Hello! Here are some frequently asked questions. If you feel we’re missing one, contact us! We’re friendly. I promise.
- Where did the Transition Initiatives start?
- How is a Transition Initiative structured?
- Is the Transition Initiative a program?
- How do you become an “official” Transition Initiative?
- Why would you want to become an “official” Transition Initiative?
- How did the Transition Initiative come to Los Angeles?
- How did the Transition Initiative start in the San Fernando Valley?
- You say we’re all in Transition. If that’s true, why do I need to network with your Transition Initiative?
- I think it’s hopeless. Why should I join your Transition Initiative?
Frequently Asked Questions
The Transition concept emerged from the work that permaculture designer Rob Hopkins had done with the students of Kinsale Further Education College in writing an “Energy Descent Action Plan”. This looked at across-the-board creative adaptations in the realms of energy production, health, education, economy and agriculture as a “road map” to a sustainable future. One of his students, Louise Rooney, set about developing the Transition Towns concept and presented it to Kinsale Town Council, resulting in the historic decision to adopt the plan and work towards energy independence.
The idea was adapted and expanded in September 2006 to Hopkins’ hometown of Totnes where he is now based. The initiative spread quickly, and as of January 2010, there are 275 communities recognized as official Transition Towns in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Italy and Chile. While referred to as ‘towns’, the communities involved range from villages to council districts to cities and boroughs.
There are twelve key ingredients to the Transition model and, like any interesting recipe, these ingredients are not designed to be followed slavishly. In the hands of a creative “chef,” sometimes you’ll switch the order around, substitute certain items, change the emphasis or add some spice! And that’s what Transition Initiatives are doing – taking these ingredients and adapting them to local conditions.
Here’s the basics (for the more detailed version, click here)
1. Set up a steering group and design its demise/transformation from the outset
2. Start raising awareness
3. Lay the foundations
4. Organize a Great Unleashing
5. Form theme (or special interest) groups
6. Use Open Space
7. Develop visible practical manifestations of the project
8. Facilitate the Great Re-skilling
9. Build a bridge to Local Government
10. Honor the elders
11. Let it go where it wants to go…
12. Create an Energy Descent Action Plan
There are groups currently looking at how the Transition Initiative might develop as it goes into the EDAP implementation phase. One crucial element looks like the creation of “social enterprises”. These could be community-owned enterprises primarily designed to rebuild resilience in the local economy. This would be done by delivering benefits to local people as opposed to providing profit for absentee stockholders with minimal concern about the environmental costs.
No. While we’d love to appear as saviors and present you with a roadmap to a green tomorrow, that’s not Transition’s way. What Transition presents is a “toolbox”, a set of exercises and ideas and concepts that have worked well for others. It involves identifying and marshaling the creative forces of our community, creating an EDAP (Energy-Descent Action Plan) and then implementing it. It only works when it actively engages people at the local level, in terms and condition appropriate to their landbase.
To this end, we’re building a range of materials, training courses, events, tools & techniques, resources and a general support capability to help our community grow.
Working with the many transition groups, the Transition Network has established a living set of criteria that gives them an indication as to how ready a community is to embark on the journey to a lower energy future. Here’s how to go about becoming “official” in the UK:
- Have a careful read of the Transition initiatives primer
- Add the initiative to the initiatives directory. You will be automatically classified as ‘mulling it over’. You will not have a number yet as they are for official initiatives only.
- Make sure your core team have registered themselves on the system and add details about themselves with a short biography – it’s been incredibly useful to understand what kind of people make a successful initiative. At least four please. Ask them to let you know their usernames so that you can add them to the initiative profile.
- Relate your core team to your initiative profile. You do this by adding their usernames in the initiative admin section. (Sounds technical but is truly a piece of cake).
- Make sure that you have added a good amount of information on your initiative profile. Things that need to be completed are:
- initiative name
- community type (rural, urban etc.)
- initiative type (local initiative, co-ordinating hub etc.)
- primary point of contact (on the contact form and for Transition Network)
- approximate number of people wanting to be part of the initiative (the ‘members’ input box)
- core team (at least 4)
- website (if none, no panic, your initiative profile is a good starting point)
- approximate community size (ie population): in the ‘further information’ box
- Download and complete the criteria response form and attach it to your initiative profile (sounds technical, but dead easy).
- Then send a notification to Ben, the co-founder and ‘overseer of official-ness’ asking him to review your initiative profile for “official” status. If you include a link to your profile page, it’ll make it easier for him to review it.
- Ben will review, assess, ponder, think and generally apply his wisdom to the situation and be in touch with you…
For US-based groups (which we are…)
US-based groups have a similar process which is managed by the Transition US team. It is a similar process technically and the UK branch is working with them to smooth it all out, but for now email the Transition US team and use the form provided by Transition US here.
This slightly more formal approach to registering Transition Towns/villages evolved for a couple of key reasons:
- Trustees and funders want to make sure that while embryonic projects are actively nurtured, only those communities that are ready to move into the awareness raising stage are promoted. This status confers additional levels of support such as speakers, trainings, wiki and forums that the movement as a whole is currently rolling out
- In order to establish coordinated programs (such as combined funding bids) we need a formally established category of Transition Initiatives that everyone is fully confident can support and deliver against such programs.
