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The Transition Movement
Guiding Principles
Key Ingredients

Plan for Community Organizing.


Transition is a method of community response to climate change, resource depletion and economic turbulence.  After it was first developed in Totnes, England in 2006, Transition initiatives sprang up throughout the United Kingdom.  Many community projects around the world are using the seven principles and twelve ingredients of Transition, listed below.  The Transition Neighborhoods program being developed by Transtion NYC, the Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub, and Transition US is an adaptation of this organizing method to large urban centers in the US.    We hope you'll join us. 


Seven Guiding Principles of Transition


1. Positive Visioning


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


3. Inclusion and Openness


4. Enable Sharing and Networking


5. Build Resilience


6. Inner and Outer Transition


7. Self-organization at the Appropriate Level



1. Positive Visioning


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 fuel. Our primary focus is not campaigning against things but rather on creating positive, empowering possibilities and opportunities. The generation of new stories and myths is central to this visioning work. 


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


Transition Initiatives dedicate themselves, through all aspects of their work, to raising awareness of peak oil, climate change and economic instability. In doing so they recognize the responsibility to present this information in ways that are playful, articulate, accessible, engaging and which enable people to feel enthused and empowered. Transition Initiatives focus on telling people the closest version of the truth that we know in times when the information is deeply contradictory. The messages are non-directive, respecting each person’s ability to respond in a way 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 endeavoring, from an early stage to engage their local business community, the diversity of community groups and local government authorities. It makes explicit the principle that there is no room for “them and us” thinking in the challenge of energy descent planning.


4. Enable Sharing and Networking


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


5. Build Resilience


Building resilience is the capacity for our businesses, communities and settlements to withstand 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 seem appropriate – and to setting them within an overall context of the need to do everything we can to ensure environmental resilience.


6. Inner and Outer Transition


The challenges we face are not just caused by a misuse of technology, but are a direct result of our worldview 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 in which many people are caught. Psychological models can help us understand what is really happening and avoid unconscious processes sabotaging change, e.g., addiction and behavioral change models. This principle also honors 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. Subsidiarity: Self-organization at the Appropriate Level 


The intention of the Transition model is not to centralize 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 organize.



The 12 Ingredients of Transitioning


These 12 Ingredients don’t necessarily follow each other logically in the order they are set out here; every Transition Initiative weaves through them differently. The 12 Ingredients are in part shaped by your experience of using  The Ingredients are not meant to be prescriptive. You do not have to follow them 

religiously, step by step, you can use the ones that seem useful, add new ones you come up with, and disregard others that don’t work for your group.


1. Create Initiating Group & design its demise from the outset

This stage puts a core team in place to drive the project forward during the initial phases. We recommend that Initiating Groups aim to get through Ingredients 2 – 5, and agree that once a minimum of 4 sub-groups are formed, the Initiating Group disbands and reforms with a person from each of those groups. It is important to put the success of the project above individuals involved. Ultimately your Facilitating or Steering Group should be made up of 1 representative from each working sub-group.


2. Raise Awareness

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 Resource Depletion and Climate Change – the former demanding a drive to increase community resilience, the latter a reduction in carbon Screenings of key movies along with panels and talks by experts in the fields of Climate Change, Resource Depletion and Alternative Economics are recommended. Articles in newspapers, radio interviews presentations to groups including schools, are also part of the toolkit to get people aware of the issues, and ready to start thinking of solutions.


3. Lay the Foundations

This stage is about networking with existing groups and individuals, making clear to them that the Transition Initiative is designed to incorporate their previous efforts and future inputs by looking at the future in a new way. Acknowledge and honor 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 Initiative might be able to act as a catalyst for getting the community to explore solutions and to begin thinking about grassroots mitigation strategies.


4. Organize a Great Unleashing

This Ingredient creates a milestone that marks the project’s “coming of age,” moves it 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. We suggest this take place about 6 months to a year after your first “awareness-raising” event. Your unleashing will 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 a doom and gloom scenario. 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, dance - whatever you feel reflects your community’s intention to embark on this collective 


5. Form Working Groups

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, working groups are needed for all aspects of life that your community needs to sustain itself and thrive. Examples of these are: food, waste, energy, education, youth, local economics, transport, water, local government. Each of your working groups looks

at their area and tries to determine the best ways of building community resilience and reducing their carbon footprint. Their solutions will form the backbone of the Energy Descent Action Plan.


6. Use Open Space Facilitation Technology: Open Space Facilitation 


Technology is a highly effective approach to running meetings for Transition Initiatives. By the end of each meeting, everyone has said what they needed to, extensive notes have been taken, lots of networking has had taken place, and a huge number of ideas have been identified, and visions set out. 


7. Develop visible practical manifestations of the project

It is essential to avoid any sense that your project is just about talking. Begin from an early stage 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.


8. Facilitate the Great Reskilling

If we are to respond to Peak Oil and Climate Change by moving to a lower energy future and relocalizing our communities, then we’ll need many of the skills that our grandparents took for granted. One of the most useful things a Transition Initiative can do is to reverse the “great deskilling” of the last 40 years by offering training in a range of 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: recycling grey water, cooking, bicycle maintenance, natural building, herbal medicines, basic home energy efficiency, practical food growing, harvesting rainwater, composting waste (the list is endless). Your Great Reskilling program will give people a powerful realization 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 be fun!


