Transition Culture

An Evolving Exploration into the Head, Heart and Hands of Energy Descent

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22 Jul 2008

Shaping the Transition Network: your thoughts please…

Over the last couple of months, as an outcome of the Transition Strategy Day in Bristol in April, Peter Lipman and myself have been putting together a document which explores how the Transition Network, both as the formal organisation and as the wider movement, might structure itself, entitled The Transition Network: a Proposal for Structure. The resultant document is now ready for wider consultation, and we are very keen to hear your feedback. We think it is a historic document of great importance to the future of where this whole Transition thing goes… You can download the pdf. of the document here, and you are invited to post any feedback, comments, suggestions or additions here (rather than email them to us), or leave them as comments below. Thank you!

** Update ** The date has now been set for a discussion day on the contents of this document. It will be held on Wednesday 10th September at The Full Moon in Bristol, and anyone who is involved in Transition initiatives and who wants to input into this document is welcome. It will run from 11pm until 4pm. See you there! (note change of venue).

Categories: General

Comments are now closed on this site, please visit Rob Hopkins' blog at Transition Network to read new posts and take part in discussions.


Greg deJong
22 Jul 2:55pm

This sentence struck me as being particularly poignant and multi-layered, in discussing the wholesale changes necessary to humanity’s ways:

“Don’t bite off more than you can chew.”

Aesop would be impressed!

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Josef Davies-Coates
23 Jul 3:52am

I’ve just started reading the document although I’m only on page 10 I can thoroughly recommend others read it too – its good stuff! 🙂

Josef Davies-Coates
23 Jul 6:31am


I’m very excited.

I mean, I was excited as soon as I read about the Knowledge Management position back on page 4.

It may sound sad, but I manage knowledge for fun 🙂

Anyway, I started to think about what I’d do given the opportunity.

Then, I read:

“* Host the collaborative rewrite of ‘The Transition Handbook’ using a wiki approach, with the original book serving as the basis for a gathering of tools, stories, experience and insight from across the Transition

“* The new web platform will be designed with this as a central aspiration”

This really made me smile 😀

(in part because I think its something I can claim partial credit for and therefore can sleep well at night knowing I’m contributing something useful!)

Anyway, as I thought about what I’d do if I were the Transition Network Knowledge Manager I thought about doing it in two stages, firstly to scope the possibilities, identifying the best way of achieving the goals – something I spend A LOT of my time doing anyway – and secondly to put together a detailed Request for Proposals and put it out to tender.

Then, on page 29 I read “thinking at this stage is that the funding for this post might be used in two stages, firstly for someone to scope the
possibilities, identifying the best way of achieving what is set out below, and secondly for someone to implement what they have come up with.”

I was pretty much flabagasted.

How does one apply for the Knowledge Management position? 😀

PS – I already work part-time as part of an impressive technical team at The Hub (lead by co-directors of United Diversity, incidentally) working to an pretty much identical web platform brief.

We’re starting with all the standard knowledge sharing basics but part of our plan is to make online collaborative meetings a reality with drag and drop audio/ video conferences coupled with real-time versions of stuff like thinkature and gliffy!

Some of our short terms plans can be seen here. 🙂

We’re currently using plone 3 and a moving towards pure zope 3 like our friends at

Personally, I’m a big fan of Drupal (and my friend at Code Positive are leaders of the Drupal UK community.

But, as Angie Byron aka webchick (a leading light of the Drupal world) points out here php is not really a “proper language” like python (what most coders at google prefer to use).

Joerg (currently leading plone 3 development for The Hub and also working with Gary Alexander, co-founder of The Open Co-op on spent 8+ years as a PHP coder and did lots of Drupal work for (whose work on “Network Distribution Services” and Web2POD (Print on Demand) could really help with plans for “Transition Times”) but now only likes to code in python.

Many others and doing the feel the same, and for good reasons.

23 Jul 7:23am

Hi Josef,
Thanks for that…. struck me reading it how fast things change in our world. Imagine if 4 years ago you had told someone that a friend of yours “coupled with real-time versions of stuff like thinkature and gliffy” and “now only likes to code in python”. Well actually I confess I still have no idea what you are talking about, but presumably some people do…I still talk to older people for whom spam is a processed meat that comes in tins.
Thanks for that, I’ll make sure Ben has a look at it (he understands that thinkature and gliffy are…I think.)

Josef Davies-Coates
23 Jul 11:30am

Hehe, Thanks Rob, 🙂

I couldn’t help but notice that the role has lots of overlap with Ben’s existing job description so I guess whoever gets it will be working with him very closely 🙂 (don’t want to step on his toes!)

