What is Transition? What a question! “Transition” is a shortening of “Transition Towns” or the “Transition Towns Movement” and is an approach to becoming active in your community – making change in how we live, where we live . It’s very much about thinking globally and acting locally.

Transition is about people in communities across the world getting together, coming up with ideas for their local area and owning the permission to make them happen. 

Let’s unpack that a bit…

Transition started about 15 years ago in Totnes, Devon. a group of local people brought the idea of applying permaculture principles to local communities – what would it be like if we got together and started doing stuff with people care, earth care and fair share ethics at the centre and with the global narrative of climate change ever present. 

The idea caught on, a support organisation (Transition Network) was born, resources were written and shared online and before you know, Transition was the invitation loads of communities were needing at that time to take action. Now there are over 280 groups in the UK and Transition groups can be found in over 15 countries around the world in wildly differing cultural, social, economic and environmental contexts. But let’s be patient in telling the story…

Transition Towns started with the idea of just getting on and doing stuff, the spirit of celebration, of unleashing the ingenuity  of communities and the power of saying “yes and…” rather than “yes, but…” 

Along the way, Transition activists were quick to realise that self reflection, wellbeing and personal self care had to be given time as well. The idea of bringing our whole selves – Head, Hands and Heart – to local action felt essential and started a deep enquiry into “how” as well as “what” we do… 

Transition’s empowering invitation provided a rich mix of nutrients to grow local stories – in Tooting, this resulted early on in the extraordinary Trashcatchers Carnival, for example – but came with friendly critiques. As a largely volunteer led idea, who are the people able to volunteer? As ambition grew, who are excluded? As groups started to express themselves, what power structures were appearing? How were decisions getting made? And beyond the local – as the International Hubs scene started to develop, how is the International voice being heard?

Transition Principles and how we apply them.

  • Starting with ideas of subsidiarity – placing power at the most democratised and distributed level – we worked with proposal based project development and practiced letting go of the idea of a “perfect” project, we asked “is it good enough for now and safe enough to try?”
  • We respect resource limits and create resilience, exploring what that means locally in Tooting.
  • We promote inclusivity and social justice, working on our processes and with partners to make our projects relevant to the place where we live.
  • We pay attention to balance, respecting the time and energy of those involved and the moments we have to step away to recharge…
  • We are part of an experimental learning network and enjoy the nourishment of projects from outside Tooting as well contributing to the hive mind and rich communities of practice by sharing our experiences too.
  • We collaborate and look for synergies. Tooting is such a vibrant and active place when it comes to engaged citizens, we’d be fools not to seek out partnerships and work regularly with CARAS, BATCA, Mushkil Aasaan  and many more.
  • We foster positive visioning and creativity in everything we do – from large scale public events such as our annual Foodival, the Tooting Twirl and the Tour de Tooting, to creative engagement with local school children at the Community Garden and our contribution to local campaigning such as Forever Fishponds, we are always active in exploring a positive vision of abundance.

All these principles, like so many things in Transition, are not tasks to be done, but processes to be enjoyed and challenges to be embraced. In 2021, Transition groups and support organisations are increasingly looking at ways to ally with social justice campaigners and activists, recognising that there is so much work to be done – there is no climate justice without social justice. Check out our Call to Action below and read more about the Characteristics of Transition in this blog from Sarah McAdam.