What it’s like to be a Radical
The co-founder of the Transition Network on how the initiative has progressed since being named one of 2012’s Britain’s 50 New Radicals.
I do a lot of travelling and public speaking, and organisers usually ask for a biography in advance so they can use some of it as an introduction. In each place, people pick a few of the key bits from it, but the one thing they always include is “and in 2012 he was one of Nesta and The Observer’s ‘Britain's 50 New Radicals’. It often generates the same audience “ooh” as when the star prize is unveiled on a TV game show.
It’s quite something to open a newspaper and see yourself listed as one of the 50 leading radicals in the country. I wondered about my neighbours, sitting down to their morning cornflakes and newspaper, only to find that they are living next door to a radical. “You know that bloke at Number 12? He’s a New Radical apparently”. “That’s nice. Pass the milk”. They’ve been very good about it anyway.
“I’m just a guy who grows beetroot and blogs a lot”
But it did feel somehow appropriate. Not so much for me, I’m just a guy who grows beetroot, blogs a lot, and was one of the people who kicked something off that had the tremendous good fortune to develop momentum.the Atmos Project, Totnes
The Transition movement continues to grow and flourish. There are now initiatives in nearly 50 countries. The number of official initiatives registered with Transition Network is around 1,130, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. For example, in Sweden there are seven initiatives registered with us, but 171 on their own Swedish site. It’s the same around the world.
Transition Network won the 2013 prestigious European Economic and Social Committee prize. Innovations like Transition Streets, our street-by-street behaviour change model, won the Ashden Award for Behaviour Change and is spreading around the world, popping up in Australia, the US and Belgium to name just three. REconomy, our project to support Transition initiatives to create social enterprises and new local economies, goes from strength to strength, with pilot projects running now in five European countries, peer-to-peer networks forming to support initiatives.
Some great projects are happening on the ground too. Brixton Energy is a fantastic community energy project which emerged from Transition Town Brixton in London and has done three successful share launches inviting local people to buy into their own energy company. West Solent Solar Co-operative, set up by members of New Forest Transition, recently raised £2.46 million for a community-owned solar farm.
“The challenges of climate change, energy insecurity and economic precariousness require new and bold thinking.”
The Bristol Pound, initiated by Transition Bristol, is now accepted in over 800 businesses, on the city’s buses, by the City Council and the Mayor takes his full salary in them.
In my town, Totnes in Devon, the community is soon to announce that its campaign to bring an 8 acre derelict site into community ownership has been successful, and it will be undertaking the UK’s first Community Right to Build Order. Look around the country, around the world, and you’ll see a dazzling array of food, education, energy, transport, local economy and other projects.
What we are seeing emerging is the idea of community resilience as economic development. The challenges of climate change, energy insecurity and economic precariousness require new and bold thinking. The local is the best scale at which to innovate, with the least risk of push-back from vested interests and the most chance of support, buy-in and creating unstoppable momentum. Being part of seeing Transition unfold has been thrilling, and will only get more so. Sounds pretty radical to me.
Rob Hopkins is the co-founder of both Transition Town Totnes and Transition Network. He lives in Totnes in Devon, is author of ‘The Transition Companion’ and ‘The Power of Just Doing Stuff’, he is a serial blogger and he tweets as @robintransition