From What Is to What If: Reimagining and Rebuilding Our World

Now, more than ever, it’s essential for us to come together to connect with each other, envision positive futures, rethink our national strategy, and take practical action to build community resilience everywhere.

To facilitate this process, Transition US is inviting all of our friends, supporters, partners, and members of hundreds local, regional, and national Transition Initiatives throughout this country to participate in a new campaign we’re calling “From What Is to What If: Reimagining and Rebuilding Our World.”

Named after Transition Movement founder Rob Hopkins’ 2019 book about “Unleashing the power of the imagination to create the future we want,” this campaign will consist of three overlapping phases. Please click on the phases below to learn more and get involved:

The Phases

Phase 1: Positive Visioning

July 2020 – August 2020

Envision a better future with us. Follow a short guided visualization and share your ideas in our national survey. 

Phase 2: Movement Strategy

July 2020 – December 2020

Participate in a series of national network strategy conversations. Each conversation will build upon a key theme of the Transition US strategic planning process.

Phase 3: Stories to Action

October 2020 – June 2021

We will harvest the stories shared over the year. With the lessons learned through the year-long campaign we will curate resources to inspire action and generate systems change.

As long as public health conditions permit, this campaign will culminate with our second National Gathering of the Transition Movement in the United States, which is currently scheduled to take place at Castleton University in Southwestern Vermont in June of 2021.

Anticipated outcomes from this campaign include a new podcast and skill-building webinar series, a new strategic plan, a peer learning cohort, and a book, featuring your visions from the future, your strategic ideas and feedback, and your stories of successful replicable models for building community resilience through challenging times.

Throughout this campaign, we will be calling on all those who care about our collective future to join with us in rising to meet this moment by cultivating social, economic, and environmental justice in creative and diverse ways for the benefit of all. Please explore the tabs below to continue your learning journey, share your experience and insight, and connect with others who are engaged in transforming our world “From What Is to What If.”

  • Phase 1: Positive Visioning
  • Phase 2: Movement Strategy
  • Phase 3: Stories to Action

In phase one of our campaign, we are inviting you to envision a better future with us. Positive visioning has been a key aspect of the Transition approach from the very beginning because of its ability to catalyze new ideas and perspectives, and ground our community resilience-building work in a sense of credible hope and possibility.

To facilitate this process, Transition US has recently partnered with Dr. Anna Willow, a Professor of Anthropology at the Ohio State University and creator of “Visioning a Positive Future: A Survey for Transition Participants.” This survey begins with the following statement: 

“Begin by imagining your own community 20 years from today. If you would like, you may close your eyes for a few moments to mentally step into this world. It is a positive future in which we have managed to overcome fossil fuel addiction and are adapting successfully to a changed climate. It doesn’t have to be a utopia, and you are not expected to have fully-formulated (or ‘perfect’) ideas. Your job is simply to brainstorm what life in your future community is like. Be creative and respond deeply.”

While you are more than welcome to dive right into this if you are feeling so inspired, you may want to take a walk in nature, spend a few minutes meditating on this topic, or listen to this guided visualization first in order to begin developing your vision.

Since the survey is quite long, you may choose to skip over some of the questions. You may also want to type your answers into a word document and save them there until you’re ready to copy and paste them into the survey.

If you prefer to express your vision in a different medium, you are more than welcome to email short videos, photos, memes, songs, drawings, and other works of art to don@transitionus.org.

There are so many great examples of this kind of visioning work that we can learn from, such as Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s “Message from the Future,” 350.org founder Bill McKibben’s “Hello from the Year 2050,” Transition Movement founder Rob Hopkins’ “Walk Through a Day in 2030,” and Movement Generation's "Decolonize the Future." However, there are no right or wrong answers here. While we are not as interested in dystopian worst-case scenarios or magical silver-bullet solutions as we are in realistic but hopeful imaginings, you are encouraged to let your creativity be your guide.

Although we encourage you to submit your visions as soon as possible, we will continue collecting responses through at least December 2020. Please know that although we may choose to include excerpts from your responses in forthcoming Transition US communications, possibly including a new book or podcast, we will always do so anonymously.

Plan to take at least 30 minutes whenever you next have a chance to expand your imagination and respond to this survey. By doing so, not only will you be clarifying your own vision and sense of purpose, you will also be helping to inspire and encourage others, which may be the one of the most meaningful things we can do in these deeply uncertain times.

In the second phase of our campaign, Transition leaders from across the country are invited to participate in a series of National Network StrategyConversations that will help inform and guide a new, transformative strategy for Transition US and the Transition Movement here in the U.S.

The series of National Network Strategy Conversations complements the Visioning and Stories to Action phases of our campaign. Together, these three elements represent the balance of Head, Heart, and Hands the Transition Movement strives to embody in our work.

