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Understanding the Neutral Zone
We pass through the Neutral Zone on our way from an Ending to a New Beginning. This in-between time can often feel intensely uncomfortable, confusing and chaotic. Everything may appear in flux now that the old way of doing things has ended, or is no longer an option, and a new path or replacement is not yet clear.

But the Neutral Zone can also be a highly creative time, when one can experiment with new ideas, attitudes and behaviors.

For example, to improve relations between police and youth, a local organization facilitated joint sessions to get the two groups to talk about their experiences and their goals for the neighborhood. One youth was beginning to develop a good relationship with the officers during the sessions, but when he saw them on the street, he ran away. "I can't figure out what I'm supposed to do," he said. "I went through this program, but out on the street, I'm in a different place." The youth understood that changing his relationship with the police was right but, in the confusion of the Neutral Zone, he wasn't sure how to transfer that realization to real life.

How do I know I’m in the Neutral Zone?

  • I can’t stop worrying about the future.
  • I want to try something different.
  • I feel lost and am scared of choosing the wrong path.
  • I’m excited—and overwhelmed—by the possibilities.
  • I know this change is good but don’t know how to make it work.

Keep in Mind…

Explaining Transitions in Your Own Words
Staff at the Muskie School of Public Service had spent a lot of time developing activities and exercises to explain the concepts behind the Transition Framework to the foster care youth they worked with. But how could they be sure the kids “got” it? more >

Additional Stories about The Neutral Zone
Transition is Not Always Linear
Explaining Transitions in Your Own Words
Beware the Marathon Effect

A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words



Transition is Not
Always Linear

A rural community in New Mexico was suffering from deteriorating water quality. One landowner was skeptical of efforts to improve the water quality, but became increasingly enthusiastic about community meetings to discuss the issue. Then one day he almost stormed out of a meeting in anger. What happened to the transition from Endings to Neutral Zone to New Beginnings? wondered the environmentalist who had been working with the community. more >

Video 8-4

Video: Structure in the Neutral Zone: Find Citizens who Know How to Paint

When citizens in Cincinnati entered the Neutral Zone of their transition to a collaborative relationship with police, change leaders helped provide a structure to this confusing time by identifying specific actions each participant could take to make the new relationship last.
more >

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