FYI, thinkature and gliffy allow people to collaboratively draw mind maps and the like on the web, and python is a very powerful programming language. 🙂

/me keeps his eyes peeled for details of application procedure…


Mark Forskitt
25 Jul 6:48am

I can’t help thinking the appropriate approach for a transition network would be to have 3 or 4 part-time geographically distributed knowledge managers. We don’t want a single point of failure especailly when we talk so much about resilience in the rest of Transition Culture. Same goes for the infrastructure and hardware.

john thackara
25 Jul 7:27am

I can understand why someone to take care of knowledge management is a priority:so many ideas! so important not to reinvent wheels!

May one sound a cautionary note? Companies spent tens of millions of dollars on ‘knowledge management’ a few years back. They filled up huge databases (including, yes, wikis and the like) with priceless stories, cases and and models. But their money and work was mostly wasted because they ended up with just too much knowledge for people to cope with. Their knowledge ended up managed, tagged, and stored – but not used.

You might consider looking for a a web-savvy journalist (rather than someone formally trained as a knowledge manager) when filling the positions. Journos care mainly about stuff being read, not about it being stored. After that, you might think about looking for a trained librarian with a lot of front line experience working face-to-face with citizens: they’re great at interpreting imprecise requests; they can link divergent sources that metatags don’t; and above all librarians nurture the social relationships which are surely what Transition is all about.

Josef Davies-Coates
25 Jul 10:00am

I’m inclined to agree with Mark above.

I think someone needs to lead the effort and take overall responsibility of making sure key stuff gets done, but a distributed team of expert knowledge managers all working together would be ideal (and what I’d hope to get established were I to get the opportunity 🙂 )

Indeed, I’ve got a few people in mind who I think would be excellent for the job (assuming they are interested)…

Janet Millington
25 Jul 10:49am

It is so important that those who say (or tell their community)they are working towards becoming a Transition Town thoroughly know the full depth and scope of that action. It would be a shame if the name was used but not the full and properly developed successful model put in place. In that case the movement could be measured by slow and laboured success or even failure.

The Transition Town concept is brilliant and very effective. Watered down half hearted copies will lessen the take up by other towns.

I see your thinking is really clear and I like the organic model. Sonya and I haven’t had time to take it in or even talk yet and think through application in several senarios in our context. That will take quite some time. And things are moving exponentially here. They change and grow daily so many of the possible scenarios are only just showing some early potential.

What I want to say now is that I am so proud to be involved and that although our situations are very different that the principles are the same.

My concern in Australia is that when a Transition innitiative starts how do we ensure it adheres to the principles which are flexible enough to cater for many different situations? This may best be done by access to support. How do we ensure we are all acting in accord under the same banner? How do we support any innitiatives at risk of failing?

Chris Cook
25 Jul 1:57pm

The last thing you need IMHO is a Transition “organisation” because what you will invariably get as development takes place is “capture” by the competent managers necessary for scalable and cross border development.

This is inherent in the nature of the “Company” legal form, whether or not it is “For Profit”, and is known as the “Principal/Agency” problem.

This conflict is exacerbated by another conflict with finaciers such as banks whenever development funding is necessary because of the inherent conflicts between interests of lenders and borrowers.

These conflicts are inherent in conventional “enterprise models”.

I have been working with a Scottish charity – Nordic Enterprise Trust – with a little funding from the Norwegian government agency Innovation Norway.

We have been developing the “partnership-based” solutions I was working on with Josef and Gary Alexander a few years ago (ie the “Open Coop”).

I believe that it is quite straightforward to create a “Transition Partnership” – using a UK Limited Liability Partnership (“LLP”) as a framework – within which the various stakeholders cooperate (possibly across borders) to achieve Transition Aims.

The existing Transition company – probably converted to a Community Interest Company purely for the “asset lock” – would be what I call a “Custodian” member which would “own” as “steward” whatever intellectual property there is in the Transition concept.

Other stakeholders could then invest either money or “money’s worth” of (say) intellectual property, and receieve an agreed revenue share alongside the “Operating members” who actually do the work and put this capital to work.

25 Jul 10:13pm

Hi, A hot, humid, muggy night in a suburb of Tokyo – I try not to use the air conditioner to save energy – the temperature at 3am inside my room is 29 degrees C – I wake up in a sweat with a slight headache at 3am and can’t get back to sleep so I start thinking about Transition stuff in preparation for next Tuesday and Wednesday when we’ll have an all-Japan gathering of Transition Initiators (about 10 people will meet for a 2 days of discussion on how best to introduce the Transition Town concept to local communities in Japan and to create alignment around a shared sense of purpose).

I thought the Proposal for Structure document is really good but I was not really satisfied with the Purpose of Transition statement or Mission statement. For me the essence of Transition is moving step by step from A to B – moving from vulnerability and negative consequences to local resilience and a positive future vision.

I think we need a statement of purpose
that includes the day to day concerns that the
‘the man in the street’ can relate to
ie. the end of cheap oil & food,
climate change and global economic contraction.

