• What is the Great Transition Initiative?
  • What is whole system change?
  • Why now?
  • What outcome we are aiming for?
  • How will we measure success?
  • Who will be involved in the Great Transition Initiative?
  • How will we expand Inspiring Transition?
  • Governance
  • Aren’t there a lot of organisations doing what the Great Transition Initiative is doing?
  • Doesn’t Tellus Institute have a Great Transition Initiative?
  • Our breakthrough idea
  • Isn’t this rather idealistic?

What is the Great Transition Initiative?

The Great Transition Initiative isa global movement of cultural change agents devoted to transitioning to a life-sustaining society. We recognize that communicating to ‘engage the unengaged’ −people who do not seek out information about environmental and social trends and their implications – is essential for success. We provide ready-to-use communication tools.

What is whole system change?

Whole system change means doing everything required to actually operate within planetary boundaries. There are two fundamental operating principles of a life-sustaining society:

  • A life-sustaining society will be ecologically sustainable.
  • And it will operate in good-willed collaboration for the wellbeing of the whole community.

Why now?

We are in a global ecological emergency, not just with global warming, but also with ocean acidification, species loss, soil depletion, dwindling freshwater supplies and other factors.

What outcome we are aiming for?

Our immediate goal is to bring the need and hopeful possibilities of transitioning to a life-sustaining society to the forefront of the public agenda.

Our ultimate purpose is to successfully transition to an ecologically sustainable and socially healthy society.

How will we measure success?

The first indicator that we are having influence will be when NGOs begin to talk about whole system change (some are already doing this). Even more encouraging will be when mainstream commentators such as Thomas Friedman talk transitioning to a life-sustaining society.

We will know that we are having real-world influence when important decisions are justified on the basis that they contribute to the transition to a life-sustaining society.

The ultimate indicator of success will be when as a society we are ecologically sustainable – living within the Earth’s capacity to sustain us – and policies and imagination combine to support the well-being of our whole community.

Who will be involved in the Great Transition Initiative?

There are millions of organisations whose members are concerned about social justice and the environment. We are part of the great spontaneously arising transformational movement that Paul Hawken described in Blessed Unrest. Some call this the Great Transition, or the Great Training.

Our vision is to inspire many as possible of these organisations to communicate about whole system change to a life-sustaining society.

Many of their members will choose to act as citizen educators and communicate personally with people in their networks about the need for transformative change and how we can achieve it. We call such peoplecitizen-educators, or Great Transition Champions. We have ready to use tools to make communicating as easy as possible. These tools include sample emails and blogs, guerrilla marketing tactics, and Kitchen Table Conversations.

How will we expand the Great Transition Initiative?

Our model is to engage as many individuals and groups as possible in communicating about transitioning to a life-sustaining society, and to provide ready to use tools make communicating as easy as possible.

Initially we engage people through personal contact.

In time we hope to inspire members of some of the online protest groups and other groups to actively communicate through their networks about transitioning to a life-sustaining society. They can do this in addition to signing petitions and other activities that may be engaged combined networks are huge; they reach into every level of society.

A simple tactic is that whenever workshops, panel discussions and lectures are held, participants encouraged to act as citizen-educators/Great Transition Champions, and come to this website for ready to use communication tools.


The Great Transition Initiative is not an organization in the usual sense. There is nothing to join, and there is no central group that directs what people do. Instead, we are an open community of practice aligned our commitment to transitioning to a life-sustaining society, and in our recognition that communicating to gain mainstream commitment is essential for success.

Aren’t there a lot of organisations doing what Inspiring Transition is doing?

Ah, we wish this were the case!

There are many organizations that have pieces of the puzzle. For example Tellus Institute beautifully articulates whole system change, but they have no means of communicating that understanding to the general public. The online protest groups have millions of members, but their members are not encouraged to be citizen educators. Often authors and presenters do encourage people to have conversations, but they do not provide tools to take those conversations to the level of whole system change.

Doesn’t Tellus Institute have a Great Transition Initiative?

Yes, they do. Their Great Transition Initiative is an academic think tank. Ours is a citizen-led communication initiative. Philosophically we are completely aligned.

Our breakthrough idea

Our breakthrough idea is instead of having just a few organizations championing whole system change, let’s enlist thousands– perhaps hundreds of thousands – of organisations and their members. People can communicate about transformative change without a large budget, and without it taking an inordinate amount of time.

We can do this in conjunction with other projects we may be committed to. It is a matter of both-and. The more successful we are together at inspiring mainstream commitment to transitioning to a life-sustaining society, the more resources will flow to our specific projects.

We encourage people to act as communicators through their own initiative. Whereas many organizations require that people train to become qualified to use their communication tools (which certainly helps), we start with the assumption that people are already knowledgeable and intelligent, and have reasonable communication skills. We encourage people to pick up and use our communication tools without any formal training, trusting that they will get better with practice.

Isn’t this rather idealistic?

Yes, this is a dream of a future that on current trends is unlikely to happen in any utopian sense. This is because our society requires vast amounts of energy whose ready availability began to decline a few years ago … and we have reached ‘peak resources’ on many other dimensions as well. So a descent is inevitable. Ultimately humans, like all other organisms, will reach a liveable balance with the environment − doubtless with vastly reduced population numbers.

If we are committed to the well-being of coming generations, and want to minimize the destruction to other forms of life, doing our best to contribute to the transition to a life-sustaining society, rather than continuing pell-mell with current rates of ecological self-destruction, will give coming generations a better chance at a hopeful future.

Therefore we think this is a goal with aiming for, even though it will be imperfectly achieved.