Transition Forest Row

A community in transition to a low carbon, sustainable, resilient life.

This outline of "Transition Companion" was compiled to help guide discussions in our local book groups. I thought other people might find it useful as an overview of this rich and dense work. There are links to any sections of the book that are online. The 12 Steps from the Transition Handbook are mapped to the corresponding Ingredients and Tools in the new model.

- Bart Anderson (Energy Bulletin, Transition Palo Alto)

Forward by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Four years after the publication of The Transition Handbook, Rob Hopkins has now completed this second volume. The former explored the theory of Transition, and asked what an international movement based on it might look like. This new book draws on five years of practical experience that go a long way towards answering that question. online version (TC) / (EB)


“What would it look like if the best responses to peak oil and climate change came not from committees and Acts of Parliament, but from you and me and the people around us?”

... For the first The Transition Handbook, published in 2008, this was pretty much a speculative question, but for this new book we are able to draw from what has, in effect, been a five-year worldwide experiment, an attempt to try to put the Transition idea into practice. I think it is one of the most important social experiments happening anywhere in the world at the version (TC) / (EB)

PART ONE: Why the Transition movement does what it does

Chapter 1: The emergence of an idea: a potted history of Transition


Chapter 2: Why Transition initiatives do what they do

... it feels way more fun than not doing it.
... wanting a fairer world
... peak oil
... it means they can do that project they have always dreamed of
... fear
... economic crises
... it feels like the most appropriate thing to be doing
... "it gives me hope"

Two ways of thinking about our predicament

  • Moving away from something irreplaceable (cheap energy)
  • Push towards clean air, sunshine, beauty, rediscovering each other; community and celebration

Recognitions behind Transition:

  • Climate change and peak oil require urgent action
  • Life with less energy is inevitable ...
  • Infinite growth is impossible
  • We can use ingenuity and intelligence
  • We can build a future more fulfilling and enriching, more connected to and gentle to the Earth


Chapter 3: Where we might be headed: the power of future scenarios

Three different mindsets:

  • Adaptation: we can invent our way out of trouble
  • Evolution: a change of attitude/heart; a society, more localised, more frugal with energy, will retain its coherence
  • Collapse: peak oil, climate change and the end of economic growth will fracture and disintegrate society as we know it.


Chapter 4: Resilience and localisation

Resilience: "bounceback-ability" - when something happens to knock us off our stride, we can recover and resume our activities

What determines a community's resilience

  • Control over decisions that affect the community
  • Ability to learn and adapt
  • Planning

Transition as a fresh take on resilience -- "a rethink of assumptions about infrastructure and systems that should lead to a more sustainable, resilient and entriching low-carbon economy"


Localisation is an inevitable change in direction as we pass the oil peak, as we decide to treat the climate issue seriously
Dr. David Fleming: "it has the decisive argument that there will be no alternative"

Localisation in practice - what it is and isn't (chart)

How local is local? - Different things work best at different scales (chart)

Isn't this all just about romanticizing the past? - Pluses and minuses of the past

The hierarchy of responses

  • Transition by itself is not sufficient
  • National and international responses are necessary
  • Transition can help create "a culture where currently unelectable policies can become electable"


Chapter 5: A taste of a powered-down future


What degree of food self-reliance might be possible?


What degree of localisation in building materials might be possible?
Building materails of the future
The building industry of 1930


What degree of energy relocalisation might be possible?

Reflections / meeting our needs

Might a more resilient world better meet our needs as human beings?

  • Safety, security and sustenance
  • Competence, efficacy and self- esteem
  • Connectedness
  • Autonomy and authenticy


PART TWO: What the Transition response looks like in practice

Chapter 6: Framing Transition

Transition as
... an inner process
... leading by practical example
... an approach rooted in place and circumstance
... a tool for turning problems into solutions
... a cultural shift
... an economic process
... storyteller

Philosophical underpinnings (list)

Principles of Transition

  • Positive visioning
  • Helping people access good information and trust them to make good decisions
  • Inclusion and openness
  • Enable sharing and networking
  • Build resilience
  • Inner and outer Transition
  • Subsidiarity: self-organisation and decision-making at the appropriate level

Qualities of Transition (list)

The 12 Steps of Transition

"12 Steps" is a step-by-step model described in the Transition Handbook and a href="">Transition Primer. This book (The Transition Companion) provides a more holistic, useful and accurate model. Some groups still find the old model useful. Below are the 12 steps with links to the corresponding "Ingredient" or "Tool" in the new model.
(12 Ingredients (Transition US) / 12 steps - with links (Transition NZ)