Each of these Strategy Conversations will build upon a key theme that emerged from the feedback Transition US received from more than 60 movement leaders earlier this year. They will help us cultivate a shared sense of alignment around the strategic direction of our movement, as requested by Transition leaders from across the country (see pages 9-10 of our Strategic Planning Input Paper for more information). Transition US staff and board members will draw from the insights gained through this series to develop a strategic plan for Transition US that will best meet the needs of local, regional, and national Transition organizers across the country.

National Network Strategy Conversations will be held on the 4th Tuesday of each month from July to December, 2020 at 4:00pm Pacific. To ensure our strategy is informed by the people who Transition US is designed to serve – local leaders who are actively working to transition their communities – participation is by invitation only.

Each session will begin with Transition US staff and other movement leaders framing the discussion topic, followed by two rounds of discussion in smaller breakout groups. Then, each breakout will have the opportunity to share their key takeaways with the whole group. Blog posts summarizing the outcomes of each session will be shared with our wider network.

If you are a contact for an official Transition Initiative, a member or alumni of our Collaborative Design Council, or leader of one of our national working groups, you will receive registration info via email. However, we will also welcome a limited number of additional invited guests from partner organizations and aligned community resilience groups. If you would like to be part of this conversation and are not part of one of the groups listed above, please contact marissa@transitionus.org.

National Network Strategy Conversations

ROUND 1

July 28: “Deepening Our Analysis: Connecting the Dots between Social Justice, Extractive Economy, and Ecological Crises.” This discussion will explore how Transition US can shift our analysis of the crises we face--away from an emphasis on peak oil, and toward a more nuanced understanding of the extractive economy and its connection to both social justice and ecological crises. For more background, please read “Deepening Our Analysis: Raising Up Social Justice and Naming the Extractive Economy" on pages 7-8 of our Strategic Planning Input Paper.

August 25: “Communications, Messaging, and Storytelling.” This discussion will explore how to refine our messaging and enhance our national and local communications strategies--enabling our movement tell the Transition story far and wide, and influence mainstream media. For more background, please read “Deepening our Communications: Messaging, Storytelling, & Media Strategy” on pages 18-24 of our Strategic Planning Input Paper.

September 22: “Strengthening the Grassroots Transition Network.” This discussion will explore how Transition US and other stakeholders can enhance connection across our network, better support local Transition Initiatives to get established and demonstrate impact in their communities, develop strategic collaborations, and more. For more background, please read “Strengthening Our Network: Deepening Support for Local Transition Initiatives” on pages 10-16 of our Strategic Planning Input Paper.

October 27: “Resourcing Our Movement.” This discussion will explore strategies for resourcing Transition at all levels--from creating resilient livelihoods and REconomy businesses to creatively funding local and national Transition groups. For more background, please read “REconomy” on page 16 of our Strategic Planning Input Paper and the REconomy report, “25 Enterprises that Build Resilience.”

November 24: “Building Capacity and Increasing Our Impact as a National Network.” This discussion will explore how we can collectively grow the capacity of Transition US as the national Transition hub by sharing power and responsibility for supporting local Transition Initiatives with the Collaborative Design Council, National Working Groups, emerging Regional Hubs, Transition US Board of Directors, strategic partners, and others. For more background, please read “Growing Capacity of Transition US” on page 17 of our Strategic Planning Input Paper.

December 22: “Power, Leadership, and Healthy Movement Culture.” In this discussion, we will explore best practices for leadership development and power sharing that will support our local and national organizing efforts to flourish through a vibrant, healthy movement culture. For more background, please read “Leadership Development” on page 15 of our Strategic Planning Input Paper.

ROUND 2

January 26: “Inner Resilience.” This discussion will explore strategies for strengthening Inner Resilience work within communities and local Transition groups. A summary of “Inner Resilience” themes and needs that was harvested from strategy surveys and interviews in early 2020 follows (from page 17 of our “Strategic Planning Input Paper”):

“Inner Resilience is an absolutely essential part of Transition, and as we increasingly feel the impacts of collapse, the need to deepen Inner Resilience resources and skills will become more and more visible. Already a number of TI leaders have asked for partnership with networks of mental health specialists to support emotional health and help manage psychological distress, as well as Work-that-Reconnects-style groups for meditation and grief work, and resources for Deep Adaptation (living in a world after societal collapse). “

February 23: "Youth Leadership & Intergenerational Collaboration." Young people have the most at stake in our ecological and economic crises, and they have historically played an important role of energizing social movements with their passion and inspiration. Elders, too, play a critical role in our movement, bringing wisdom, experience, resources, connections, and patience to the work. Yet there are challenges to creating multi-generational organizing spaces that can sustain energy and momentum for the long-haul. In this discussion, we will hear from Transition organizers with experience in successful intergenerational organizing and explore together how to make our movement more inclusive and supportive of families, youth leaders, children and grandchildren.