9. Build a Bridge to Local Government

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 far unless you have cultivated a positive and productive relationship with your local government authority. Whether it is planning issues, funding or networking, you need them on board. Contrary to your expectations, you may well find that you are pushing against an open door.


10. Honor the Elders

To rebuild a 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 in the past, what the invisible connections between the different elements of society were, and how daily life was supported when less oil was available. Finding these things out can be deeply illuminating, and can lead to our feeling much more connected to place 

when we are developing our Transition Initiatives.


11. Let it Go Where it Wants to Go

Although you may start out developing your Transition Initiative 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.

12. Create an Energy Descent Action Plan (EDAP)

The Energy Descent Action Plan is a detailed, clearly articulated strategic pathway away from oil dependency for your locality.

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Mid-Atlantic Transition Neighborhoods Prequel


Take the Pulse of Neighborhood Culture


Mid-Atlantic Transition Neighborhoods (MTN) explores effective and enjoyable ways to bring small groups of people together to enhance community resilience, deepen neighborhood culture, and joyously experience an appreciative sense of place.


Neighbors who take responsibility for their lives and feel connected to each other have the power to choose which pathway toward resilience is the best for their community. Together residents determine how resilient their neighborhood is now, vision and investigate how resilient it could potentially be, and consider their role in enhancing its resilience. 




READ….research, and inform yourself about the Transition environmental movement.


TALK ….. with, and ask questions of Transitioners working at local, regional and national levels.


Make a list.  Think about people and places you know.  Write it down. Brainstorm with your friends and neighbors...

  • think of those you know personally or casually, those who are conveners of groups or have many connections, and also of community groups and networks.  

  • the types of people you have observed, or know live in your neighborhood:

live-alones, families with babies, children, teens, young adults, middle-agers, elders, various nationalities, cultures, races, heritages,

  • neighbors you know personally or casually and their social networks,

  • conveners: the trusted people in your neighborhood who seem to know everyone, and have a natural gift for bringing people together, e.g. pastors, restaurant managers (and the “regulars”) librarians, teachers, co-op or building association leaders, block captains,

  • active service, recreational, and arts organizations, clubs and associations,

  • seniors and faith communities, houses of worship or spiritual practice centers,

  • routine gathering places: yoga & martial arts studios, parks, hospitals & healing centers,

  • active initiatives with an environmental resiliency mission, e.g. renewable energy, CSA’s farmers markets, food coops, community gardens etc.


CONTACT … and invite 3-12 potential participants to have a conversation by phone or  over coffee to begin relationship-building. Explain the Transition movement and Mid-Atlantic Transition Neighborhoods (MTN). Assess their interest and availability for MTN participation.  Refine a list of core neighbor-group invitees.


IDENTIFY….. potential meeting place for your first gathering. Consider: spaces that are familiar and easily accessible to neighbors (e.g.: diners or cafes, community centers, libraries, apartments or homes if appropriate).


SET A MEETING TIME…and extend an invitation by phone or in person to members of your neighbor-group.  



Talking points for your phone call or email


Put a few of these sample sentences into your own words.   


- You're organizing a series of group discussions on how to make your neighborhood more sustainable and more resilient.

- It's an initiative of the Transition movement, an international community organizing response to climate change and other issues.

- The Transition Neighborhoods Field Guide is based on a model that's been successful in hundreds of communities worldwide.

- Neighbors reach out to neighbors, and find out who's interested in making their community more sustainable and resilient.

- It starts with a series of small group meetings in which neighbors go through chapters of the Field Guide. They strengthen their sense of place, build relationships, promote local food, and map their neighborhood's current state of resiliency.

- At each meeting, they'll go through one of the twelve chapters of the TN Field Guide, now being adapted for NYC and other big urban communities.

- The thought provoking Field Guide leads participants on a practical and enlightening neighborhood resilience-building adventure that deepens and celebrates neighborhood culture. 

-  Neighbors will use chapters of the guidebook to map their community, looking at aspects of its operation such as food, energy, water, waste, consumption and transportation. The goal is to proactively redesign urban communities so they're much less reliant on fossil fuels and much more resilient, with an improved quality of life.   

- Would you be interested in coming to an initial meeting? What days of the week and times are best for you? Who else would you suggest I contact?

Convener Preparation - Gathering a Group

 _ _ _ _ _  _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

  • Transition Reading & Support System

  • Create The BIG List

    • Personal network, neighborhood social infrastructure,conveners, movement toward resilience

      • Outreach

  • Organize your first gathering.

 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _   

CHAPTER 1 - Getting started

  • Potluck Conversation Starters

  • Transition Neighbourhoods Overview

  • Group Process Nuts & Bolts

    • Ground Rules, Communications Process, Schedule

  • Support system & resources

 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _  

CHAPTER 2 - Food Awareness & Quality

  • What IS Quality Food?

  • How far does our food travel?

  • Map local food growing in and around New York City.

  • Buy local. Buy seasonally.

  • Try organic.

  • Minimize food waste.

  • Reduce food packaging.

  • Resilient Response Food Stores & Storage.

  • Support system & resources.

 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _  

CHAPTER 3 - Urban Green Acres: Grow Food

  • Food security & deserts.

  • Urban agriculture:  

    • Institutional, community and commercial farms and gardens

  • Grow food to feed ourselves.

  • Resilient Response Food Preservation Techniques.

Support system & resources

NYC Transition Hub
Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub
Transition US


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