Reaching beyond the converted with Transition Streets
Up against a brick wall trying to get local people interested in energy?
Award-winning community engagement project Transition Streets has created a tried-and-tested way to break down the barriers and bring people together to take action on energy. And now it has been developed into the new Streets-wise programme which has just become available for community groups to adopt in their own area in the UK and beyond.
Transition Streets from Transition Town Totnes (TTT) has inspired over 550 households – who may not identify themselves as environmentalists – to make changes in their lives to help the environment (80% Totnes compared to 51% nationally, DECC LCCC baseline research, 2011). It has also increased TTT’s influence on local development. TTT co-founder Rob Hopkins says
‘Transition Streets has had a huge impact in terms of enabling TTT to deepen and broaden its work. It helped us to build key partnerships, and brought a great deal of respect and kudos.’
The Totnes project won an Ashden Award for behaviour change in 2011. Ashden Awards Founder Director Sarah Butler-Sloss said:
‘It’s fantastic to see Transition Streets go from strength to strength, and I look forward seeing this wonderful community-based model rolled out across the country. It’s really exciting to see how working together on energy saving is creating all sorts of other benefits for the local community, from baby-sitting circles to a community cinema! Transition Streets offers a vision of a better future for all of us.’
The new Streets-wise programme draws on the Totnes experience to support community organsations to set up and run their own Transition Streets project. Streets-wise offers a day’s capacity-building and problem-solving for the potential project management team to adapt the project to their area, followed by eight hours of phone support and use of Transition Streets’ workbook, project management, publicity and evaluation materials.
Sustainable Blewbury in Oxfordshire have successfully recruited pilot groups following Streets-wise support in 2011. Spokesperson Jo Lakeland said:
‘We were stuck in a groove: we were trying to convince people of the importance of sustainability and combating climate change through traditional methods like showing films or getting speakers, but the Streets-wise training showed us how it was bringing people together that could get them interested in the ideas…It really did feel like it gave us a new way of looking at getting people involved.’
Awards for All grants can help cover the costs of setting up a new Transition Streets project. Kingsteignton Transition Together in Devon, also supported by the Streets-wise programme in 2011, are funding their project in this way and have so far recruited seven groups.
Read more on the positive impacts of the Totnes project and the Streets-wise programme at www.transitionstreets.org.uk. To talk through your options or book the Streets-wise programme for your community organisation call Mary Popham on 01803 867358 or email email@example.com.
Evidence base for Transition Streets programme
Department of Energy and Climate Change research (GfK NOP Low Carbon Community Challenge Baseline Research, 2011) found that Transition Streets
‘has had a number of positive outcomes on the opinions and behaviours of Totnes residents. They are more likely to agree that the project has encouraged people in the community not only to think about making changes in their lives to help the environment (89% Totnes compared to 64% LCCC average), but also to actually make changes (80% Totnes compared to 51% average).
Academic Helen Beetham’s research (Social Impact of Transition Together: Investigating the social impacts, benefits and sustainability of the Transition Together/Transition Streets initiative in Totnes, 2011) concluded
‘On the evidence of this study, TT/TS has been a hugely successful and popular project… All participants in TT/TS made practical changes to their homes and behaviours… Reduced car use, reduced consumption of energy and water, and better recycling practices (including composting) were the most common behavioural changes. Even those who began the programme convinced that they had already done ‘all they could’ went on to make significant changes… The social benefits of participating in TT/TS were the most widely felt: in fact they were experienced by all participants. They include better social contact with neighbours (street parties, shared meals, ‘dropping in’), practical help of many kinds, and more communal action on issues that matter to the neighbourhood. Practical benefits to households included significant financial savings (68%) and improved value of homes (64%).”
Transition Streets, previously known as Transition Together, was set up by Transition Town Totnes (TTT) in 2009. Groups of friends and neighbours work together to complete a household carbon reduction programme. The Streets-wise programme, piloted in 2011, has been developed in recognition of the potential of Transition Streets to be a community engagement tool nationwide.