All sorts of commercial enterprises can be aligned to the aims of REconomy and Transition.  Indeed, a wide range of business models in each local economy (including privately owned for-profits and ‘regular’ social enterprises) help provide the diversity needed for stronger resilience.

But we reckon there’s something particularly special about a Transition-oriented Enterprise which we define like this:These individual ventures tell a great story about new ways of doing business that are more sustainable and fair, as well as being financially viable. They provide essential goods and services for the community in which they make their home, create meaningful, satisfying jobs and buy from other local independent businesses. Most have emerged from a local Transition group or have links to Transition in some way and they are part of a wider movement of organisations and individuals working to create new economies.  


A Transition Enterprise is a financially viable trading entity that fulfils a real community need, delivers social benefits and has beneficial, or at least neutral, environmental impacts.

Individually they are great examples, but the transformative potential is really clear when we picture them all operating together in one place… and we suggest that all of these enterprises are needed everywhere, given they meet our basic needs including food, energy, transport and housing. They illustrate what a new kind of community-led, place-based economy might look like, and show that the building blocks – the viable business models – are already in place and highly replicable.

Here are two reports – one from the UK and one from the US – which showcase some of the fantastic enterprises already operating in those two countries and explore the potential they offer for the future.

The new economy in 20 enterprises (UK)

25 enterprises that build resilience (US)

Other inspiring enterprises around the world

Arvaia, Italy

In 2013, a group of people from the countryside around Bologna founded Arvaia, a cooperative working on fallow public land, made available by the Municipality, to grow organic vegetables for its members and for sale. Their business model is known as a CSA, Community Supported Agriculture. An assembly of growers and consumers presides over future tasks and investments. Some members of the cooperative work there, others join in order to benefit from its services, knowing that, in the process, they are supporting local jobs and a more ethical, sustainable economy. http://www.arvaia.it

Atelier 3D, Netherlands

Atelier3D is a cooperation of nearly 70 local social and (semi)commercial enterprises, as well as all primary schools in the city of Zutphen. It’s a financially self-reliant enterprise working towards a sustainable and harmonious society in which everyone can participate according to their own capacities. Atelier3D aims to connect and support all local initiatives that can help to strengthen local resilience. http://www.atelier3d.nl/

Bakkerij De Ondergrondse, Netherlands

Bakery ‘De Ondergrondse’ (‘the Underground’) is a cooperative enterprise, which is a spin-off project from an urban gardening project of Transition Rotterdam. They only produce as much bread as is pre-ordered by its cooperative shareholders and occasional external customers. Flour and wheat is obtained from a local windmill. De Ondergrondse is also active as a learning-by-doing project for those who want to master the art of bread baking. The bakery gets lots of requests nowadays to help seed other cooperative bakeries in other parts of the city.http://ondergrondsebakker.tumblr.com/     


Biciklopopravljaona, Croatia

Biciklopopravljaona is a bicycle-repair project in Zagreb, running under the support of Green Action (Friends of the Earth Croatia). It secures the working space and all the tools required to repair a personal bicycle. The service runs on the DIY principle, and the use of the workshop as well as expert volunteer help, is free to all. As the workshop users acquire the repair skills, they volunteer their time on the project in turn. http://biciklopopravljaona.zelena-akcija.hr/

Canapuglia, Italy

In only three years CanaPuglia managed to spread the vision of a new economic system designed to remedy and repair the environmental damage associated to the current one. From its birthplace in the southern region of Puglia, the idea of using hemp (once commonly grown in Italy) to regenerate depleted soils while producing fibre for the building industry as well as for food, medicinal purposes, textiles and paper, spread throughout the peninsula. Despite being “only” a small charity organisation, CanaPuglia has filled farmers, businesspeople, research centres, entrepreneurs, the public opinion, administrators and the local community with enthusiasm. The potential for this idea to spread and create real change is massive. http://www.canapuglia.it/

Coopérative Ardente, Belgium

…is an online supermarket based in Liège (Western Belgium) owned by 260 of its clients. The cooperative is aiming to make quality food easily accessible for a wider range of people. The product portfolio covers mainly food products and is rounded up with sanitary articles, cleaning supplies and baby care products. The products being sold are all: organic, locally resourced (200km max.) or Fair Trade. Moreover, the Coopérative Ardente is an officially recognised social integration enterprise. The purchased products are delivered once per week at home or to one of 11 drop-off points in the Liège and its surroundings. Further information: http://www.lacooperativeardente.be/

CSA Pula, Croatia

CSA Pula connects local organic producers and the community members in the city of Pula willing to support them. The initiative includes three informal consumer cooperatives for fresh food, as well as the organic farmers’ market, the first and so far the only one of the kind in the country. http://www.solidarna-pula.com/

DarbaVieta, Latvia

The project addresses 2 challenges: how to solve practical problems created by the economic crisis and how to ensure more effective, free, creative and inclusive work environment. The solution is a co-working space in the centre of Riga, that brings together professionals from different fields of business, thus supporting a mutual learning and sharing of skills and ideas. The micro-community values equal relations (everyone takes part in decision-making) and is totally open for cooperation with other people, organizations, companies and projects. DarbaVieta follows the ”glocal” approach – think global, act local. Intellectual resources are distributed between the members of community, enhancing the self-sufficiency. In order to ensure the existence of organization, the team of 4 core members invest almost full-time work voluntarily, but are considering hiring an administrator for half-time soon. http://www.dalamdarbavietu.lv/