In the early hours of this morning I came up with the following statement of purpose
– it is a bit long but see what you think:

The purpose of Transition Network

to help communities and organizations around the world
to unleash their own creative, innovative and collaborative potential

thereby enabling communities
to move from the vulnerability and negative consequences
associated with the end of cheap oil & food, climate change
and global economic contraction

to living a positive of vision of
a more resilient, self-reliant, enjoyable,
practically-skilled, community-spirited future
based on a vibrant, low-carbon, post cheap-oil, re-localized economy.

PS. magically the room temperature is now (7am) a more comfortable 26 degrees C and my headache has gone.

Thanks, Paul

Gary Alexander
31 Jul 10:36pm

Hi all, I’m flattered that my name has been mentioned twice above. Great stuff from Josef and Chris Cook. I hope his ideas about legal structures are taken seriously. He’s the man who knows about this.

Paul’s statement of purpose is long, but really begins to capture the essence of the vision a lot better than the current one.

I’ve made longer comments (about 2 A4 pages worth) on the Model, Purpose, Principles and Snapshot in 2011 which I’ve posted on Diss Connected .

I’ll make comments on the Knowledge Management post and spec very soon. By the way, I am hoping that Diss Connected will soon become a prototype for much of what is planned.

Mari Shackell
3 Aug 4:25pm

For those of us who can’t always get along to the big national meetings but want to keep updated with the wider UK Transition Movement, could we have an e-newsletter (like PAB send out) with events, news, weblinks etc, direct to our inbox?

Steering Group
Transition Whitstable, Kent

Steve Penny
28 Aug 2:21pm

What I like about Paul’s suggestion for a purpose statement is that it attempts to define “transition”, which must surely describe what we are moving both from and to. If only it were shorter.

Mari Shackell
30 Aug 1:45pm

The “Proposal for Structure” is a very long and closely written document and it is therefore difficult to comment on it in a few words. My “seat of the pants” response is that successful structures evolve, rather than just being designed from the top down, and that the best way to assess what is happening and what is needed is by asking individual Transition groups for more specific feedback.

I think it would be useful to develop a consultation document (survey / questionnaire) asking questions on particular points and inviting those interested or involved to comment.

Steering Group, Transition Whitstable, Kent

Nicola Beglin
1 Sep 7:23pm

firstly thanks for all the efforts that have gone in to preparing “A Proposal for Structure”. I’ve only just discovered the document so have not read it properly but my immediate reaction is that we need some kind of mechanism for keeping transition initiatives informed. I hate to sound critical, but it would have been helpful to have had some communication about this – just to ensure that we read it and comment, this has to be a priority for a network to work. I assume you have all the official initiatives contact details and could ask us all to look at the document, rather than just hope that we tune in to the transition culture website. 10th September is not too far away!

T Barnard
2 Sep 6:43pm

11pm – 4pm? Are you sure about that?

I was just about to add it as an event to the TB website, but perhaps you could clarify the time?

[…] they published a strategy document – The Transition Network: a Proposal for Structure, and were asking for further input, which you could add […]

Marcus Perrin
9 Sep 11:34am

Thank you Rob (and Peter) for creating this draft and making it available for comment to the wider network. Sorry we can’t make a representative available in Bristol this week. Please accept this submission on behalf of Transition Chepstow.

Here we go……

Overall, the document is a good start towards defining the network. The document would benefit from a revised structure, using simpler and more direct language. The document would benefit from being much shorter, but containing references to other proposed policies and procedures, as necessary. The structure should separate and (include only where relevant) specific policies, procedures and educational material.
Quotes add variety and interest but should be used more sparingly. The idea of creating a biological theme/comparisons is good.
Technical/scientific terms should, however, be used with care. The concept of developing a ‘master’ plan for an initiative is recognised. However, not all communities may want to use the term Energy Descent Plan’ e.g. they may choose ‘Transition Plan’. Can this be recognised in the document?

Pg3 ‘possible models, viable systems, sociocracy, parecon…..’ – Is this detail essential? If yes, could a these models be explained in simpler terms?
‘..from biology ‘autopoiesis’…’ suggest removing from text.

Pg 5 Definition of terms is very useful. ‘Dramatis Personae’ term considered unnecessary. Add definitions for ‘resilience’, ‘carbon cutting’, ‘energy descent action plan’/Transition Plan’.

Pg6 The idea of a graphical representation of the network is a good one. The proposed model is explained well however the rings representing Transition Network and the ‘creative edge’ could be seen as containing/constraining the ‘network’ . Is there another analogy that could be used to represent the network that would characterise the growing, spreading, nature of the network and that would be more accessible to people e.g. a vine, tree etc ?

Pg7 ‘best practice’ to read ‘good practice’

Pg8 The first and second definitions of purpose are considered improvements on the existing definition.

