the transition model

this text is an extract from the 'The Transition Handbook' of Rob Hopkins


There are six principles that define what is distinctive about the transition concept.



In the context of these six principles, visioning refers tot he fact that the transition approach has, as a fundamental principle, the belief that we can only move towards something if we can imagine what it will be like when we get there. The vision we have in our mind when we set out on this work will go a long way towards determining where we will end up. Creating a clear and enticing vision of our desired outcome is a key principle of the transition process.


The scale of the challenge of peak oil and climate change cannot be addressed if we choose to stay within our comfort zone, if 'green' people only talk to other 'green people', business people only talk to other business people, and so on. The transition approach seeks to facilitate a degree of dialogue and inclusion that has rarely been achieved before, and has begun to develop some innovative ways of bringing this about. This is seen as one of the key principles simply because without it we have no chance of success.


The end of the oil age is a confusing time. We are constantly exposed to bewildering mixed messages. The media presents us with head-lines such as 'Steep decline in oil production brings rising risk of war and unrest, says new study', and 'carbon output rising faster than forecast, says study', yet at the same time advertising puts across the conflicting message that business as usual is the only way forward, that globalization is the only model that can feed the world, and that just buying this next thing will make us happy. Indeed the contrast can sometimes be striking, with an article about the melting of Arctic ice-sheets next to an advert for a new car or cheap flight.

The media to which we are increasingly exposed continually give out double messages, which can leave on feeling perplexed. Sometimes new transition initiatives feel that they don't need to do much awareness-rising because everyone must be aware of these issues by now, but it is essential to start with the assumption that people don't know anything about these issues. We need to assume no prior knowledge, and set out the case as clearly, accessibly and entertainingly as possible, giving people the key arguments in order to let them formulate their own responses.



In the section 'what is resilience' we explored the concept of resilience, but it is useful to restate at this point that the rebuilding of resilience is, alongside the need to move rapidly to a zero carbon society, central to the transition concept. Indeed, to do one without the other will fail to address either challenge.


psychological insights

Insights from psychology are also key to the transition model. It is understood that among the key barriers to engagement are the sense of powerlessness, isolation and overwhelm that environmental issues can often generate: These do not leave people in a place from which they can generate action, either as an individual or as a community. The transition model uses these insights firstly through the creation of a positive vision, secondly by creating safe spaces where people can talk, digest and feel how these issues affect them, and thirdly by affirming the steps and actions that  people have taken, and by designing into the process as any opportunities to celebrate successes as possible. This coming together - the sense of not being the only person out there who is aware of peak oil and climate change and who finds it scary - is very powerful. It enables people to feel part of a collective response, that they are part of something larger than themselves.


credible and appropriate solutions

It is important that transition initiatives, having laid out the peak oil and the climate change arguments, enable people to explore solutions of a credible scale. One of the reasons behind what we might call the 'light-bulb syndrome' is that people are often only able to conceive two scales of responses; individuals doing things in their homes, or the government acting on a national scale. The transition model explores the ground between these two: what could be achieved at a community level.


1. what is resilience?

2. rebuilding resilience

3. the transition model


4. how to start a transition initiative?


back to local level



Rob Hopkins (2008): The Transition Handbook: from oil dependency to local resilience, Green Books, p.141-142