  1. Set up a steering group and design its demise from the outset 
    This stage puts a core team in place to drive the project forward during the initial phases.
    Coming together as groups


  2. Awareness raising
    Build crucial networks and prepare the community in general for the launch of your Transition initiative.
    Awareness raising


  3. Lay the foundations
    This stage is about networking with existing groups and activists.
    Building partnerships


  4. Organise a Great Unleashing
    This stage creates a memorable milestone to mark the project’s "coming of age."
    Tool: Unleashings


  5. Form sub groups
    Tapping into the collective genius of the community, for solutions that will form the backbone of the Energy Descent Action Plan.
    Forming working groups


  6. Use Open Space
    We’ve found Open Space Technology to be a highly effective approach to running meetings for Transition Town initiatives.
    Tool: Community brainstorming tools


  7. Develop visible practical manifestations of the project
    It is essential that you avoid any sense that your project is just a talking shop where people sit around and draw up wish lists.
    Practical manifestations


  8. Facilitate the Great Reskilling
    Give people a powerful realisation of their own ability to solve problems, to achieve practical results and to work cooperatively alongside other people.
    The Great Reskilling


  9. Build a bridge to Local Government
    Your Energy Descent Plan will not progress too far unless you have cultivated a positive and productive relationship with your local authority.
    Involving the council


  10. Honour the elders
    Engage with those who directly remember the transition to the age of cheap oil.
    Oral histories


  11. Let it go where it wants to go…
    If you try and hold onto a rigid vision, it will begin to sap your energy and appear to stall.
    (not an ingredient or tool, more an overall way of looking at it)


  12. Create an Energy Descent Plan
    Each subgroup will have been focusing on practical actions to increase community resilience and reduce the carbon footprint
    Energy Descent Action Plans


Chapter 7: The story of four Transition initiatives told using ingredients and tools

Tooting (London)
PEDAL (Portobello)

PART THREE: How the Transition movement does what it does – ingredients for success

These ingredients are laid out in stages relating to the Transition process, and let's be clear; there is no right way to do Transition.

Every initiative does it differently, and that’s part of the fun of the whole thing. Think of it like cooking. There are all kinds of amazing ingredients we can assemble in order to make, say, a cake, and the creation of every cook will be unique, reflecting his or her abilities and culture, and the local resources available.

At the same time, there are certain time-proven stages to successful cake baking. You can’t just put the flour in a bowl, throw in some butter, put it in the oven and expect a cake to emerge. That wouldn’t work at all.

Similarly, with Transition there are distinct stages the process goes through, from meeting equally enthused people and deciding to give Transition a go (‘Starting out’), to finding that you are now becoming a viable, vibrant project (‘Deepening’), then trying to broaden your engagement with the local community (‘Connecting’) and scaling up what you are doing in order to make localisation a reality on the ground (‘Building’). Lastly, there is a visionary, speculative stage of looking forward to how things might be if this happened everywhere (‘Daring to Dream’). That’s where things get really interesting.

Ingredients (online version)

Stage 1: Starting out

This first stage takes you from Transition being just an idea or an aspiration to its being something that is under way with a good chance of success.

Coming together as groups 
From the outset, create clear structures and processes that help your group to work enjoyably and effectively – and take some time to get to know each other as people!

Inclusion and diversity
Diversity can only come from a commitment to values of inclusion and respect throughout the organisation. Go out to people and listen, and build on the concerns and passions that fuel the people around you.

Tool: Permaculture design

Respectful communication 
Value and cultivate qualities of compassion and respect throughout your initiative’s work, promoting politeness and respectful communication in your meetings and all other areas of what you do.

Forming an initiating group 
An initiating group serves to kick the Transition process off, its members acting as the early pioneers who network and lay good foundations, until another group takes over the reins of what has become an established and wider-reaching Transition initiative.

Tool: Standing up to speak

Understanding scale 
Ultimately, the best scale to work on is the scale over which you feel you can have an influence. Single street? Perhaps not ambitious enough. Entire city? Possibly asking a bit much of yourselves. Choose somewhere in the middle that feels do-able and that feels like home.

As the effect of your projects grows, it will become increasingly important that you document it. Getting into the discipline from an early stage will stand you in good stead for later, as well as providing insights that will help increase your impact.

Tool: Transition Training

Try to weave visioning into everything your Transition initiative does, asking: “If you were to wake up in 20 years’ time, in a world that had successfully navigated the journey to a low-carbon, localised and more resilient community, how would it look, feel, smell and sound?”