Pg9 Positive Visioning – campaigning may be for needs/requirements laid out in Transition Plans.

‘telling people’ to read ‘sharing with people’

The Transition Movement will create history – ‘The generation of new stories and myth…’ does not need to be said.

‘Usual suspects’ – can we use a different term here?

Web platform = Website?

Inner and Outer Transition – Suggest describing the need to learn and understand belief systems which can lead to developing trust and community.

Remove ‘Subsidiarity’

Openness for Peer to Peer feedback to read ‘Openness to Feedback’
Suggest noting that feedback can also be affirming and generate confidence.

Pg 11 Transition makes sense – could this be better defined as currently it is too open to interpretation. Suggest reference is made to the fact that national and global action is important in the overall picture (to compliment community action).

Pg12 Could an initiative lose its official status? What behaviours would result in an Initiative losing its official status? What is the process that would be followed?

Pg13 Additional principles…
Could 2 and 4 be combined?
Initiating groups – can we recognise that some groups may change/evolve away form their initial structure rather than go through ‘demise’.

Additional Principles for Transition District Initiatives; Can register with Transition Network when there are two or more official initiatives within the district.
Use technology ways or working together that minimise the carbon footprint of the Initiative e.g. teleconferencing

Regional Networks;Could we take more simply about regional initiatives, describing the variety of forms they may take but put less emphasis on the detail of these different forms.

National Transition Organisations;Please mention the developing Welsh Network in this section.
Can we list the potential benefits that National Networks can bring? E.g. larger scale integration (transport), developing the cultural identity of the network, working with distinct legal frameworks

Pg18; Very clear and informative description of the Networks role.Can we drop the use of ‘Ltd’ in the body of the document (if we have explained the Ltd nature in the definitions)?

Pg19;Ebay feature not considered appropriate.

Pg22;How are the 4 new people elected?

Pg 23; A vision/snapshot is valuable and the content is good. Is 2013 a more realistic timeframe?
Why are there differing terms used for the National initiatives?
What is a Local Transition Initiative – can we define this somewhere?

Pg24; ‘the five psychological stages of grief……….’ – suggest this is too much detail for the Snapshot

Pg36; Can the MoU operate for 2 or 3 years? One year isn’t long enough to make significant progress within a National Initiative.

Pg39; Should the Network Constitution contain overarching statements on environmental, social and ethical standards (to compliment the UN declaration). Data protection, confidentiality?

Pg 44; Borrowing – please expand this section. Will ethical borrowing/investment principles be followed?

Pg45; Who is the Chief Executive?

Thanks again for the opportunity to comment.

Marcus Perrin
Coordinator Transition Chepstow

11 Sep 10:27am

Thanks for all these folks… Mari, we are working on this as we speak… should be up and running soon, rubbish really that it hasn’t happened thus far, but we’re on it… you should be getting a questionnaire soon about it…

Gary Alexander
14 Sep 7:51pm

At the Bristol meeting I offered to prepare a revised version of the Snapshot in 2011 section, which I have now done. It is on the wiki at .

What do people think?


Jim Miller
16 Sep 5:14am

Josef aptly puts the collaboration threashold issue in a neat box:

“We’re starting with all the standard knowledge sharing basics but part of our plan is to make online collaborative meetings a reality with drag and drop audio/ video conferences coupled with real-time versions of stuff like thinkature and gliffy!”

Comment 1:

I have tried to pick tools which accomplish the above. Thus far, I can recommend: for the wiki. Hosting is free (with ads), is reasonably well constructed and supported. For meeting notices and mailing lists, I use Meeting Wizard:

My research notes are collect at: I reviewed many of the commercially available software packages and gear needed for the fully supported video confernece in the participatory virtual cafe setting. Please join me on the wiki and add your comments. Please click on “join” (upper right corner) of the home page:

Comment 2:

We could break the transition to sustainability problem into several parts (tables, rooms, pages, threads) in some organized manner without being too picky. I’ll volunteer to head the straw bale construction and algal oil-to-biodiesel discussion. I’m also an expert on regulatory barriers to affordable housing and affordable intentional communities.

Comment 3.

The first substantive task is to realize we need to set a goal for sustainability in terms of kilowatt hours of consumption per year per person. The world average is about 7800. The U.S. Average is about 25,000 Kwhr/yr/person. The first issue is: How many Kwhr/yr/person is considered to be sustainable? Do we want a target of 10,000 which is probably achievable? The higher, the less probability of achievement. If we plan for sustanability at 18,000 and we only achieve 11,000 are most of our sustainabilitry plans going into the trash can?

What ever the target we pick, just how, exactly, are we going to achieve the goal? How will we know if we are on track as we go along? When we get “there” how will we recongize the “there”?

These are the big questions.

Jim Miller