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What is the Transition Network?

Towards a happy, healthy and resilient Walthamstow

Pioneering architect and designer Buckminster Fuller wrote: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, create a new model that makes the existing models obsolete.”

The Transition Network aims to create a new model for our society.

The Transition Network has its origins in a student assignment set by permaculture designer Rob Hopkins. The idea was to apply the principles of permaculture to the concept of ‘peak oil’ – the hypothetical point in time when the maximum rate of global oil production is reached, after which production will begin an irreversible decline.

The resulting project looked at creative adaptations in the areas of energy production, health, education, economy and agriculture as a ‘road map’ to a sustainable future; two students, Louise Rooney and Catherine Dunne, came up with the Transition Towns concept.

Hopkins moved to Totnes, in Devon, where he began to develop these ideas into the transition model. In early 2006, Transition Town Totnes was founded, becoming an inspiration for other Transition initiatives.

The network itself is a loosely affiliated, autonomous series of initiatives across the UK and the wider world. The groups are community led, working towards a low-carbon, socially just future. What each group looks like and how it functions differs depending on the needs of the local community.

Today, the network has moved away from peak oil, to address instead our changing world in the face of climate breakdown. It is looking at what we need to do in order to transition to a new lifestyle in the wake of these changes.

The Transition approach is about forging a positive future that inspires, instead of dwelling on problems – harnessing hope instead of fear. By developing a constructive response to the pressures of climate change, fossil fuel depletion and economic contraction, we can help create a vibrant and sustainable future for local people.

Local Transition groups are looking to the changes we need to make to rebuild our world. They might be setting up renewable energy projects, re-localising food systems, or creating community and green spaces.

In 2009, Transition Network UK became a registered charity to help support the Transition initiatives emerging around the world. Each of the Transition groups and hubs remains independent, while the charity works with and alongside these grass-roots movements.

The charity aims to amplify stories of community-led change, facilitate sharing of knowledge and skills, identify common needs and possibilities, and curate and develop tools, training and resources. It cultivates peer-to-peer support and builds capacity across the movement.

The Transition Network approach is based on eight guiding principles. These are:

  1. We respect resource limits and create resilience – the urgent need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, greatly reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and make wise use of precious resources is at the forefront of everything we do.

  2. We promote inclusivity and social justice – the most disadvantaged and powerless people in our societies are likely to be worst affected by rising fuel and food prices, resource shortages and extreme weather events. We want to increase the chances of all groups in society to live well, healthily and with sustainable livelihoods.

  3. We adopt subsidiarity (self-organisation and decision making at the appropriate level) – the intention of the Transition model is not to centralise or control decision making, but rather to work with everyone so that it is practised at the most appropriate, practical and empowering level

  4. We pay attention to balance – in responding to urgent, global challenges, individuals and groups can end up feeling stressed, closed or driven rather than open, connected and creative. We create space for reflection, celebration and rest to balance the times when we’re busily getting things done. We explore different ways of working which engage our heads, hands and hearts and enable us to develop collaborative and trusting relationships.

  5. We are part of an experimental, learning network – Transition is a real-life, real-time global social experiment. Being part of a network means we can create change more quickly and more effectively, drawing on each other’s experiences and insights. We want to acknowledge and learn from failure as well as success – if we’re going to be bold and find new ways of living and working, we won’t always get it right first time. We will be open about our processes and will actively seek and respond positively to feedback.

  6. We freely share ideas and power – Transition is a grassroots movement, where ideas can be taken up rapidly, widely and effectively because each community takes ownership of the process themselves. Transition looks different in different places and we want to encourage rather than unhelpfully constrain that diversity.

  7. We collaborate and look for synergies – the Transition approach is to work together as a community, unleashing our collective genius to have a greater impact together than we can as individuals. We will look for opportunities to build creative and powerful partnerships across and beyond the Transition movement and develop a collaborative culture, finding links between projects, creating open decision-making processes and designing events and activities that help people make connections.

  8. We foster positive visioning and creativity – our primary focus is not on being against things, but on developing and promoting positive possibilities. We believe in using creative ways to engage and involve people, encouraging them to imagine the future they want to inhabit. The generation of new stories is central to this visioning work, as is having fun and celebrating success.

You can find out more about the Transition Network on its website. Transition Walthamstow aims to reflect these principles and the network’s community-based approach to building a more sustainable, resilient world. Read more about us here.

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