This stage puts a core team in place to drive the project forward during the initial phases. We recommend that you
form your Steering Group with the aim of getting through stages 2 – 5,
and agree that once a minimum of four theme groups (see #5) are formed,
the Steering Group transforms to include representation from each of
those groups. This may mean people have to step down from the initiating
group, and that requires a degree of humility, but is very important in
order to put the success of the project above the individuals involved.
Ultimately your Steering Group should become made up of 1
representative from each sub-group.
It's a good idea to get some agreement on the aims and objectives of the group at an early stage so
any differences can be ironed out early on. These can be the precursor
to when it's time to set up a constitution, and here are two examples of
This stage will identify your key allies, build crucial networks and prepare the community in general for the launch of your Transition initiative.
For an effective Energy Descent Action plan to evolve, its participants have to understand the potential effects of
both Peak Oil and Climate Change – the former demanding a drive to
increase community resilience, the latter a reduction in carbon
Screenings of key movies (In Transition 1.0, Inconvenient Truth, End of Suburbia, Crude
Awakening, Power of Community) along with a facilitated question and
answer session at the end of each, are very effective. (See Transition
Initiatives Primer (1MB pdf) for the lowdown on many of these
movies – where to get them, how to access the trailers, what the
licencing regulations are, doomster rating vs solution rating.
Talks by experts in their field of climate change, peak oil and community solutions can be very inspiring. Articles in local
papers, interviews on local radio, presentations to existing groups,
including schools, are also part of the toolkit to get people aware of
the issues and ready to start thinking of solutions.
This stage is about networking with existing groups and activists, making clear to them that the Transition
Initiative is designed to incorporate their previous efforts and
potential inputs by looking at the future in a new way. Acknowledge and
honour the work they do, and stress that they have a vital role to play.
Give them a concise and accessible overview of peak oil, what it means, how it relates to climate change, how it might
affect the community in question, and the key challenges it presents.
Set out your thinking about how a Transition process might be able to
act as a catalyst for getting the community to explore solutions and to
begin thinking about grassroots mitigation strategies.
This stage creates a memorable milestone to mark the project’s “coming of age”, moves it right into the
community at large, builds a momentum to propel your initiative forward
for the next period of its work and celebrates your community’s desire
to take action.
In terms of timing, we estimate that 6 months to a year after your first “awareness raising” movie
screening is about right. The Official Unleashing of Transition Town
Totnes was held in September 2006, preceded by about 10 months of talks,
film screenings and events.
Regarding contents, it’ll need to bring people up to speed on Peak Oil and Climate Change,
but in a spirit of “we can do something about this” rather than doom and
gloom. One item of content that we’ve seen work very well is a
presentation on the practical and psychological barriers to personal
change – after all, this is all about what we do as individuals.
It needn’t be just talks, it could include music, food, opera, break dancing, whatever you feel best reflects your community’s
intention to embark on this collective adventure. Some examples (web
pages and videos) of unleashings are:
Part of the process of developing an Energy Descent Action Plan is tapping
into the collective genius of the community. Crucial for this is to set
up a number of smaller groups to focus on specific aspects of the
process. Each of these groups will develop their own ways of working and
their own activities, but will all fall under the umbrella of the
project as a whole.
Ideally, sub groups are needed for all aspects of life that are required by your community to sustain
itself and thrive. Examples of these are: food, waste, energy,
education, youth, economics, transport, water, local government.
Each of these sub groups is looking at their area and trying to determine the best ways of building community resilience and
reducing the carbon footprint. Their solutions will form the backbone of
the Energy Descent Action Plan.
One great way to encourage a theme group to start up is to hold a themed event and then
ask at the end of it who might like to get involved in forming a group
and looking at how your community might respond in that area.
We’ve found Open Space Technology to be a highly effective approach to running meetings for Transition Initiatives.
In theory it ought not to work. A large group of people comes together to explore a particular topic or
issue, with no agenda, no timetable, no obvious coordinator and no
designated minute takers.
However, we have run separate Open Spaces for Food, Energy, Housing, Economics and the
Psychology of Change. By the end of each meeting, everyone has said what
they needed to, extensive notes had been taken and typed up, lots of
networking has had taken place, and a huge number of ideas had been
identified and visions set out.
A quick introduction to Open Space can be found on Harrison Owen's website. The essential
reading on Open Space is Harrison Owen’s Open
Space Technology: A User’s Guide, and you will also find Peggy
Holman and Tom Devane’s The
Change Handbook: Group Methods for Shaping the Future an invaluable
reference on the wider range of such tools.
