Making the Transition

Resistance begins at home. Ainslie Beattie and Sam Allen, Communications Co-ordinators at the Transition Network, explain how the Transition movement promotes the search for local solutions to global challenges

Ainslie Beattie and Sam Allen

Think about the last time you went to your local high street to grab a few quick items. How many people did you know well enough to stop and talk to? Or were there just a few nods as you got on with your shopping, if any at all?

If you were part of a Transition Initiative, your journey may have been peppered with conversations, planning and a real sense of connection. Transition is about acting locally to crowd-source solutions to local challenges, nurturing a caring culture and sparking new life into local economies through entrepreneurship that considers the local first. The movement is recognised as truly global, with Initiatives spread all over the world.

Key to understanding Transition is that it is not led by experts with all the answers. Rather, wisdom and experience comes from shared stories, learning and a willingness to try new and emerging models of governance. Transition Initiatives more commonly have a shared leadership model and a flat structure, creating organisational resilience and reliability. Key also is understanding a core tenet of the movement, Inner Transition. Inner Transition is about creating a healthy culture at all levels of scale - our own personal culture, our group culture and the culture within communities, movements, the world and ecosystems more generally. This plays out in how meetings are run, how conflicts are solved and how groups communicate with each other, themselves and their local environment.

The Transition movement is recognised as starting in 2006 in both Kinsale, Ireland and Totnes, Devon. A permaculture class taught by Rob Hopkins at the Kinsale Further Education College in Ireland in 2005 were inspired to create their own strategy for local independence from fossil fuels following a lecture on 'peak oil'. Inspired by the potential of this approach to create a more resilient local future, Rob, following a move to Totnes in South West England, co-founded Transition Town Totnes, focusing on both an Energy Descent Plan and highlighting climate change as a key concern.

A blog documenting learning, and sharing stories and guides on how to take action spread fast. Soon Transition Towns, as they were then known, started launching around the UK and across the world. Clearly there was, and is, an appetite for community-led action and local resilience building.

In 2007, Transition Network was set up as a support body for the extensive network of initiatives launching globally. The Network is a charity providing training, connection and support to the more than 1,200 active Initiatives in more than 50 countries across the world, sharing inspiration (and being constantly inspired by) the grassroots actions of these groups.

Transition Network has won several awards, including the EESC Social Prize, and has developed films, training, books, guides, resources, blogs and stories. It has led to the REconomy Project (helping transform local economies) and has pioneered innovative approaches to developing a healthy organisational culture, and to the balance of inner and outer Transition.

Often, our most powerful tools are our stories of connection. In Brazil, two very different neighbourhoods within Ṣo Paulo (population 12 million) are home to two sister Transition groups. Brasil̢ndia is well known as a favela(slum) whilst Granja Viana is a middle/upper class area. Together, they are working to tackle the chronic water crisis or 'hydric collapse' as the city experiences a record three-year low in rainfall. People in Brasil̢ndia get their water direct from the pipes so if no water is flowing through the pipes, they simply go without.

?Together, the Transition groups have organised workshops led by Professor Edison Urbano who created a system that safely filters and stores rainwater straight from the roofs of buildings. In Granja Viana, nearly every house now has a water harvesting system and in Brasil̢ndia, a water harvesting system has been installed in a community centre. In the height of summer when there was no water flowing to their homes, No̻mia, the centre's leader, witnessed many children going to the centre to take a bath!

The Transition Movement is deeply ambitious. It wants to change the way we feed ourselves, house ourselves, employ ourselves, power ourselves and govern ourselves. A new project is mapping effective and systemic change collaborations between local authorities and Transition Initiatives. Our?theory of change for this is inspired by the increasing evidence that top-down approaches alone cannot achieve sustained behaviour change. As new approaches arise through bottom-up experimentation, effective sharing of learning and inspiration is critical to supporting replication, evolution, scaling up and ultimately enabling us to reach a tipping point whereby the emerging culture becomes the new normal. That's a big ask. And it will take time, determination and togetherness. We are creating projects that reimagine and rebuild the world. But the way we work is just as important - the organisational cultures we create should also model the kind of world we want to create.

What's next? Well that's very much up to you. What do you long to do? What do you long to create and see emerging into the world around you, into the place you call home? What you do, what you create, is limited only by your creativity and by the degree to which you allow yourselves to believe that anything is possible. Take inspiration from other Transition Initiatives, and then go change the world, starting with your own little corner of it.

Transition Toolkit

The Transition 'social experiment' is ongoing. It's growing every day - and you can join! It is inspirational, positive, evolving, and if you've read this far it may well be just what you're looking for. Transition starts with smaller projects, which are vital in giving people confidence, a sense that change is possible, and what might be their first ever experience of working collaboratively with other people. We now have ten years' experience of supporting groups bringing Transition to life. We think there are seven essential ingredients, which we've outlined in our 'Essential Guide to Doing Transition'. These are:

  1. Healthy groups - Learning how to work well together
  2. Vision - Imagining the future you want to co-create
  3. Involvement - Getting the wider community involved and developing relationships beyond friends and natural allies
  4. Networks & partnerships - Collaborating with others
  5. Practical projects - Inspiring others and building new infrastructures
  6. Part of a movement - Scaling up your impacts by linking up with Transitioners elsewhere
  7. Reflect & celebrate - Reflecting on how you're doing and celebrating the difference you're making

Our guide takes you through everything. Take it, run with it, do amazing things!