Principles of the Transition Network


Principles matter

They matter because the people we deal with on a  day to day basis can hold us accountable to them. They matter because  they’re how we look at problems, devise responses and  interact with people. They matter because the field that we’re operating in can knock us  sideways, and it’s really useful to have something solid to grab hold  of.

These are the principles that Transition Network aspires to as  an organisation, and we hope to model them in such as way that other  transitioners adopt them as well.

Like everything else, they’re  not cast in stone, and if the wider field of transition feels that they  need to change, then we welcome that input. This page is open for comments for that very purpose.

On this page we’ve listed the transition principles, permaculture principles and the characteristics of resilient systems – all of these are part of how transition has come about.


Transition principles

1. Positive Visioning

We can only create what we can first vision

  • If we  can’t imagine a positive future we won’t be able to create it.
  • A  positive message helps people engage with the challenges of these times.
  • Change is happening – our choice is between a future we want and one  which happens to us.
  • Transition Initiatives are based on a dedication to the  creation of tangible, clearly expressed and practical visions of the  community in question beyond its present-day dependence on fossil  fuels.
  • Our primary focus is not campaigning against things, but  rather on positive, empowering possibilities and opportunities.
  • The  generation of new stories and myths are central to this visioning work.

 2. Help People Access Good Information and Trust Them to Make Good  Decisions

  • Transition Initiatives dedicate  themselves, through all aspects of their work, to raising awareness of  peak oil and climate change and related issues such as critiquing  economic growth. In doing so they recognise the responsibility to  present this information in ways which are playful, articulate,  accessible and engaging, and which enable people to feel enthused and  empowered rather than powerless.
  • Transition Initiatives focus on  telling people the closest version of the truth that we know in times  when the information available is deeply contradictory.
  • The  messages are non-directive, respecting each person’s ability to make a  response that is appropriate to their situation.

3. Inclusion  and Openness

  • Successful Transition Initiatives need  an unprecedented coming together of the broad diversity of society. They  dedicate themselves to ensuring that their decision making processes  and their working groups embody principles of openness and inclusion.
  • This  principle also refers to the principle of each initiative reaching the  community in its entirety, and endeavouring, from an early stage, to  engage their local business community, the diversity of community groups  and local authorities.
  • It makes explicit the principle that  there is, in the challenge of energy descent, no room for ‘them and us’  thinking.
  • In a successful transition project every skill is valuable  because there is so much happening.
  • We need good listeners,  gardeners, people who like to make and fix everything, good parties,  discussions, energy engineers, inspiring art and music, builders,  planners, project managers.
  • Bring your passion and make that their  contribution – if there isn’t a project working in the area you are  passionate about, create one!!

4. Enable Sharing and Networking

  • Transition Initiatives dedicate themselves to sharing their  successes, failures, insights and connections at the various scales  across the Transition network, so as to more widely build up a  collective body of experience.

5. Build Resilience

  • This  stresses the fundamental importance of building resilience, that is,  the capacity of our businesses, communities and settlements to deal as  well as possible with shock.
  • Transition initiatives commit to building  resilience across a wide range of areas (food, economics, energy etc)  and also on a range of scales (from the local to the national) as seems  appropriate – and to setting them within an overall context of the need  to do all we can to ensure general environmental resilience.
  • Most communities in the past had – a generation or two ago – the basic  skills needed for life such as growing and preserving food, making  clothes, and building with local materials.

6. Inner and Outer Transition

  • The  challenges we face are not just caused by a mistake in our technologies  but as a direct result of our world view and belief system.
  • The impact  of the information about the state of our planet can generate fear and  grief – which may underlie the state of denial that many people are  caught in.
  • Psychological models can help us understand what is  really happening and avoid unconscious processes sabotaging change, e.g.  addictions models, models for behavioural change.
  • This  principle also honours the fact that Transition thrives because it  enables and supports people to do what they are passionate about, what  they feel called to do. 

