Pedro Macedo (Portugal) 1
1 - Universidade de Lisboa, Faculdade de Cincias, cE3c CCIAM
Facing limits, such as planetary boundaries, is an opportunity to re-imagine society. Worldwide, many citizens are joining together to strengthen resilience and sustainability. There are over 1,200 community-led Transition groups in 48 countries, working for resource efficiency (e.g. local food) and social change.
Some of the initiatives have unintended results, like raising conflict with local public administration. Extensive previous research demonstrates that the nature of these interactions can either obstruct community-led initiatives, or act as powerful enablers.
Transition Network and the Transition Hubs started the ‘Municipalities in Transition’ action-research project in 2017. The objective is to create a clear framework for how Transition groups and municipalities can create sustainable change together.
A participatory-action research approach uses transformative social innovation as an analytical framework.
The work included mapping and assessing impactful collaborative experiences around the world, co-designing an agreed framework, testing and refining in six pilots and promoting a community of practice.
The framework developed is comparable to a cooperative game: a grid is used with columns corresponding to different local actors and rows to categories of actions (e.g. using new technologies or fostering relations). The first step in this ‘board game’ is to set out the main transformative initiatives already happening in the community, providing a baseline. The game unfolds by using joint efforts to occupy new ‘squares’, some of which are considered to be leverage points (therefore providing extra ‘points’). From each house players can get access to ‘cards’ presenting a diversity of tools and guidelines on how to use them. The rules of the game also include a governance model.
A systemic approach is in the core of the methodology initially developed in Italy: Transition principles are embedded in the collective performance of local institutions, therefore changing the rules of the system and leading to institutional and cultural change. This methodology is believed to be powerful enough to cope with high levels of complexity and uncertainty and simultaneously simple and flexible enough to be relatively easy to learn and to use in ‘real life’.
A systemic and operational framework was developed and tested through participatory action research in order to promote synergies in the interplay between local governments and civil society, challenging existing practices and founding a supportive environment for new ‘transition patterns’ to emerge and develop, believing this can act as a leverage point for wider social transformation.