Characteristics of the Transition Movement
By Sarah McAdam 10th June 2021
How responses to the 2020 evaluation survey are influencing the way we understand and describe the Transition movement.
In 2020, as we embarked on our evaluation of the Transition movement, the Transition Network team developed and shared a list of characteristics of the Transition movement. The characteristics were derived from the Transition principles and ingredients and we are using them to provide a flexible overview of how the Transition movement seeks to have impact.
We invited feedback about the published characteristics as part of the evaluation process and tested them against the wealth of stories and examples of Transition activity that we collected via the 2020 survey. The practices and projects that you described were broader and more nuanced than our original list of characteristics suggested – we’ve now adjusted the characteristics to more accurately reflect the updated evidence.
The characteristics are not meant to be a rigid list of ‘shoulds or oughts’. We do not expect all the characteristics to be equally present in every Transition group or hub – this would be a recipe for guilt and overwhelm! Instead, we hope that this list of characteristics:
- will help Transition groups and hubs tell inspiring stories about themselves and their place within a richly diverse international movement;
- feels rooted in the reality of what’s happening across the Transition movement right now;
- makes more visible the breadth and depth of activities that are possible;
- supports Transition groups and hubs to learn, grow, reflect and make informed choices about where to put their energy;
- will encourage further exploration of why and how we do what we do and the relationship between different aspects of our movement.
Below is a short list of the revised characteristics or you can download a longer version here which is richly illustrated with examples from across our international movement.
First, we repeat something which Transitioners have used as a guide since the very early days of our movement (this particular version was agreed by the Hubs Group in 2016).
Doing Transition successfully is about finding a balance between:
- The Head: we act on the basis of the best information and evidence available and apply our collective intelligence to find better ways of living.
- The Heart: we work with compassion, valuing and paying attention to the emotional, psychological, relational and social aspects of the work we do.
- The Hands: we turn our vision and ideas into a tangible reality, initiating practical projects and starting to build a new, healthy economy in the place where we live.
The Transition Characteristics
People in the Transition movement come together to:
Engage with the need for change – creating spaces for exploring and engaging with, the complex interconnected challenges of our times (climate change, loss of biodiversity, social injustice and other impacts of the global growth economy)
Co-create motivating and imaginative narratives and visions – using creative and participatory methods to share stories and possibilities of a healthy, just and resilient future.
Note: We have changed the language of this characteristic which used to refer to “positive narratives”. We received feedback that positivity was sometimes perceived as naïve or unrealistic, or contributed to polarisations between hope and despair. A core aim of the Transition movement is to envision and build towards a more just, healthy and resilient world for all. Narratives which give a strong sense of how this is possible have been shown to motivate and inspire long term engagement. This can arise through the process of participation in action, reflection, imagination and creativity, and in moving through the range of feelings that are provoked by the intersecting crises we face.
Connect and care for each other – building social cohesion and resilience through practicing and celebrating creativity, mutual support, fun and friendship, bridging divides and decreasing polarisation to create caring and equitable communities and cultures;
Support inner transformations – growing our individual and collective psychological resilience and wellbeing, supporting thriving groups, relationships and conflict transformation, and exploring how our mindsets, attitudes, emotions and worldviews can contribute to or block social change;
Note: The threads of inner transformation – and the need for processes to support psychological resilience and connection – were evident throughout the evaluation process. The need for framing the approaches and practices of inner transformation in accessible and culturally relevant ways was apparent, alongside the need to integrate them into transition activities. We have adjusted the description of this characteristic to express ways in which inner transformations happen at the individual, relational/group and also the collective/cultural levels.
Address injustice: increasing awareness of social justice issues within and beyond our movement and finding ways to decolonise, heal and make reparations for historic and current injustices, becoming good allies to those who have been doing this work for many years.
Apply Living Systems Design – understanding the principles of living systems and working with whole system design approaches to support the development and emergence of regenerative social systems including: economies, education, health, food/farming and more.
Note: across the Transition movement and the wider ecosystem of eco-social change making, we are seeing more groups and projects embracing whole and living systems principles when designing their projects. These approaches involve an increased focus on interdependence, relationships, networks, processes, learning, adaptation and emergence. They support regeneration and the flourishing of systems and cultures, as a step further than sustainability.
Take practical actions – designing and implementing practical projects which reduce carbon emissions, address equitable climate change mitigation and adaptation, and increase local resilience e.g. in areas such as food, energy, waste, transport, shelter, habitat protection and healthy ecosystems, mutual aid, community building and disaster relief;
Contribute to a wellbeing economy – innovating and collaborating to create economic models and opportunities focused on wellbeing and inclusion e.g. new social enterprises, currencies, livelihoods;
Broaden and deepen participation – convening diverse participation and supporting distributed and engaged deliberation and decision making processes. Valuing and accommodating multiple perspectives and life experiences, including those marginalised by current systems.
Energise networks and alliances – bringing together and contributing to broad alliances across different levels of scale. Working with local, regional and wider partners, including local government. Making visible, and helping to energise and amplify networks and ecosystems of change which are working towards a common purpose.
As always, we welcome your feedback. Do these characteristics resonate with you and fit your understanding of the Transition movement? Let us know whether and how you are using this list to tell stories about your work, explore what you might focus on next and/or secure resources for your group. Comment below or via social media or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is Richmond North Yorks a transition town? If so who can I contact. If not where is the nearest to me?
You can use this searchable map to find the nearest Transition project to you – https://transitionnetwork.org/transition-near-me/