Transition in practice

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Evolution of the Transition Approach

The Transition approach has developed incrementally as it is applied, tested and refined over time. As different places adopt and use the model they adapt it to local circumstances and experiment with new ideas and methods, with varying degrees of success and failure. Learning from these experiences feeds back into the network at events, workshops, visits and tours, via reports, articles, books, videos and other media, and through training and other forms of formal and informal learning. This allows others to, in turn, use them in their own work and feed their experiences back into the collective pool of knowledge and information. In this way, Transition aspires to operate as a learning network. Notwithstanding conceptual refinement, broadening of perspective and methodological evolution, Transition's core philosophy of local communities self-organising to take constructive action for sustainable prosperity and wellbeing, influenced by common principles has remained consistent.

Transition draws upon a wide and eclectic range of influences and sources. Hopkins has described the key influences on his initial formulation of Transition as being David Holmgren's permaculture principles[1], Richard Heinberg's analysis of peak oil [2].and David Fleming's sociocultural critique and vision for a more human- and place-centred society[3]. As Transition took shape in Totnes and elsewhere, its philosophy became shaped by understandings of climate change, the concept of resilience - particularly as developed by the Resilience Alliance, and the alternative economic ideas of thinkers like E.F. Schumacher and Tim Jackson and organisations like the New Economics Foundation. Methodologically, it adopted social technologies like Open Space and World Cafe and tools for non-hierarchical and decentralised collaboration such as sociocracy and holocracy. Perhaps most significantly, it also embedded into its core approach Inner Transition (often referred to as Heart and Soul): a recognition of the need for often profound inner change that accompanies acceptance of the scale of the challenges faced by humanity, the responsibility of stepping up to make a difference, and the need to navigate often difficult personal and interpersonal dynamics, an original theory of the psychological and cultural dimensions of change, and a methodology based on the work of Joanna Macy, Chris Johnstone and others.

The evolution of the Transition methodology is evident over a series of books by Hopkins and others released by Transition Network, and accompanying resources. Hopkins' first book, The Transition Handbook, released in 2008, introduced the 'Twelve steps of Transition', a series of suggested milestones in the development of a Transition Initiative[4]. Over the next few years, partly in response to suggestions that this was too uniform or prescriptive (or at least had been treated as such in some cases) this was superceded by the 'Ingredients of Transition', influenced by Christopher Alexander's work on pattern languages. Introduced at the 2010 Transition Network conference and the basis of the 2011 book The Transition Companion, the ingredients consist of a series of techniques proven by experience to be flexibly effective in a range of different local contexts.

During the time between the release of the Transition Handbook and The Transition Companion, Transition Network released a series of how-to books addressing specific thematic areas: local food, alternative currencies, green building, and working with local councils. These topics illustrate subject areas of particular interest to Transition intiatives at the time, which in some cases persists to the present day. In other cases, as Transition has spread and diversified local groups have focussed on other core concerns, such as social regeneration in Brazilian favelas. Hopkins' most recent books on Transition have focused on exemplary case studies and stories of exemplary initiatives and projects.[5][6]

The main current practical guide on Transition is based on a distillation of the Ingredients and various other materials into a single more focussed document, The Essential Guide to Doing Transition.[7]...

Seven Essential Ingredients of Transition

Inner Transition


A significant trend has been the emergence since the 2010 Transition Network conference of the REconomy approach, with a focus on enterprise as a key vehicle of Transition. In the Reconomy model, Transition-inspired social enterprises both provide a means for practitioners to develop livelihoods based on their work and enable a reshaping of local economies along Transition lines. Examples of such enterprises include community energy companies, food growers, bakeries, bicycle workshops and complementary currencies[8].


  1. Holmgren, D., 2002. Permaculture: principles and pathways beyond sustainability. Melliodora: Holmgren Design Services.
  2. Heinberg, R., 2004. The party's over: oil, war, and the fate of industrial societies. Gabriola Island: New Society Publishers.
  3. Fleming, D., 2016. Surviving the future. Culture, carnival and capital in the aftermath of the market economy. White River Junction: Chelsea Green
  4. Hopkins, R., 2008. The Transition handbook. Totnes: Green Books
  5. Hopkins, R., 2013. The power of just doing stuff. Cambridge: Green Books/IUT.
  6. Hopkins, R., 2015. 21 stories of Transition. Totnes: Transition Network
  7. Hopkins, R., and M. Thomas, 2016. The Essential Guide to Doing Transition. Totnes: Transition Network.
  8. Ward, F., 2013. The new economy in 20 enterprises. Reconomy Project, Totnes, Devon.