The Five Stages of Transition

The Five Stages of Transition were first articulated by Transition movement founder Rob Hopkins in his 2011 book, The Transition Companion: Making Your Community More Resilient in Uncertain Times. Together, they offer a theory of change for our movement as a whole, as well as a pathway for Transition groups to start from scratch and gradually expand their positive impacts over time. Examples from Transition Sarasota (Florida) are used below to illustrate how a single group might work its way through all five stages.

1. Starting Out

In this first stage of the Transition process, an all-volunteer “initiating group” typically comes together to raise awareness about both the challenges we are facing and the many solutions that are already available. Through talks, tours, training, workshops, film screenings, discussion courses, and tabling at other local events, Transition groups begin to build a robust base of like-minded supporters that can help nurture their initiatives through their early stages.

A world cafe discussion following a screening of the “The Economics of Happiness,” part of Transition Sarasota’s “Films for a Future” documentary series.

2. Deepening

Having already experienced some degree of success and acceptance by the wider community, Transition groups now focus their energy on proving that they can achieve practical results and ensuring their own viability over the long-run. Initiatives often do this by incorporating as a formal nonprofit organization, raising funds to hire staff, fine-tuning their communications, and concentrating on one or two projects (such as an urban farm or a home energy retrofitting scheme) that can concretely demonstrate the benefits of the Transition approach.

A small fraction of the nearly 300,000 pounds of local, organic produce harvested to date for community members in need by Transition Sarasota’s Suncoast Gleaning Project.

3. Connecting

Transition is uniquely positioned to bring together people from all walks of life and sectors of society into a unified movement that has the power to shape the future. Having shown that they are here to stay and are capable of catalyzing meaningful change, Transition groups can now reach beyond the choir to other nonprofits, businesses, governments, and foundations to form coalitions committed revitalizing their local food systems, strengthening their local economies, reducing their dependence on fossil fuels, and more.

Organizers of Transition Sarasota’s first annual “Eat Local Week” receive a proclamation from their county commissioners.

4. Building

This is where things start to get really juicy! With a large percentage of the local population educated and engaged, a diverse array of partners supporting their efforts, and the financial resources needed, Transition Initiatives can now start putting in place key pieces of infrastructure needed for a post-carbon society. Whether they are food hubs, alternative currencies, renewable energy co-ops, or Community Resilience Plans, successful roll-outs of programs like these are now within reach.


Transition Sarasota held this Local Food Entrepreneur Showcase in 2015 as part of efforts to drive local investment into a wide variety of local, sustainable food and farming enterprises.


5. Daring to Dream

When enough Transition Initiatives throughout this country are thriving at the Building stage, new possibilities for our Transition Movement begin to open up. These include shifting policies at all levels of government and moving Transition to the center of cultural life. This is how we finally create the kind of widespread and profound change we have been longing for, and it all starts with one person standing up and saying: “We’ve got to do this now! Who’s with me?”


Just a few of the hundreds of Transitioners who participated in the first Transition US National Gathering in 2017. Photo by Les Squires.

“A journey from one place to another can take a number of different routes, but will usually pass through a series of distinctly different landscapes. You don’t necessarily notice when you leave one and enter another, but there are moments when you realise you are in a very different place. The Transition journey is similar. You find that you move from raising awareness, showing films and trying to interest people to noticing you seem to have created an organisation that has different needs from those it had originally, and then later to starting to think about what new businesses and infrastructure your community needs. Each stage is like finding yourself in a distinct landscape.”

Rob Hopkins

The Transition Companion