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In 2002, the Andrus Family Fund introduced the Michigan Roundtable to William Bridges Transitions Framework. Since that time, the Roundtable has enriched its understanding of this theory with input from other researchers, professors, and practitioners.
The Michigan Roundtable has adopted this evolving understanding of the Transitions Framework as its theory of community change. We find this Framework to be an ideal fit for our work because it lays out a powerful process to lead to the acknowledgment of the systemic causes of the racial inequity in our region, state, and country and can lead to an ending and drive meaningful reconciliation and new beginnings in the days ahead.
Bridges defines the psychological process that people experience when they come to terms with a new situation as a “transition” which is different from change and must be intentionally and consistently paid attention to for desired change to take place. Where change is external and situational (e.g. marriage, a new job) transition is the internal process of how one responds to the change. The Transition framework begins with the premise that the key to sustained change is recognizing and addressing these emotional and psychological effects of change. In applying this framework to communities, we believe the continued failure to address the systemic causes of our racial inequity, has left history haunting us and countless people with stories to tell who have yet to be heard, much less understood. We believe a powerful process to lead to the acknowledgment of the systemic causes of our racial inequity will lead to an ending to drive meaningful reconciliation and new beginnings in the days ahead.
Endings: For change to work people need to end, acknowledge and let go of the old way – not only in terms of behavior, but also in terms of attitudes, self-image, assumptions, beliefs, and the hopes and fears that motivate behavior. To let go of those things is to experience a loss and one must mourn its passing, even though the old way may have been bad, hurtful, unpleasant, or even destructive.
Neutral Zone: People not only have to let go of the old way to embrace the new one, they also have to get through an uncomfortable in-between time, when the old way is gone but the new way doesn’t yet wholly work or feel comfortable. This “neutral zone”, or in-between time, is a very confusing and chaotic time; but it is also a very creative one. Everything is in flux, so it is a time when people can work out innovative ways of doing things; there is less holding people back than at other times. At the same time, people are likely to feel lost and even discouraged about the very change that sounded so good only a little while earlier.
New Beginnings: The final phase of transition is the “new beginning” not the “start”, which may occur the very day a change is announced, but the “beginning, which occurs when people (having ended the old and traversed the neutral zone) are actually emotionally ready to do things in a whole new way. Like a birth (the archetype of all new beginnings) this third phase of transition happens on its own schedule. Things can start on the day that you say they will, but the beginning will happen when people are inwardly ready. And that will take a while, so transition always takes longer, sometimes much longer, than change does.