It's essential that you avoid any sense that your project is just a talking shop where people
sit around and draw up wish lists. Your project needs, from an early
stage, to begin to create practical, high visibility manifestations in
your community. These will significantly enhance people’s perceptions of
the project and also their willingness to participate.
There’s a difficult balance to achieve here during these early stages. You need to demonstrate visible progress, without
embarking on projects that will ultimately have no place on the Energy
Descent Action Plan. In Transition Town Totnes, the Food group launched a
project called ‘Totnes: the Nut Capital of Britain’ which aims to get
as much infrastructure of edible nut bearing trees into the town as
possible. With the help of the Mayor, they planted some trees in the
centre of town, and made it a high profile event.
Check out some of the other
projects and see if there's something there that might inspire your
own first visible manifestation.
If we are to respond to peak oil and climate change by moving to a lower energy future and relocalising our communities,
then we’ll need many of the skills that our grandparents took for
granted. One of the most useful things a Transition Town project can do
is to reverse the “great deskilling” of the last 40 years by offering
training in a range of some of these skills.
Research among the older members of our communities is instructive – after all,
they lived before the throwaway society took hold and they understand
what a lower energy society might look like. Some examples of courses
are: repairing, cooking, cycle maintenance, natural building, loft
insulation, dyeing, herbal walks, gardening, basic home energy
efficiency, making sour doughs, practical food growing (the list is
Here's some food for thought:
Your Great Reskilling programme will give people a powerful realisation of
their own ability to solve problems, to achieve practical results and to
work cooperatively alongside other people. They’ll also appreciate that
learning can truly be fun.
Your local authority's role will be TO SUPPORT, NOT DRIVE, your Transition Initiative.
Whatever the degree of groundswell your Transition Initiative manages to generate, however many practical
projects you’ve initiated and however wonderful your Energy Descent Plan
is, you will not progress too far unless you have cultivated a positive
and productive relationship with your local authority. Whether it is
planning issues, funding issues or providing connections, you need them
on board. Contrary to your expectations, you may well find that you are
pushing against an open door.
Here are two great example of this collaborative approach
And just to make sure you didn't miss the golden rule - your Local Authority's role is TO SUPPORT, NOT DRIVE, your Transition Initiative.
For those of us born in the 1960s when the cheap oil party was in full swing, it is very hard
to picture a life with less oil. Every year of our lives since WWII
(apart from the oil crises of the 70s) has been underpinned by more
energy than the previous years.
In order to rebuild that picture of a lower energy society, we have to engage with
those who directly remember the transition to the age of Cheap Oil,
especially the period between 1930 and 1960.
While you clearly want to avoid any sense that what you are advocating is
‘going back’ or ‘returning’ to some dim distant past, there is much to
be learnt from how things were done, what the invisible connections
between the different elements of society were and how daily life was
supported. Finding out all of this can be deeply illuminating, and can
lead to our feeling much more connected to the place we are developing
our Transition Town projects.
And to reassure those who might be concerned that Transition is trying to recreate those
times - that's simply not going to happen. Human society is a complex
system and complex systems never return to a prior state. If we take the
best of the what's gone before, mix it up with the best of what we have
now and in the future, we'll have the best chance of ending up with a
future that will work for all of us.
Although you may start out developing your Transition Town process with a clear idea of where it will go, it will
inevitably go elsewhere. If you try and hold onto a rigid vision, it
will begin to sap your energy and appear to stall. Your role is not to
come up with all the answers, but to act as a catalyst for the community
to design their own transition.
If you keep your focus on the key design criteria – building community resilience and
reducing the carbon footprint – you’ll watch as the collective genius of
the community enables a feasible, practicable and highly inventive
solution to emerge.
During the first year or two of the transition process in your community, the various theme groups will have been focusing on projects
that increase community resilience and reduce CO2 emissions. Over time
they'll get adept at running projects, measuring outcomes, linking with
the key groups in their area and becoming literate around resilience.
When all the key theme groups have built up that expertise, they come back together to help engage the wider community in
creating the vision for how that community might look in 15 or 20
So far, we have taken many practical actions in Totnes. However, they add up to just a mere fraction of the
final range and scope of initiatives that are currently being devised by
There are groups currently looking at how the Transition Initiative might need to develop
as it goes into the EDAP implementation phase. One crucial element
looks like being "social enterprises". These could be community-owned
enterprises primarily designed rebuild resilience in the local economy
by delivering benefits to local people - as opposed to operations
primarily focused on providing profit, often for absentee stockholders
and typically with minimal concern about the environmental costs.
Something to get you thinking about this: