Transition Streets: an evidence base to support the Transition approach to change
I am really pleased today to be able to share with you some of the key outputs from Transition Streets, which I have written about here before. Let’s start, for people who are new to the concept, with this short video which beautifully captures how Transition Streets worked in Totnes:
Transition Streets has already been rolled out in places other than Totnes, but in a few weeks, a whole supported programme will be coming out whereby you will be able to run it in your community (I’ll let you know). You can see the first section of the Transition Streets workbook here to get a flavour of it. It is a great example of the tool from ‘The Transition Companion’ called ‘Street-by-street behaviour change’.
The main output from Transition Streets is the ‘Final project report’, which “shares information about the Transition Streets project, funded by the previous government’s Low Carbon Communities Challenge funded: how it worked, what it achieved, what was learnt and where we are heading next”. You can find a summary of its findings here. It is a very thorough round-up of the project.
However, the most fascinating to me is “Social Impacts of Transition Together (SITT): Investigating the social impacts, benefits and sustainability of the Transition Together/Transition Streets initiative in Totnes“,which goes into the more qualitative aspects of Transition Streets, what motivated people to get involved, what changes people made as a result of getting involved, what benefits individuals and groups actually experienced, what are the features of a successful group, what issues groups experienced and how they dealt with them, and finally, what role people see for their groups beyond their time doing Transition Streets.
When I meet people in town who were part of Transition Streets, they don’t enthuse about how much carbon they saved, they talk about the new social connections they have made, and that comes through really strongly in this brilliant piece of research. People’s main motivations for getting involved weren’t climate change or peak oil, but were “building good relationships with my neighbours”. The main benefit they pointed to from having been involved was social and community benefits. Here is the word cloud thing from when people were asked what were the most significant benefits they experienced from taking part in Transition Streets.
See how tiny the word ‘peak’ is? I think there are a lot of lessons to be learnt from the experience of Transition Streets. It is the first really good piece of research and evidence of how the Transition approach works, and how it is about so much more than just reducing energy use. These reports give a taste of perhaps where the skilfulness of Transition lies, in making Transition feel like where people are having most fun, where the laughter and the companionship is, where people feel they can connect with each other. Perhaps the best analogy for that comes from what, for me, is one of the best sequences in the history of film, the opening sequence of Woody Allen’s ‘Stardust Memories’ (between 1:20 and 2:50). Ultimately, people have a deep sense of which of the two trains they’d prefer to be on.