieve better or different outcomes where appropriate.

SE10: Knowing the role of regenerative design in generating socio-ecological transition

Indicators of competence:

  • Understands and has knowledge of specific design methods, tools and practices that generate regenerative solutions, such as Permaculture design and regenerative design.

Experiential Understanding (Cognitive Domain)

Experiential Knowledge & Understanding: The COGNITIVE (KNOWING) DOMAIN will be enriched in individuals and communities by experiential knowledge and understanding (i.e. not merely conceptual knowledge and understanding) achieved through significant experience of the kinds of processes and outcomes transition is aiming for, which fully or partly provide a real-world example of what is aiming to be achieved. For example : Current & Target Level of Competence

Experience of regeneratively sustainable / low impact lifestyles (individual and collective)

Indicators of competence:

  • Knows and understands from experience the options for individual and collective transition from higher impact to low impact lifestyles that are relevant for a broad audience e.g. in key lifestyle impact areas of energy, food, transport, etc; deep retrofit of homes; ecological cohousing projects;

Experience of health creating lifestyles (individual and collective)

Indicators of competence:

  • Knows and understands ‘whole health’ from experience i.e. lifestyles that create and support physiological, mental and emotional health in the individual, the group and the ecosystem, as well as health-creating economic and social systems;

Experience of ethical lifestyles (individual and collective)

Indicators of competence:

  • Knows and understands from experience of consistently making ethical choices (e.g. addressing: human and workers rights; animal rights; oppressive regimes; environmental impacts; etc) in major areas of lifestyle impact i.e. food choices, energy purchasing, consumer goods (e.g. appliances; clothing; digital devices; etc) and financial choices (banks; investment), and in ethical work-life choices, and ethical options for community life (organic food purchasing coops; car share; local credit unions; etc).

Experience of conscious / spiritually oriented lifestyles which focus on our human relation with nature

Indicators of competence:

  • Knows and understands from experience lifestyles which focus on our human relation with nature, experiencing ourselves as part of nature as a greater whole (e.g. indigenous perspectives; deep ecology or radical ecology), where deeper knowledge (and at times wisdom) arises from the experience of personal connectedness.

Action (Doing) Competencies for Socio-ecological Transition for Trainers & Catalysts

ACTION (DOING) COMPETENCIES comprise the ability to apply and develop skills, identify and implement appropriate actions, individually and collectively. In terms of transformative learning competence, this includes: Current & Target Level of Competence

SE11: Evolving learning opportunities collectively in response to specific socio-ecological context

Indicators of competence:

  • Is able to translate a generic set of collective transition goals, processes and competencies a) to specific learning and action opportunities that are relevant to personal, group, local, community, municipal or (bio)regional contexts and b) to a specific system or organisational context If the goal is a system level or organisational transition (e.g. confederation, global financial mechanisms, cooperation treaties, etc).
  • Is able to generate a realistic picture of personal and collective impacts and identify relevant goals, processes and competencies to support personal and collective transition action.

SE12:  Catalysing, facilitating and multiplying opportunities for progressive collective action

Indicators of competence:

  • Is able to facilitate: a) ongoing dispersed collective activity e.g. networking, movement building and development, asynchronous and remote collective working, etc; b) processes that address relevant themes for groups e.g. marketing and distribution cooperatives for local food producers; renewable energy systems designers and installers; repair cafes and hackerspaces; etc); c) recognition of common opportunities (or threats) and collective representation.
  • Is able to facilitate or support significant acceleration and expansion in learning and action, through effective entrepreneurial and marketing skills, setting up and managing online courses and learning systems, or stakeholder engagement to secure endorsement of training or community engagement programmes from key stakeholders e.g. the municipality or regional government.
  • Is able to use appropriate tools and methodologies to support the scaling and multiplying of transition activities and impacts, both in strategic planning and evaluation stages e.g. 3D Evaluation Methodology and Tool for deepening, widening and lengthening activity and positive impacts

SE13: Harnessing existing competencies in all disciplines in service of socio-ecological transition

Indicators of competence:

  • Is able to harness a range of specific existing technical, professional or organisational competencies in learners in service of transition processes and goals. in particular areas including:
    • Energy: energy efficient technologies and systems; renewable energy systems (from household to utility scale - survey, specification, installation, maintenance); energy measurement and monitoring systems;
    • Buildings: low carbon, healthy deep retrofit (survey, design/specification and installation)
    • Food: growing; local-to-regional food sourcing and distribution - for low impact & health-creating food;
    • Healthy Living LIVING: for individual and collective ‘whole health’ covering the realms of physical, mental and emotional health in integrated ways;
    • Communication, management, financial, legal and organisational competencies.