Arts and creativity Value the power of the arts and creativity to change our sense of what is possible in the world. Be big, bold and celebratory.

Tool: Running effective meetings

Awareness raising 
Organise an ongoing programme of awareness raising, designed to appeal to your community in its themes, activities, style and language, and always give people time to digest information, to express or share feelings, and to come to their own decisions about what they can do.

Forming working groups 
Actively initiate or facilitate the emergence of working groups on food, energy, education and so on; whatever people see as important. See the role of the wider Transition initiative as being to support this.

Tool: Forming a legal entity

Building partnerships 
Recognise the value of clear and mutually beneficial collaborations and partnerships, and seek them out whenever possible.

Evolving structure 
See your Transition initiative’s role as offering ‘project support’, to create the infrastructure that projects need as they emerge, offering a common sense of purpose and providing administrative support, publicity and fundraising.

Tool: Communicating with the media

Backcasting helps us to identify the structures and institutions we need in place in order for Transition to become a reality: where should we start and, indeed, what we have already done that might also be useful.

Creating a space for inner Transition 
A group focusing on the inner aspects of Transition can bring a great deal to your Transition project, and the role it can serve in terms of supporting the wider Transition process should not be underestimated.

Stage 2. Deepening

Your Transition initiative will build momentum and practical projects will start to emerge. You may have to design for the sustaining of the organisation and the deepening of its work, broadening its engagement across the community and being more efficient and effective.

Transition Towers - having an office or not 
A kitchen table or the corner of a local cafe can be all a Transition initiative needs, but if you do decide you need something more formal, make it serve many functions, such as for working, holding meetings, having social events, or hosting a cafe, a library or a drop-in centre for advice on energy efficiency and other aspects of Transition.

Tool: Volunteers and volunteering

Practical manifestations 
From an early stage, get visible projects going, making them playful and unthreatening, and ensuring they are well publicised and sited where they will be seen, so as to prompt people to consider a low-energy future optimistically.

The Great Reskilling 
Make reskilling a core part of your work, in the form of events, practical projects or courses run independently or with local educational institutions.

Tool: Financing your Transition initiative

How we communicate
Be mindful of the language you and your group use in talks, printed materials and events, avoiding divisive ‘them and us’-style messaging, however subtle. Work actively to avoid perceptions of being ‘hippy’ or excessively rooted in alternative culture; rather, ensure that the project remains as accessible to as wide a range of people as possible.

If this is to feel, as Richard Heinberg puts it, “more like a party than a protest march”, we all need to grab a bottle, dress up and be thankful, to celebrate and celebrate often, celebrate small and large things, and mark anniversaries.

Celebrate failure
Celebrate your initiative’s failures as much as its successes, seeing your work as research that will be valuable to subsequent initiatives. Use Transition Network to share the stories of things that didn’t work out as you had hoped.

How are we doing?
Put time aside regularly to evaluate how your initiative is doing. These evaluations could be either internal or public events that offer the opportunity for honest appraisal of your work. Make sure the ideas generated and the information gleaned are made widely available and acted upon.

Local food initiatives
There are many food projects a Transition initiative can start, from garden shares to community supported farms. Local food projects which involve local schools, other local organisations, councils, church groups or whoever else feels like a useful ally, offer much potential for boosting new Transition initiatives.

Momentum can be supported through seeking new members, promoting new involvement, a range of events, and a sense that the initiative is moving upwards and onwards. Momentum won’t be constant, as different parts of the initiative will ebb and flow over time.

Ensuring land access
Access to land can be secured in a range of imaginative ways. Work with landowners. Seek land that is currently unused and can be used for free. Raise funds to buy land into community ownership. Invite landowners to see opening up access as being both in their and the community’s interest.

Tool: Supporting each other

Personal reslience
Each of us is responsible for our own well-being. Ensure a balance of activity and rest, be aware of the early symptoms of burnout and don’t shy away from seeking support sooner rather than later.

Tool: Unleashings

Tool: Healthy conflict

Education for Transition
Where possible, work with local schools and universities to support them in their journeys towards embedding Transition in their activities and becoming a powerful force in the Transition of the wider community.

Stage 3. Connecting

Forming networks of Transition initiatives
Create wider networks that allow the sharing of local experience, representation at a wider political level, more visibility and the hosting of larger, more effective events. There is no need to rush towards wider networks, but when the need arises, support them to emerge in their own time and ways.