- At least one community stalled because they didn’t have the right mindset or a suitable group of people, and didn’t really understand what they were letting themselves in for.
In 2005, Joanne Poyourow wrote the novel “Legacy: A Story of Hope for a Time of Environmental Crisis.” At the time Legacy was written (prior to the movie “An Inconvenient Truth”) global warming was an edgy topic in Los Angeles and Peak oil was completely taboo, cast off as the ideas of a few “fringe quacks.” Transition Towns did not yet exist.
In Legacy, the fictional characters gathered periodically in a support group that they came to call “Legacy LA.” Melanie F, Joanne’s neighbor and one of Legacy’s early readers, declared “I want to belong to a group like that!” Soon Environmental Change-Makers was formed.
Environmental Change-Makers braved the topic of sustainability in very mainstream urban Southern California audiences. It introduced Permaculture ideas including David Holmgren’s principles, and it created a circle where it was okay for mainstream Angelenos to learn about new paradigms.
In September 2008, the Environmental Change-Makers held a “Life After Oil” series of events to try out Hopkins’ exercises and explore post-petroleum ideas in Los Angeles. The series’ full-day session drew attendees from Paso Robles, Santa Barbara, Frasier Park, San Fernando Valley, and Laguna Beach. For many attendees, Transition ideas were a brilliant new discovery.
As the UK Transition Network was coming into being, Boulder Colorado hosted the United States’ first official Transition Trainings. Environmental Change-Makers member Vidya C heard about the Training for Transition (T4T) in San Francisco, but San Francisco had yet to decide on a site. Joanne joked to Vidya that perhaps the site for the San Francisco training should be on Beach Avenue in Marina del Rey (Vidya’s Los Angeles facility). The next day, Vidya contacted the Transition Network and scheduled a Los Angeles stop on the training’s World Tour.
The rest, as they say, is history.
In December 2008, the Environmental Change-Makers in West L.A. hosted Southern California’s first-ever official Transition Training (T4T).
Sophy Banks and Naresh Giangrande were our trainers. There were 35 attendees, from Ojai, Santa Barbara, San Fernando Valley, West LA, South Bay, Laguna Beach, Pasadena, and Palm Springs. There were also guests from Tucson, AZ and southeastern Ohio.
Bruce Woodside (North Hollywood) and Bill Maxwell (North Hills) were the attendees from the Valley and in late 2009, pulled together the resources to jumpstart the first Valley steering committee.
Yes, we’re all in this together but by communicating together, by networking, we can share information, analyze mistakes and prevent ourselves from duplicating effort. In a world where energy is going to get scarcer, the importance of this cannot be overstated.
And the truth is, we don’t want you to abandon what your doing to “come to Transition”. We want you to bring your passion!
Yep, we’ve had people walk in the door and say “I don’t believe in this Global Warming thing.” “I don’t believe in oil.” Here’s the best advice I can think of:
- Keep an open mind. You can see opportunities better that way.
- What’s your limit? What will it take for you to change a belief?
- We’re all in this together. And if that’s true, what are you passionate about? If you don’t “believe” in anything, but LOVE permaculture gardening or environmental engineering or replicating 18th century technology or… or… or… why SHOULDN’T you talk to us? We like that stuff too!
Practically all of us have been there. That awful feeling that “time’s up!” “there’s nothing you can do.” or that one line “Game over man!” And we can do nothing more — or less — than support you through this time that many of us have been through too.
But consider this. Human creativity got us into this mess. Shouldn’t we give human creativity a chance to get us out? That what Transition gave us: a framework to start to build on, a chance to do what we do best — invent.
We’re here to make a new story, a new legacy. And we’re inviting you to be a part of it right now.
You’ll see a couple of themes repeated time and time again on this site (and in the movement). Who are your neighbors? What is your relationship with the land? What is your passion?
We’re here to reshape our local environment and we need to learn about it first. I can’t help you with your place because it’s not mine. You live there. So only you can bring in your experience of your local area to the table. And that’s exciting!
Then your passion — that wonderful set of unique skills and joy you bring to the group — what a blessing it is! There’s nothing else like it; oh, you may meet people who are very similar to you, at various levels of knowledge or experience. But only you have that specific package which will of use in restoring our Valley.
So what can you bring to Transition? You could bring connections or businesses or non-profits or governments or experience or friends or resources to Transition. But the important piece we’d like? That would be you.
We truly don’t know if this will work.
Transition is a social experiment on a massive scale. What we are convinced of is this:
- if we wait for the governments, it’ll be too little, too late
- if we act as individuals, it’ll be too little
- but if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time.
Everything that you read on this site is the result of real work undertaken in the real world with community engagement at its heart. There’s not an ivory tower in sight, no professors in musty oak-paneled studies churning out erudite papers, no slavish adherence to a model carved in stone.
This site, just like the transition model, is brought to you by people who are actively engaged in transition in a community. People who are learning by doing – and learning all the time. People who understand that we can’t sit back and wait for someone else to do the work. People like you, perhaps… would you come talk to us? We’re here and ready for you!