7. Transition makes sense – the solution is the same size as the  problem

  • Many films or books who suggest that  changing light bulbs, recycling and driving smaller cars may be enough.  This causes a state called “Cognitive Dissonance” –a trance where you  have been given an answer, but know that it is not going to solve the  problem you’ve just been given.
  • We look at the whole system not  just one issue because we are facing a systems failure not a single  problem failure.
  • We work with complexity, mimicking nature in  solutions based problem solving.

8. Subsidiarity:  self-organisation and decision making at the appropriate level

  • This final principle enshrines the idea that the intention of  the Transition model is not to centralise or control decision making,  but rather to work with everyone so that it is practiced at the most  appropriate, practical and empowering level, and in such a way that it  models the ability of natural systems to self organise.
  • We create ways of working that are easy to copy and spread quickly

Permaculture principles

Permaculture principles provide some critical insights that inform how Transition has, and is, developing. Here’s the list from “Principles  And Pathways Beyond Sustainability” by David Holmgren

We’ve added some suggestions for how this might apply to the early stages of transition projects.

Principle Catch  Phrase An Example (from us)
Observe and interact Beauty is  in the eye of   the beholder Find out what is  already   happening locally before starting any project
Catch and store energy Make hay  while the sun   shines Use the energy that is    inspired by transition model – create lots of ways for people ways to  join   and give support
Obtain a yield You can’t  work on an   empty stomach Harvest ideas at  events   with post-its or flip charts
Apply self regulation and    accept feedback The sins of the fathers   are  visited on the children unto the seventh generation Create  spaces where your   community can let you know what they think; include  evaluation and evolution   in your plans
Use and value renewable    resources and services Let nature take its   course Work with  existing   currents, trends and projects where possible.
Produce no waste A stitch in  time saves   nine.. Waste not, want not Use psychological    awareness to avoid conflict where possible
Design from patterns to    details Can’t see the wood for   the  trees Energy descent planning –    strategic as well as micro
Integrate rather than    segregate Many hands make light   work Partnership  partnership   partnership!
Use small and slow solutions The bigger  they are the   harder they fall. Slow and steady wins the race Allow  groups time to form   and grow before expecting action
Use and  value diversity Don’t put all your eggs   in  one basket “Both.. and” rather than    “either/or” – let’s do it your way and   my way
Use edges  and value the   marginal Don’t think  you are on   the right track just because it is a well beaten path The  boundaries between   systems are interesting places – between existing  and new movements, council   and business, young and old.
Creative  use and respond   to change Vision is  not seeing   things as they are but as they will be Keep the  vision open,   active and creative – don’t tie it down or stop it  evolving.

 Characteristics of Resilient Systems

These are some very valuable pointers from “Resilience Thinking” by David Salter and Brian Walker.

   Characteristic    Description
Tight feedback The system knows   what’s happening inside itself quickly and can respond
Diversity Diversity in all   areas, ecological, social, economic needs to be attended to and supported.
Modularity Sub systems   within the system are independent or not over connected – if one fails they   don’t all fail.
Ecological   variability Eco systems   constantly change. Any attempts to limit or prevent change are generally   disastrous. Understanding the variability of a system is wise.
Understanding   slow variables Slow variables   are often the key to understanding systems. They determine the thresholds in   a system that can lead the system to tip into a new regime.
Social capital A resilient   world would promote trust, well developed social networks, and adaptability.   Resilience is very closely determined by the ability of people to respond and   work together.
Innovation A resilient   system places an emphasis on learning, experimentation, locally developed   rules, and embracing change.
Overlap in   governance Institutions   that include redundancy in their governing structure, and overlap in common   and private ownership with overlapping access rights
Ecosystem   services are valued We have to learn   to value ecosystem ‘services’. The earth is not an unlimited source of   materials and rubbish dump.
Human beings   have diverse connections to each other and all beings. These connections are   seen and unseen; inner and outer. All connection   to our world, ‘hidden’ energetic or inner, are accepted as implicit,   immanent, and integral to all of our understanding and practice. We must   explore and create awareness of our connections both to other people and to   all of creation.


Puglia in the spring

Puglia in the spring


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