Humana Nova, Croatia

Humana Nova social cooperative from Čakovec employs people with disabilities and individuals from groups susceptible to social exclusion, in manufacture and selling of innovative and quality textile products made from eco-friendly and recycled materials – mostly used clothes and other textiles collected locally. http://www.humananova.org/en/home/

Ikskiles Briva skola, Ikskile Free School, Latvia

The Free School was made by parents in 2010 with only 300 EUR monetary investments and lots of  enthusiasm, voluntarism and support by friends around. The school hosts a local direct buying group and cooperates closely with Ikskile Transition Initiative and other organizations, thus becoming a centre for local community. Organization gets financial support from national and local government, while maintaining a lot of freedom in its activities and educational program. There is 1 full-time employee and 12 volunteers running the Free School. School has moved into new premises since 2012, doing amazing work to retrofit the old masonry building into cozy and comfortable place for students and their parents. After students go home, rooms are free to use by like-minded organizations that care about community, food, lifestyle and similar topics. http://www.brivaskola.lv/

Kartoffelkombinat, Germany

…is a food cooperative in München, Germany. The initial idea of the 2 founders was to transform gradually an existing farm into a direct distribution business following the principles of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) – a kind of friendly taking-over of the farm and its employees. In only 2 years of existing Kartoffelkombinat was joined by more than 400 cooperative members from across München who are all recipients of a weekly vegetable box. Further information:http://www.kartoffelkombinat.de/

Kulturys studeja Speiga, Ambeli eco-community, Latvia

The NGO follows the mission to build a community of same minded folks in order to increase the self-sufficiency and sustainability of local society of Ambeli which is a very remote and poor country side region. Activities include a wide range of social projects: gifting sheep and giving lectures in order to start cooperative sheep-keeping, creating a community garden, initiating a direct buying group, researching resource efficient technologies for agricultural use (mulching, biogas) and even organizing the 1st Permaculture design Course in Latvia. The initiative tries to spread the message that people CAN live in the country-side, that life is beautiful in the country-side, that it is even easier to live in the country-side than in a city, if we re-arrange our values. 1 member works full-time, 3 people work part-time and 3-8 volunteers join occasionally. NGO believes that decision should be made by people who will take part in their realization. NGO is mostly funded by different EU funds, but it is planned to start a social entrepreneurship project next year to get a financial independence. http://latgola.permakultura.lv/

Lazuur, Netherlands

Buijs & Ko, a whole food store in the small city of Wageningen recently took the step to transform its traditional set-up as a commercial enterprise into a community-owned cooperation. In the process, all customers were offered to change their customer card into a shareholder card. The enterprise reorganized itself into a covered food market and took ‘Lazuur food community’ as their new name. They now actively promote the concept in the rest of the Netherlands.www.lazuur.com

Le Coursir Morsan, Belgium

…is a small logistics company providing transportation services by bicycle within the city of Namur (Wallonia, Belgium). The company exists since 3 years and is essentially small one-and-a-half-man business. Its fields of activity are short distance freight delivery across Namur, priority delivery of documents, inter­mediary to the Belgian post and business lunch schemes for companies.Together with its counterpart from Mons (Western Wallonia) Le Coursir Morsan will set-up in 2014 a joint cooperative society with a social purpose (“société coopérative à finalité sociale”). Aim of the joint cooperative (Le Coursier Wallon) will be to propose similar services in both cities and ideally enlarge the network of urban bicycle-based transportation services across various cities of Wallonia.Further information:http://www.lecoursiermosan.be/

Le Jour du Pain, Belgium

…is a village bakery in Heyd (Belgium).The business activity started in October 2013 by a young couple of bakers. Aim is the delivery of fresh and quality bread to the village and its surroundings. Raw materials are resourced locally. The business was established with the financial support of a micro-finance company and 14 neighbours who provided direct loans to the two entrepreneurs. Further information: http://www.lejourdupain.be/

Meerlanden, Netherlands

A traditional waste disposal company in the Northwest of the Netherlands has taken some significant steps towards becoming a Transition enterprise. The compostable waste they collect in the region is being processed into gas, C02, warmth, (condensation) water and compost. The gas is used to fuel their entire vehicle fleet and soon also many more cars of other enterprises and municipalities in the surrounding area. The C02 and warmth feed into the regional greenhouse industry, whereas the water is used for the regular street cleaning services. On top of all that, in springtime, all participating households get a free load of compost for their gardens. www.meerlanden.nl

Melpignano, Italy

Sowing and growing hemp has been proved to regenerate even contaminated soils; somewhere beyond sustainability, and into a regenerative economy, is also the place Melpignano is headed. This is a Community Cooperative working to restore human environments abandoned following the exodus of people from the villages to urban areas. Melpignano, also in Puglia, is the first such organisation in Italy. The cooperative’s mission is to create job opportunities in a rural area by increasing participation, satisfying local needs and spreading an ethic of environmental consciousness. Its projects, which include photovoltaic installations and “water houses”, give jobs to local builders. Any profits are reinvested in other projects, setting in motion a beneficial cycle which touches every dimension of village life.  http://www.coopcomunitamelpignano.it/

Mietshäuser Syndikat, Germany

…is supporting the creation of self-organized and community-based housing projects across Germany. In Syndikat style co-housing projects the occupants are not property-owners but tenants. The renting prices are agreed by the members of each housing project, they are typically well below market rates. Syndikat is not a construction company but the network of existing housing projects. It provides assistance and advice to like-minded new projects. All projects are organised in a similar manner: The purchase of a house, a flat, a farm building or any other premise is initiated by its future occupants. The occupants are tenants and at the same time members of a local non-profit organisation that is owning the premises. The Syndikat investment company is holding a minority sharein each projecttoinsure that the real-estate is not being re-privatised at a later moment. On all other issues the occupants of a premise decide freely – including the rental price. Mietshäuser Syndikat is not providing any other financial means for the purchase. The majority of the required funds are raised through direct credit lines from family members of the occupants and within the Syndikat network. Increasingly, Syndikat style co-housing projects are co-financed by some few specialised alternative banking institutions. 82 residential and non-residential premises of very different sizes have been established with the help of Syndikat since its creation in 1992. The smallest has 6 inhabitants, the biggest 285.Further information:http://www.syndikat.org/

NLD Energie, Netherlands

This energy company originates with ‘Grunniger Power’, a local renewable energy initiative by Transition Groningen. Asked for their success-formula, Philip Kocken went to the neighbouring villages to explain how to set up their own cooperatives. Thus a provincial coop of cooperatives came into existence, which in turn joined forces with those in two adjacent provinces. Together, on a not-for-profit basis, they now deliver local renewable energy to many villages and cities in the wider region. The revenues are donated to those same villages and cities on condition that they invest it in sustainable community projects. www.grek.nl/over-grek/nld-energie

Organic produce direct buying groups (DBG), Latvia

Started in 2011 and grew to 10 groups with 500 members in 3 years. DBG mission is to provide organic, fresh and affordable local produce to local community, while supporting local farmers, reducing environmental impact and improving the health of citizens. The group is self-organized, equally governed with up to 50 members who work voluntarily in shifts to maintain communication with farmers, order the production, receive and sort the goods and do the coordination work) . On average it means working 3-4 hours every 2 months. The groups follow the principle that only the farmer can get the profit from this cooperation. Each DBG on average has 200-500 EUR spending each year (electricity etc.) that are collected mostly as membership fees. http://www.tiesapirksana.lv/

Otok Krk, Croatia

Otok Krk (transl. Island of Krk) was the first community energy cooperative in Croatia. Among the co-owners are private individuals, the City of Krk, and the local utility company which features PV solar power plant on its recycling facility’s roof. The cooperative aims to make renewable energy and energy efficiency equipment available to every home, institution or a company on the island. http://ezok.hr/

Reseda, Italy

Another cooperative, Reseda, works in the energy field. Its story began 15 years ago, well before the Transition movement was founded. Today it has over a hundred collaborators as well as 15 employees, some of whom have also joined the Castelli Romani Transition initiatives. In fact, the cooperative has adopted decisional and organisational methods learnt by interacting with Transition, and applies them to the planning and implementation of local and international projects. Among the cooperative’s many activities are classes in schools, the installation of photovoltaic panels, permaculture design, repair and re-use of waste equipment and materials, technical and scientific training. All this (and more) can happen when over a hundred people work together with shared goals. http://www.resedaweb.org/salvaguai/index.htm

Rodin Let, Croatia

Rodin let is a limited company owned entirely by the association Roda (meaning Stork; also Croatian acronym for Parents in Action), and Rodin let (transl. Stork Flight) manufactures and markets cloth nappies and baby accessories, as well as promotes their use. It is based in Zagreb and is locally well known as a successful and inspiring example for transition social enterprise. http://www.roda.hr/

Woollyflower, Italy

As they push forward in unexplored territory, of course the first pioneers of a new economy may find themselves travelling alone, especially at the very beginning. The first assistance often comes from close family or friends. Looking just a little bit farther, one may find a vast ecosystem of other tiny businesses, people willing to invest creatively into satisfying each others’ needs. Woollyflower was able to re-think the local economy by seeing local wool from Vicenza as a precious resource. Old tools were dusted off and traditional skills re-discovered and put to work to create clothing, accessories and other goods in wool and felt. And this in a world in which shepherds are “normally” expected to pay an incinerator to dispose of their wool! Valeria is an innovator who looked at waste, saw value, and gave it new life. Her business is just beginning: she only works in winter and is uncertain as to what direction this work will take her in. Headfast and trusting, she is building new opportunities for herself by giving workshops in museums and schools, working to strengthen a growing network of relations among young entrepreneurs, farmers and craftspeople. http://woollyflower.blogspot.co.uk/

Main top image credit: Ikskiles Briva Skola