Beyond Sustainability

Many communities have, and continue to, put considerable resources into achieving sustainability. Most realize that achieving an adequate level of sustainability is difficult.

Transition Centre has asked the two penetrating questions that headline our home page:

  1. Do we know what we have to do to achieve a sustainable future?​
  2. Do we have the capacity to do that?

And the third:  If not, then what?

Resilient Communities is about the level beyond sustainability.  What does this mean?

Sustainability is predicated on the ideal of living within our means.  The goal was to live in such a way as to leave enough for future generations. We have to ask if that is still possible?  TC Resilient Communities is a response to this problem

Sustainability is about mitigating the effects of climate change.  We have the Paris agreement but it is becoming increasingly evident that the level of effort required to mitigate even current effects requires a level of commitment that just isn’t there.  TC Resilient Communities enables local communities to compensate for climate change.

Our climate future is symbolized by a hockey stick curve.  A hockey stick curve of even greater importance is population growth.  World population, at present rates, will approach ten billion in 2050.  Increasing population, and developing national economies, place increasing risk on nonrenewable resources.  

Resource depletion is the number one barrier to either achieving a sustainable future or continued economic progress.  According to a survey of major corporation, resources risks included, in order of importance:

  1. Water
  2. Fossil fuel minerals
  3. Other mineral resources
  4. Agricultural products (which brings arable land into the equation)

Given the perfect storm of global political and economic contingencies, rapidly growing demand for resources and environmental stress, we have a perfect storm of risk factors. If what we are doing isn’t working, we have to learn how to solve our problems.  That’s what the human brain was designed to do.  We just need to learn to use it a little better.

Resilient Communities is built on these principles:

  • Vision
  • Localization
  • Grassroots Organization:  , and
  • Determination (Enterprise)

Vision:  The essential ingredient is vision, a clear, compelling Vision of the future of the community.  It’s not just what it looks like but what it would feel like to live in. It’s about the fundamental values of the community. A vision is not a new idea, it is in our heritage.  It goes back to ancient, wise, King, Solomon: “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs, 29, 18).  Vision is one of the root principles of wisdom.

Localization:  We cannot solve our problems at a global level.  It is becoming increasingly clear that local communities are the most effective level to achieve resiliency.  Even the UN Sustainable Development Goals are being pursued at a local level.

Grassroot:  Whether initiated by a government entity or non-profit organization, community resiliency must involve a broad spectrum of its residents. Many begin as grassroots projects. It only takes a handful of people working closely together to change the course of a community.  It’s a DIY (Do It Yourself) approach.  It about taking responsibility rather than expecting some outside resource to fix the problem.

Enterprise:  The TC Resilient Communities model is economic. It is an entrepreneurial plan – social entrepreneurship and business development.  It takes a business plan.  It requires people to take risk.  It takes hard work.  It works to generate revenues that are kept in the community for reinvestment.

Outside funding is always good to have but there is only so much of it.  Strings are attached.  Typically, it is considered a fund, not an investment.

Paying the cost:  A resilient community must pay its own way. That is, in fact, the foundation for resiliency.  Capital and labor produce wealth but in the beginning there was labor.  There are forms of capital other than money.  

Community Asset Inventory: TC Resilient Communities draws on the forms of capital that are already in the community, including land, people and other resources Every community has a long list of people, projects, programs, business and organizations that are doing things of interest.  These are the assets of the community.  The number of these can be astonishing.  They need to be inventoried.

Organization:  Organization is the key.  This starts with active networking.  It requires collaboration.  A community is a group of people with a common sense of place, a common sense of values, a common purpose.  This rather brings us back to building the vision.

The Plan

A plan is absolutely essential to success.  There are different types of plans.  There is formal planning and then there is effective planning.  The end product of many formal plans is just the plan.  The end product of the effective plan is what it achieves.  

Great generals, such as Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was a consummate planner, well understood that a plan is a fragile thing.  It starts to fall apart as soon as battle is joined.  But the side who has the disciple to plan thoroughly, typically has the best chance to win.

“Plan” is a verb, not a noun. A plan is a living document.  The plan requires constant revision.  To paraphrase General Eisenhower, plans are useless, planning is everything.  It is the discipline, the attitude, that goes into the plan that counts.  There is an old saying:  Luck favors the prepared.  Life is trial and error.  Maturity is getting better at it but every day is a learning experience.

The great majority of businesses and nonprofit organizations fail.  So too do projects.  The root cause of failure is usually a lack of good planning.  It is said that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Planning is an art and a science. All of us are natural planners. We typically wake up each morning with a plan forming in our minds.  During the day we address and resolve some formidable problems.


Resilient Communities 

Why Resilient Communities?

Transition Centre (TC) Resilient Communities is a model for achieving the capacity to embracing the inevitable challenges of this century.  TC Resilient Communities is not about recovering from weather, economic or other emergencies but rather about developing the capacity of your local community to achieve greater self-sufficiency and self-determination.

What is the most pressing problem we face today?  I believe it is the need to rebuild communities to have the resiliency to withstand the inevitable challenges of this century be they economic, environmental or social.  We want communities that are safe, secure and stable.  TC Resilient Communities is not an insurance policy but rather a model for making communities sounder, more robust and innovative.

TC Resilient Communities is about overcoming risks.  This begins with the global economic system.  It is vast, unimageable complex and essentially unmanageable.  As that economy goes, so goes your community. Unless you are sufficiently resilient.

The dictionary defines resiliency as “The ability to recover quickly from illness, change or misfortune.” More popularly, resiliency means to adapt, it means to “bounce back.”  “Resile” means “to leap” or “to jump.”  The Latin root term for “sile” was “sal” as in “salmon.”

The Transition Centre approach to resilient communities is not just bouncing back.  It goes to a level beyond that.  It is about redirection – reinventing community.  It is about adaptive or transformative change.  It is about recreating the economy upon which a community is founded.  It is about the type of spirit that created your community to start with.

There are communities in the US that are thriving and many that are not.  Even the strongest communities constantly strive to keep ahead of the game. Far too many America communities are in long-term decline.  Whether urban or rural, rich or poor, we need to think seriously about our community’s future.