Transition Bedford (TB) aims to be part of the Transition Network. Below is a great introductory 5 min video. Here’s the transition concept and principles (summarised below) and a website with loads about transition, peak oil and climate change, as well as, the Transition Handbook available for free to read, write and comment.

TB is a partnership initiative that seeks to engage all sectors of the community in addressing the greatest transition of our time: from oil dependency to a low energy and low carbon future . Its aim is to become a hub that supports and catalyses the diverse network of community driven groups, organisations, associates and individuals within the Borough of Bedford.

This blog post gives an insight into the geographical area of Transition Bedford and its comparison to the existing official Transition Initiative, Zero Carbon Castle, as well as other community grops, which are already very active within Bedford.

What are Transition Initiatives?

Transition Initiatives are an emerging and evolving approach to community-level sustainability, which is starting to appear in communities up and down the country. They are, to use a term coined by  Jeremy Leggett, “scalable microcosms of hope”.

Transition Initiatives are based on four key assumptions:

1. That life with dramatically lower energy consumption is inevitable, and that it’s better to plan for it than to be taken by

2. That our settlements and communities presently lack the resilience to enable them to weather the severe energy shocks that will accompany peak oil.
3. That we have to act collectively, and we have to act now.
4. That by unleashing the collective genius of those around us to creatively and proactively design our energy descent, we can build ways of living that are more connected, more enriching and that recognise the biological limits of our planet.

What are the philisophical underpinnings?


What are the principles that underpin the transition concept?

1. Visioning

In the context of these six principles, visioning refers to the 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.

2. Inclusion

The scale of the challenge of peak oil and climate change cannot be addressed if we choose to stay within our comfort zones, 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.

3. Awareness-raising

The media to which we are increasingly exposed continually give out double messages, which can leave one feeling perplexed. 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 flights. Sometimes new Transition Initiatives feel that they don’t need to do much awareness-raising 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.

4. Resilience

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.

5. 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 (see Principle 1), 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 many 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.

6. Credible and appropriate solutions

In the film Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire, Tim Bennett talks about what he calls the ‘happy chapter’ at the end of most environmental books, which spend nine chapters telling you how dreadful everything is, and one on the end with a few token solutions. Similarly, I have heard many a talk where the speaker has set out the scale of the climate challenge, and at the end has one slide about turning down our thermostats and changing our light bulbs. It is important that Transition Initiatives, having laid out the peak oil and 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 response; individuals doing things in their own 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.

The Project Support Project concept

One of the things that distinguishes the Transition approach is the concept of the Project Support Project (PSP). Ideally, we need Transition Initiatives to be self-organising, and able to harness the passion and enthusiasm that the process unleashes.

The Gaia Foundation has catalysed and supported hundreds of projects, and has done much work in developing organisational models. It is a small group that has no one person at the centre, and that is founded on a set of shared principles. Any project supported by the Foundation agrees with a predetermined set of principles, which in the case of
the Gaia foundation are the following:

1. It involves the personal growth of those involved
2. It strengthens and/or builds community
3. It works in service of the Earth.

Any projects that meet these criteria (Croft from Gaia recommends no more than six) can apply to become a Gaia Foundation project. Each project has its own bank account, makes its own decisions, and so on. In essence, the concept of a PSP is that, rather than being an organisation that co-ordinates and drives a wide range of projects itself, the aim is instead to create an atmosphere within which projects emerge and then to support them when they do. This means that
the organisation can be much lighter and more responsive and, in effect, truly act as the catalyst that these projects are intended to be.

Issues of scale

One of the questions we are often asked is what is the ideal scale for a Transition Initiative. In many ways market towns, which are on the scale that many of the first Transition Initiatives started, are the ideal scale. They have a clear hinterland, historically defined by the villages and rural areas whose inhabitants brought their produce to that town rather than to an adjoining one. Similarly, islands are a good scale to work on, as they have a clearly defined boundary. Why the concept of ‘Transition Towns’ felt so right at the beginning was that the small town is a scale we can all innately relate to. I have come to think that the ideal scale for a Transition Initiative is one over which you feel you can have an influence.

Ultimately, you will get a sense of what is the optimal scale for your initiative. Indeed, you will probably instinctively already have a sense of this. As you look around you, what feels like the optimal scale to be working on? Where, instinctively, do you feel your sphere of influence to be? Transition Bristol, the first city-scale initiative, seeks to network, inspire, train and enable, and to support the emerging neighbourhood-scale initiatives, Transition Redland, Transition Withywood and so on, in their own Transition Initiative.

The interface between Transition Initiatives and local politics

The power of the Transition process is its potential to create a truly community-led process which then interfaces with local politics, but on its own terms. It is important that Transition Initiatives operate independently of input from local politicians, at least to begin with. A Transition Initiative could not, by definition, be a project conceived and driven forward by a Council, although it is one where the active and enthusiastic support of local government is invaluable.
What has been happening increasingly in recent months is that the first contact from a community is from someone in the local council, be it District, Parish or Town Council. Sometimes a Council member will end up as part of the Steering Group, or the Council will offer their support in a range of ways.

When Transition Initiatives do approach their local or district council, they do so representing a significant part of the community, and with a groundswell of momentum behind them. In Kinsale, once the EDAP was done, a motion endorsing it was submitted to Kinsale Town Council and unanimously approved. In Totnes, six months after the
Official Unleashing, the Council passed a resolution endorsing the work of Transition Town Totnes (TTT). This support is very powerful in terms of being able to drive the initiative forward with enhanced credibility, but should only be sought once the project has an established track record and has forged its own identity.

In terms of TTT’s interaction with the local authority, one of the most important elements of this is its Liaison with Local Government Group. This was formed by a group of people who had been involved for some time as local councillors, or had sat on various bodies and understood how the political structure works.

This group goes through each new programme of events that is coming up and invites the public representatives who they feel should be there. They also keep an eye on upcoming council consultations. They are a centrally important part of the TTT Initiative. One could argue that if at an early stage prominent local political figures want to get involved, their role is to work with such a group to drive forward the whole larger process.


One response to this post.

  1. Hi Shane. Thanks for this great intro video. Very inspiring and the focus on community so resonates with me. I have also downloaded the handbook and look forward to the meeting next week on 7 July.
    Warm wishes,


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