Tool: Street-by-street behaviour change

Involving the council
When your initiative feels ready and has sufficient momentum, approach whoever seems the most sympathetic person in the council. Explore ways of collaborating, how you can help, and how your initiative can feed into council policymaking and activities. Where your group has relevant expertise, offer to help draft policy.

Tool: Becoming the media

Working with local businesses
Offer services that support local businesses and that better connect them to the local economy, acknowledging the vital role they will have to play in the Transition process. Forming an Business and Livelihoods working group as part of your Transition initiative will be key to this.

Tool: Energy Resilience Assessment

Oral histories
Bring elders and local storytellers into schools. Create events and meeting places where young and old people can tell their stories, formally or informally. Use artists and musicians to create evenings of storytelling and song about the local community.

Tool: Community brainstorming tools

Engaging young people
Involve local schools and youth clubs, and use the media they use: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and so on. Try to ensure that young people are represented in your group’s core group.

Tool: Meaningful maps

The role of storytelling
Weave storytelling, in its widest sense, through your Transition initiative, making films, raps, newspaper articles and small ads from the newspapers of the future, cartoons, animations, etc.

Tool: Speaking up for Transition

Pausing for reflection
Reflect honestly on how you are balancing your personal and Transition lives. Get independent support if you feel it would help.

Stage 4. Building

Transition groups aim ultimately to catalyse the localisation of their local economy. They strive to move from running small community projects to thinking and acting much bigger. New skills and ways of thinking will lead Transition initiatives to become social enterprises, such as becoming developers, banks, energy companies and so on.

Energy Descent Action Plans
Design a creative, engaging and research-based community process to form a powerful, practical story of the future. Start with a vision of a lower-energy future, and then backcast, telling how it was achieved, year by year, setting out the vital first steps and the catalyst projects needed to get the ball rolling.

Social enterprise and entrepreneurship
Understand from an early stage the need for social entrepreneurship. Design and support initiatives, providing training and events, and link with existing entrepreneurship support providers.

Scaling up
When the time is right, evolve your initiative to take the steps your organisation needs to be most effective as the world around it changes. Hold to your purpose and values – these will help the group retain its identity and effectiveness amidst great change.

Tool: Community renewable energy companies

Strategic local infrastructure
Where elements of a more local, more ‘Transition’ economy exist, find ways, such as the community support model (as in CSAs – see Tools for Transition No.20) to support them and increase their viability. Where they don’t exist, your Transition initiative, local social entrepreneurs, private businesses and your local authority can work together to create them.

Tool: Tools for plugging the leaks

Intermediate technologies
As far as possible, keep it simple. Choose technologies that can be made or repaired locally, which you understand, and where you can see the supply chain for parts; ensuring that they bring social, economic and community benefits to the area.

Community ownership of assets
Steadily increase community ownership of assets through mechanisms such as development trusts, community bonds and shares. Bring land and property into community ownership for development, Community Supported Agriculture or renewable energy projects.

Tool: Community-supported farms, bakeries and breweries

Strategic thinking
If done well, the data generated by this kind of research is hugely useful to relocalisation efforts, providing an underpinning to stimulate social enterprise and create key strategic local infrastructure.

Tool: Peak oil resolutions

Stage 5. Daring to dream

The ingredients in this section imagine the stepping up of Transition thinking to the national stage – imagining what it might look like if every settlement had vibrant Transition initiatives setting up food networks, energy companies, growing food everywhere and catalysing a new culture of social enterprise . . .

Policies for Transition
If the transition we have discussed in this book is to take place at the scale it needs to, it will need the support of meaningful, well-thought-out and visionary legislation. This is not about the ‘greening’ of society – its gradually becoming more ‘environmentally friendly’ – it is about a shift in focus, enabling resilience at all levels and fast-tracking the creation of a more appropriate and, where possible, localised economy

A learning network
Rather than reinventing the wheel, tap into the pool of accumulated insight the Transition movement has generated, as well as feeding into it and enriching our collective understanding.

Investing in Transition
The Transition movement needs, as it continues to scale up, to think seriously about models that will enable, with confidence, the levels of finance that active Transition will require to come forward. Many models for enabling this already exist, and new ones are emerging.

Epilogue: Where might all this be going?

Advantages and disadvantages of different organizational models
Types of insurance

Notes and references (downloadable version)



Views: 22

Add a Comment

You need to be a member of Transition Forest Row to add comments!

Join Transition Forest Row

© 2016   Created by Mike Grenville.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service