A summary of key themes and needs in this topic area that was harvested from strategy surveys and interviews in early 2020 follows (from page 15 of our “Strategic Planning Input Paper”):

“A number of participants called for the Transition movement to be more proactive in engaging youth, and suggested several strategies for doing so: creating containers (for example, a national network call) focused on listening to, learning from, and supporting young people; sharing case studies of successful youth engagement strategies; and tailoring our programming and trainings to better support youth. Some of the more visionary strategies for youth engagement included actively engaging youth to lead the re-launch of dormant initiatives, with support from the "old hands," and a major campus recruitment effort.”

“I think Transition US would be renewed and invigorated by addressing the needs of young people.  Leverage the grey hairs to pass on their love, wisdom, skills, perspectives to younger people.  NOT doing so will be a big violation of their human rights.” - quote from survey respondent

March 23: "Deepening Our Analysis Part 2: Developing a Power Analysis." Our time is now. After more than a decade of experimentation, Transitioners are calling for a greater sense of strategy, direction, and alignment in our national network. A power analysis will guide us in assessing the greatest opportunities and challenges to deepening our work, and support us in developing more targeted projects and campaigns that will have the greatest impact in achieving our collective goals. This conversation will offer participants a framework for developing a power analysis map that can be used by local and regional groups as well as our national network.

Additional background reading for this call can be found in the section on “Deepening Our Analysis, Setting Direction, and Finding Alignment” on pages 9-10 of our “Strategic Planning Input Paper”.

April 27: "Local Government Collaboration." Partnerships with municipalities may be one of the most important and effective ways for local Transition Initiatives to scale up their work, particularly during this time when governments at all levels are searching for solutions to climate change, economic recovery, and disaster response. 

 “We need to create models of resilience that can be applied on a local level-village, town, city, metropolis - showing how to do versus enabling the theoretical discussion.”-quote from survey respondent

How can local Transition groups scale up our work through strategic partnerships with municipalities? What kinds of skills and assets are needed to position our network for these types of partnerships? What kind of policies and ordinances are most needed, and how do we replicate them? What are best practices for policy advocacy? How do we get more Transition folks elected to local governments?

These and more are the questions we will explore together in this session. Additional background reading can be found in the section “Support TIs to Influence & Partner with Local Governments” on pages 14-15 of our “Strategic Input Planning Paper.”

May 25: "Emergency Preparedness & Disaster Response." The US Transition network is rich with tools and models for emergency preparedness and disaster response: the Ready Together neighborhood emergency preparedness handbook created by Transition US, the Resilience Hubs Initiative organized by the NorCal Resilience Network, Cooperation Humboldt’s Disaster Response & Resilience program, and more. At the same time, government entities at all levels are seeking partnerships and support to further their reach and deepen their disaster relief work in local communities, particularly those that are most vulnerable to the increasing impact of climate change. How can Transition groups help bridge this gap?

June 22: "Coalition Building & Strategic Partnerships." Over the past decade, we’ve learned that Transition groups can’t do it all - especially as groups that are volunteer-powered or operate on a shoestring budget. We’ve also learned that Transition’s systemic approach, rooted in positive local solutions, fills a niche in the larger movement ecosystem. Many Transitioners are calling for the US Transition network to seek strategic partnerships at all levels, from local Transition Initiatives hosting “Repair Cafes” in partnership with local maker-spaces to Transition US actively collaborating with 350.org and the Sierra Club. In this discussion, we will explore which types of partnerships are especially strategic and best practices for developing effective partnerships and coalitions built on trust and shared goals.

Good stories offer us hope that a better world is possible. They also expand our imaginations, spark new dreams, convey lessons learned, and move us into action.

In the third phase of the campaign, Transition US is inviting community resilience-building initiatives all over the country to share your inspiring stories with our national network. We are especially looking for stories of innovative, successful, and replicable projects that have furthered the causes of sustainability, justice, cooperation, and regeneration in neighborhoods, towns and cities, states, and regions throughout the U.S.

Some of the stories we receive between now and our second National Gathering in June of 2021 will be posted to our website, shared via our social media accounts, and included in our monthly e-newsletters to be read by tens of thousands of people around the world. They may also be incorporated into a forthcoming podcast titled “Hope with Its Sleeves Rolled Up,” and/or collected into a new book, similar to the 10 Stories of Transition in the US we published in early 2019.

Stories that are submitted here no later than December 15, 2020 will also be eligible to receive one of four $500 stipends to offer a webinar through Transition US and facilitate an online learning cohort to help other grassroots leaders replicate these projects nationwide.

For more examples of the kinds of stories we are looking for, please click on any of the links below:

Need help brainstorming a good story idea or want some advice for how to tell your story in as compelling a way as possible? Please join us on October 14, 2020 for a free, online event with author and activist Rivera Sun on "Stories for a Changing World."