What is a Hub?
The Transition movement is focused on local action, but – of course – we also see a need for collaboration and change at other levels of scale. From the early days of our movement, people have come together to catalyse, connect, support and train Transition groups across a particular country or region. When these groups reach a certain level of capacity and stability, we call them a Transition Hub.
As Hubs form, they agree on the territory across which they will operate, taking into account geography, language, culture, government structures etc. There is no assumption that the territory of a Hub will always follow national or administrative borders, but they are expected to support a defined group of local initiatives.
You can find a map and a list of current Transition Hubs here.
Transition Hubs are organised differently according to their history and context. Some are legal entities in their own right, some are hosted within a larger organisation or network, some are very informal. Most are reliant on Transitioners volunteering their time, but a number have managed to attract resources and offer some paid work. All of this is dependent on context and keeps changing as new needs and possibilities emerge.
From the start, we have tried not to over-specify what a hub should look like. Our movement has a strong culture of self-organising at every level of scale, so we keep requirements to a minimum and leave it to those most closely involved to decide on the form their hub will take and how to organise their time.
See How are hubs created? below for more about the process that a group goes through to become an ‘official’ Transition Hub.
Transition Hubs play a key role in connecting people and sharing learning across our international movement. All the Transition Hubs (over 20 currently) plus Transition Network, as a support organisation, are together known as the Hubs Group. Since 2017, the Hubs Group is a defined international network with an agreed purpose, constitution and ways of working.
The Transition Hubs, in all their rich diversity, draw strength, inspiration and support from being connected to each other. Each Hub has relationships with a set of local groups and is actively exploring the challenges and potential of the Transition movement in their particular context. By coming together in the Hubs Group, they:
- Create a global lab of interconnected experiments exploring how to stimulate and support change;
- Learn about how common challenges are being addressed in very different contexts, sharing resources and cross-pollinating ideas;
- Give and receive love and support to each other in the face of a sense of overwhelm and isolation, building relationships rooted in shared values and trust;
- Work together to identify and respond to needs and opportunities internationally.
The current structure has reached this point through evolution and it is still evolving. There was no plan that got us to this point and we have no plan for the future. You can find out more about some important threads of this evolution in the history section below.
“To connect Transition Hubs, sense where the movement is now and where it needs to go next, share inspiration, ideas and practices, and support the growth and evolution of the global Transition movement.“
Together the members of the Hubs Group are experimenting with ways to connect, collaborate and change the world across huge distances. There are many challenges and we are on an intense learning journey together. We come from many cultures, speak different languages, work in very different contexts and nearly always meet virtually, so patient, careful communication is crucial.
Collaboration, peer-to-peer support, active listening, compassion and the feeling of belonging to a family have all been mentioned by members of the Hubs Group as key to the way we work together.
Here is more information about some of the elements which support the Hubs Group to work collaboratively across difference and distance:
The Hubs Group has agreed to use an evolving shared governance model which draws on sociocracy and holacracy for many of its practices and processes. We have a Constitution which outlines how we make decisions and distribute power and how we are building a collaborative culture, rooted in trust and transparency. Our governance model is constantly evolving as we identify and respond to tensions in the system. At the moment (October 2021), we are reviewing the Hubs Group Constitution to see whether and how it should be adjusted to meet current needs and opportunities across our international network.
The Hubs Group Constitution states:
“We are uncovering better ways of doing Transition and helping others do it too. Through this work we have come to value:
Sensing and responding to what is emerging over rigid project planning and implementation.
Building trust and letting go over trying to control or being part of everything
People and relationships over structures and tools
How we do things as much as what we do”
The Hubs group has agreed a further list of principles which guide us as we develop our governance and work together, see here.
Processes and policies
The Hubs Group Constitution includes a set of processes related to decision-making and policies which include:
- A group safety agreement
- Meeting practices
- A right to take initiative
- Joining, leaving and exclusion processes
Distributed roles and circles
There are a number of working circles and project teams operating across the Hubs Group ecosystem. Each has its own history and ways of working, but they are all represented within what we call the Hubs Heart Circle.
This graphic shows the current roles, circles and teams. Here’s a little more information about the different elements:
- Hubs Heart circle: Currently 11 roles and a Territories sub-circle. The Hubs Heart circle’s agreed purpose is “Supporting the wider Hubs Group to deliver on its purpose, holding boundaries, maintaining focus and momentum, sensing tensions and potential and responding according to needs and capacities.” The Hubs Heart Circle meets regularly to deliver on this purpose, processing tensions and finding synergies between roles, circles and teams who all have autonomy in the work they are doing. Some of the people in the Hubs Heart Circle have been elected by the Hubs Group with a mandate of two years, others have been nominated by the circle/team they represent.
- Transition Network: Formally recognised by the Hubs Group as a ‘supporting organisation’ – see here for more information about Transition Network, the charity.
- Municipalities in Transition: An innovative project developed by the Hubs group working in partnership with Transition Network to create a clear framework for how Transition groups and municipalities can create sustainable change together. See here for more information about the team and their governance.
- Training Support circle: Its purpose is to increase accessibility and enhance the impact of training for Transition activities across the international movement and beyond and to support and energise an international community of practice for trainers and facilitators for Transition.
- Inner Transition circle: To consider the needs and sense the field of the Hubs and Initiatives in relation to inner Transition, holding space for and nurturing the strength and development of practice and understanding of the role of the inner in our movement.
The key role that Hubs take on is to catalyse and support Transition in their area. You may want to get in contact with them to:
- start building a relationship with people who have a lot of knowledge and experience of Transition;
- find out what trainings or events might be available and of interest to you;
- find out more about other transition groups in the area;
- learn more about what support resources are available (including in the language of your area);
- share the experiences of your group or project so they can make your learning available to other Transition groups in the area and beyond;
- explore ideas about joint activities to catalyse Transition in your area;
- request speakers to support any events you might be holding;
- register your initiative in the national network so that others can find you.
Here is a list of Transition Hubs across the world – maybe there is a hub already in your area!
The Hubs Group has agreed a set of criteria and a process for groups to use to assess whether they qualify as a Transition Hub and are ready to join as full members of the Hubs Group. Groups which do not yet fulfill all the criteria, may qualify as an Emerging Hub and so be able to participate in most Hubs Group activities.
The self-assessment form describes these as the basic functions of a hub:
- Honour, protect and help develop the Transition principles;
- Foster the development of new local initiatives and of the Transition process where it emerges;
- Maintain relationships with the Hubs Group and Transition Network;
- Be the keeper of the Area perspective;
- Help create a global learning network by sharing learning within your Area and across the wider movement.
The self-assessment form is clear that a hub does not:
- command or control local initiatives;
- have any special right to demand financial support from local initiatives;
- affiliate to any particular political ideology, political party or religion;
- act detached from local initiatives (whether it represents them or not);
- hinder the development of new local initiatives;
- have to be an independent legal entity.
If you are part of a group which is considering forming a hub, we can offer further support and information and perhaps connect you to others who may be interested in getting involved. You can get in touch and ask questions using this simple form.
Writing about the history of the Hubs Group is challenging. The Hubs Group is part of a complex system which cannot easily be picked apart. People are responding to the possibilities and constraints that they can see from the various places they occupy in the system. There are many threads, many perspectives and many different personal narratives each making an important contribution to our collective story.
So, rather than trying to give a full account of everything that has happened, here is one version of some aspects of the history of the Hubs Group, focusing on important shifts that have happened over the last 15 years. The main author of this piece is Filipa Pimentel, the current Hubs Coordinator, and she invited feedback on the draft from other members of the Hubs Heart Circle.
Shift 1 – from broadcasting to networking
The Transition movement was born in 2006 when Transition Town Totnes was launched. As the movement spread virally, Transition Network (TN) was created to support and connect to the Transition Groups being set up around the world. In the very early days, people interested in Transition tended to look to the UK-based founders of the movement and to TN for inspiration and advice. While there was always an expectation that Transition would be practiced differently in different places, TN initially operated in what we now recognise as “broadcast mode”, circulating information that was largely based on the UK experience.
The first hubs were created by people who saw a need for some form of coordinated support or training to help Transition spread in their country or region. TN was quick to encourage hubs to self-organise since it was clear that there was a global appetite for training, resources and information which a small, largely UK-based organisation could not possibly meet. As part of this self-organisation, the people who formed hubs brought their own skills and experience into the mix and started to adjust and develop the Transition approach in a way which made sense for their context.
While TN encouraged and celebrated the development of hubs, it took a while to understand and adjust to the fact that the TN team could no longer rely on direct experience when producing resources for, and telling stories about, an international grassroots movement.
Gradually, Transition Hubs developed their capacity and skills and became better able to proactively share information about their activities and learning. Rather than working in isolation, focused on their particular territory, the emerging hubs began to recognise the benefits of connecting and collaborating with each other. A network of relationships started to form.
As the hubs have got stronger, TN has shifted away from “broadcast mode” and now focuses more on curating and amplifying stories from around the world, creating opportunities for collective reflection and learning and working with hubs and others to co-create useful resources.
Shift 2 – from centralised to distributed power
At the TN conference in Liverpool, 2011 the emerging hubs group sparked a collective reflection about the dangers of centralised power and a colonialist approach within the Transition movement. The hubs advocated strongly for the need for Transition to be an expression of local context and culture. From that point onwards, the hubs and TN started to actively explore:
- how power exercised by TN, the charity, could be shared with the Hubs; and,
- how to build a culture of collaboration and mutual support across the Hubs Group.
Some examples of the shift towards decentralisation:
- Initially TN organised the process by which Transition Groups could register and be recognised as official. As hubs were created, they took over this responsibility within their territory. This meant they could conduct the process in the language of the region and build direct relationships with the groups they were seeking to support.
- Similarly, the process of recognising hubs was initially organised by TN, but has been gradually decentralised. First the hubs and TN agreed new criteria and a process for deciding that a group of people qualified to be a hub (2016). Initially the Hubs Group didn’t have the capacity to run the process, so it was administered by TN and the Hubs Coordinator. Now, since 2017, the whole process is held by the Hubs Heart Circle.
- For several years now, TN has been exploring how to distribute resources secured through its fundraising activities with others in the international network, recognising that TN is of very little significance without the wider movement. At the start, TN responded in an ad hoc way to requests received from hubs, but then designed a process and criteria for seedfunding grants to make the process fairer, more transparent and accessible to all Hubs. Later, the seedfunding criteria and the process was reviewed and agreed by the Hubs Group and TN collectively (in 2014 and new revision in 2018).
- Throughout this period, TN also allocated resources to distributed circles and project teams to support activities which benefited the movement as a whole. In 2020/21, there has been a step change as Hubs, TN and the distributed circles have come together in a process designed and held by the Hubs Heart Circle to develop a collective bid for funding and together agree how the resources secured will be distributed across the system.
Shift 3 – from creative chaos to evolving governance
As in nature, the Transition movement and the Hubs Group started with creative chaos. People, books, films and training courses acted as the seeds taking the ideas and practices of Transition to new territories. There were quick expansions in the number of Transition groups, often followed later by a contraction. Similarly, working groups, projects and new activities were created and then sometimes ran out of energy, as people turned their attention to new needs and possibilities. One of the slogans of our movement was that we didn’t wait for permission and the emphasis was on trying things out to see what worked.
As individual hubs were created and the Hubs Group was born, we experimented with different ways to collaborate. At Hubs Group gatherings and through our online connections, we invested time and energy in nurturing good relationships and finding ways to support each other. Gradually, the Hubs Group developed a culture which felt grounded in shared values and high levels of trust. Some hubs were experimenting with sociocracy or other forms of distributed/systemic governance and the Hubs Group began to practice consent decision-making (although initially, there were relatively few things that we had to agree together).
By 2015, it felt clear to many in the Hubs Group that there was a need for more clarity and structure if we wanted to increase our impact and resilience. Given the desire to shift more power and more resources from TN to the Hubs Group, there was a need for clearer boundaries around the Group and some consistency and stability about who were the decision-makers.
Over the next year or so, members of the Hubs Group worked together to explore options, understand collective needs and capacity and develop governance proposals. Then, in 2017, there was an important shift which could be seen as the culmination of the experimentation and the learnings gathered over years of collaboration. At a gathering in Santorso, Italy, Hubs Group members decided by consent to experiment with a living, shared governance system, designed to adjust, when needed, in service of the evolutionary purpose of the Hubs group. The Hubs group now had a Constitution, agreed processes and policies and the basic tools to start collaborating in an organised way, sharing power and responsibilities.
Some key elements of this shift to date:
- From the very early days of Hubs until the adoption of our constitution in 2017, there was a single role within the Hubs Group (Hubs Coordinator) who carried out a wide range of support functions and therefore exercised a lot of informal power, making operational decisions as and when they were needed. The new governance model, policies and processes, created much more transparency and legitimacy for the work of the Hubs Coordinator, providing them with clearer accountabilities and a framework within which to operate, plus a mechanism to use when key decisions needed to be made collectively. Then, when the Hubs Heart circle was established in 2019, the accountabilities and functions which had been held by the Hubs Coordinator were distributed across various roles, and are now held by different members of the Hubs group ecosystem.
- Prior to the creation of the Hubs Heart circle the Hubs Coordinator was the main connector between roles, working groups and other circles. This was unsustainable and the Hubs Coordinator role inevitably became a bottleneck, slowing down the ability of the Hubs Group to respond to new needs and opportunities. Under the new governance model, all relevant roles, including the distributed circles and TN, are represented and linked in the Hubs Heart Circle. This has become the space where all the work happening in the Hubs Group ecosystem is articulated. By identifying and processing tensions together, Hubs Heart Circle members find ways for different projects and teams to support and learn from each other,
- The Hubs Heart Circle has become a container able to receive the power and take on responsibilities being shared by TN. This is not a simple process, but we are experiencing a gradual shift in the centre of gravity of our international network with the Hubs Heart Circle increasingly becoming the space where ‘things happen’.
Shift 4 – from contributing to co-responsibility
Most of the people active in the Hubs Group are also active at other levels of scale – working nationally or regionally as part of a Hub and usually also as part of a local Transition Group. When international collaboration first started to happen, this was almost exclusively volunteer activity – people making space in their busy schedules to make a contribution to the Hubs Group.
While there is still a huge amount of unpaid labour at all levels of our movement, TN and others in the Hubs Group have worked to secure and distribute resources so that key roles can receive some payment for their work. This means that support functions that were previously delivered by TN staff are now distributed across the Hubs Group eco-system.
There are lots of challenges associated with this shift from occasional volunteer contributors to people who are paid to deliver on agreed accountabilities. Together, the members of the Hubs Heart Circle and of the other distributed teams and circles are learning how to give and receive feedback, how to name and then resolve the tensions which arise if work isn’t getting done and to find a good balance between the needs and preferences of individuals and the collective purpose that is being served.
The aspiration of the Hubs Group is for the network to get broader, better connected and develop ways of sharing power and resources to the places that need them most.