SE14: Being able to design, plan and implement socio-ecological projects and initiatives

Indicators of competence:

  • Is able to initiate or engage in a) socio-ecological project design, planning and implementation; b) ‘change management’, whether that is individual or collective, organisational (including business) or at the community level; c) building individual, team and community resilience.

SE15: Developing experience of regenerative and ethical lifestyles, at individual & collective levels (Walk your talk)

Indicators of competence:

  • Is able to harness and demonstrate to learners at least one advanced level of practical skill of specific relevance to the goals of socio-ecological transition e.g. food growing; low impact living; group facilitation / group working; inclusive and equitable engagement; naturally healthy living; green building; complementary health skills; renewable energy; etc.  
  • Is able to manifest creativity, innovation, adaptation, etc in order to generate new regeneratively sustainable solutions and / or adapt existing forms to become regeneratively sustainable solutions e.g. design and creativity skills; technical and making skills.

General Competencies (combing Being, Relating, Knowing and Doing Domains)

General Competencies that combine the COGNITIVE, BEING, INTERPERSONAL and ACTION Domains that are needed to deliver transformative blended learning programmes for Socio-Ecological Transition which need to be incorporated within a trainer, catalyst and facilitator team: Indicate Current and Target Level of Competence in this column

G1: Being well organised & capable of managing a range of situations

Indicators of competence:

  • Is able to organise and manage all aspects of activity as trainers and catalysts, either as individuals or within teams, particularly if they are delivering a significant volume of training (e.g. for organising physical or online venues, arrangements for participants, feedback and review systems, financial management, etc), and / or they are delivering to audiences where organisation and management is particularly important e.g. municipalities; higher education; business.
  • Is able to host and cater for a range of audiences in a range of situations - see Hosting Competencies section

G2: Be able to engage in and support relevant Communities of Practice

Indicators of competence:

  • Engages in, develops and enriches relevant Communities of Practice; displays knowledge, attitudes and actions that enable good practice to emerge and flourish in communities of practice - reference: BLAST CoP Good Practice Guide..

G3: Being enterprising, innovative & creative when appropriate

Indicators of competence:

  • Is able to be enterprising and innovative in the economic aspects of providing learning programmes
  • Is able to recognise and communicate the need and potential for appropriate forms of enterprise and economic activity in order to transitioned from an economy which is a primary force behind the destructive activities of our unsustainable culture, so that communities and bioregions can generate many new enterprises (whether as social enterprises, collectives or for-profit enterprises) which display values and practices that are consistent with transition and transformative change i.e. to develop, source and supply products and services that are inherently sustainable and regenerative
  • Is able to recognise and communicate the need and potential for innovative and creative processes that encourage and support meaningful transition of and within existing businesses and organisations, including moving from reducing or managing negative impacts, to regenerative outcomes that actively generate positive impacts and outcomes.
  • Is able to generate or encourage social innovation and multiple forms of creativity, including both technical and artistic creativity.

G4: Being able to demonstrate appropriate emergence, pioneer & leadership qualities

Indicators of competence:

  • Demonstrates ‘Pioneer’ abilities, attitudes and knowledge that enable the initiation of new programmes, projects, movements, groupings or organisations, such as Vision documents, well structured proposals, initial partnership building, and initial business plans or securing seed funding if needed, etc.
  • Demonstrates skills, attitudes and knowledge for nurturing a 'leaderful organising', ideally building into practices, language/communication and mindsets a constructive critique of 'traditional' forms of leadership,

G5: Developing personal and collective resilience

Indicators of competence:

  • Has knowledge, skills and attitudes that develop and enhance social, economic, ecological and organisational resilience, individually and collectively, including resilience within physical and mental health.
  • Is able to cope with stress and challenges and bounce back from adversity.
  • Develops and demonstrates resilience arising from combined competencies across all domains including self-awareness and reflection, self-regulation, positive attitudes and positive responses to situations, strength of character, mental agility and adaptability, ability to develop connection and create and engage with systems of support.

G6: Being able to cost, market & administer learning programmes

Indicators of competence:

  • Is able to analyse, estimate and manage the costs of courses and learning programmes, and is able to effectively market and administer programmes in ways that engage and support learners and relate to their needs and potential

Example sources of knowledge, practices, tools and training centres which can support the development of these competencies:

The supporting Exploration of Transition Competencies document presents the ‘Head; Hands: Heart’ model for sustainability learning, which provides an accessible way to understand the different dimensions of competencies, by thinking about them in terms of:

  • Head: knowledge & thinking; paradigm shift; etc.
  • Hands: technical and practical competencies for low carbon living etc
  • Heart: motivation, inspiration and support