Despite the phenomenal growth and the wave of positive publicity the Transition movement has received, there has to date been very little empirical research into the development and character of these initiatives, or the impacts they have achieved and the barriers to be overcome. Research just published by the University of East Anglia provides a snapshot of the movement in the UK.
The research, entitled “Green Shoots of Sustainability: the 2009 Transition Movement Survey” was written by Dr. Gill Seyfang from the University of East Anglia. It forms part of a wider programme of research on grassroots innovations for sustainability which aims to improve understanding of the ways that community-led initiatives for sustainability can develop and grow, diffusing their new ideas and practices into wider society.
The online survey was conducted during February 2009, with email invitations sent to coordinators of all 94 Transition initiatives in the UK of which 74 responded.
It was a short survey which used open- and closed-ended questions to collect basic information about the origins, development, character and activities of the UK’s Transition Initiatives.
It provides a snapshot of the UK Transition movement in 2009, and has revealed a great deal about the character, origins, objectives and achievements of the Transition groups springing up around the UK. Although the movement is relatively young, the Transition model offers new groups the opportunity to learn quickly from others’ experience, and the Network is pro-active at developing best practice, ideas-sharing, training and publications to support these local groups. This research aims to inform that process.
The key findings are:
- Establishing Transition groups and maintaining momentum are big achievements for volunteer community activists, and managing the dynamics of voluntary groups is not a trivial issue. Support and training in group management and conflict resolution would be a welcome addition to the training available;
- There is a limit to how much support or interest can be gained using awareness-raising strategies as a starting point. Attracting people to join in practical projects might be a more effective way of building community engagement;
- Transition initiatives struggle to achieve a lot, with limited resources, and would benefit from funding (financial or in kind) from other organisations to support their activities. Many have links with local government and there is clearly a role here for local councils to support (not direct or lead) Transition initiatives in their work;
- Food and gardening projects are far and away the most popular practical ways for Transition initiatives to start engaging people in hands-on action. Local councils could promote these activities by offering more land for allotments and community gardens, as a first step to wider community engagement in sustainable development.
The report can be downloaded here: