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A global citizen-led educational movement.



Mainstream society as a whole operates as a mutually reinforcing system that exacerbates global warming. Economics, trade agreements, advertising, consumerism and poor industrial design all contribute, and progress is blocked by vested interests. All of these must shift if we are to actually solve global warming. We call it a 'whole system change'.

Catalyzing informed passionate public will for transformative change is the key factor for success. This is a big ask, but it is what is required!

So this proposal turns the brief on its head. It is about how to mobilize the public will to implement the suite  of technical and social changes that are already available.

There is already a global wave of positive change going on, involving millions of individuals, businesses, NGOs, academic sustainability courses, climate action groups and the like. It includes more than climate change. 'The Great Transition to a life-sustaining society' it is an apt name for what this global wave of change is about. Most participants would probably agree with the goal of transitioning to a life-sustaining society rather than an eco-suicidal one.

This proposal is about catalyzing citizen-led education to seed transformative ideas into mainstream culture to such an extent, and so effectively, that we inspire mainstream will for change with a passion similar to what we see in war time.

The purpose of the Great Transition initiative is to accelerate the Great Transition. Our vision is to engage millions of individuals and groups as volunteer educators who seed transformative ideas into mainstream culture, and thereby inspire mainstream commitment to do everything required to solve global warming and other environmental issues.

These educators will come from the members of the groups Paul Hawken refers to in Blessed Unrest. We have innovative 'thought starter' tools to support them.





Category of the Action

Integrated action plan for the world as a whole

What actions do you propose?

Our strategy is described below. However, there are two key things to be considered beforehand.

First, we start with the question: Are you willing to personally embrace the goal of a successful whole system change to the climate safe life-sustaining society?

We raise this question for two reasons.

The concept of 'whole system change' can seem overwhelmingly complex. This concern is met in our paper Understanding Whole System Change ( It shows a way to make whole system change mentally manageable by identifying the core operating principles of a viable society. These are easy to work out, and practical applications readily follow. There are many real-world examples.

In addition, the idea of changing the direction of our whole society can raise doubt, despair and cynicism. We may think: the power structure is too entrenched, people don't care, there is so much momentum in business as usual, and besides, what can I, one insignificant person, do?

In Chinese traditional medicine they say: First attend to the spirit. So it is appropriate to ask whether in our heart-of-hearts we willing to go for actually succeeding in transitioning to a life-sustaining society.

Secondly, our organizing model is so simple it can be hard to follow. How will we engage millions of people in thinking about transformative change? The approach most of us would be familiar with it is to set up an organization for the purpose. And indeed there are several organizations that have done this, including the Pachamama Alliance and the Sustainable World Coalition.

The reach of such organizations is limited, however. So the natural next idea is to form a coalition of organizations. Let's form a steering committee, debate key projects, develop a legal framework... you know the drill. Such an approach, at the scale of engaging potentially millions of individuals and organizations, is logistically untenable.

In contrast we have an extremely simple organizing model.

1 Individuals and organizations commit to sustaining society.

2  We bring ourselves up to speed on what is involved. (We already mentioned Understanding Whole System Change as a way to grasp whole system change. There are excellent books as well.)

3 We accept that citizen-led education to engage grassroots people and influential decision-makers is essential in order to reach a mainstream audience.

(Designing for a Miracle: Innovative Communication to Accelerate the Great Transition ( goes into this strategy in more depth.

4  We conduct such education through our own initiative, when and where we can, within our sphere of influence. We just do it, trusting that others who we may not know will also be doing it.  We may do this as individuals, or as organizations.

There are two levels to the strategy:

Branding and social awareness

Commercial marketers do everything they can to get their brand and and message appearing 'everywhere'.  Similarly we talk up The Great Transition through every avenue imaginable.

Cultivating in-depth understanding

Crucial to our strategy is creating circumstances for people to think through what is actually involved in  transitioning to a life-sustaining society. Mainstream people are our friends, neighbors and business associates, as well as influential people we may know. One approach is to invite them to personal conversations about transformative change.

Our communication tool Tabletop Presentations  ( and other tools  enable people to develop a coherent mental map of what is involved in whole system change, and how to achieve it.  Such a map equips people to support leadership for transformative change, and to initiate it within their sphere of influence.

But we are not relying just on personal conversations. It is the whole mix that will do the trick!  Blogs, articles, You Tube  videos, lectures, personal conversations, in-house training...  and much more.

Be The Change Australia is reaching out to organizations  around the world as co-creators of the Great Transition initiative. We would like to think that you will embrace the vision and engage others in the vision as well.

[The contest brief requires a  simulation model run.  Since we are offering an educational solution, we request that this requirement be waived.]



Where will these actions be taken?

As Paul Hawken notes in Blessed Unrest, there are millions of individuals and organizations around the world who care about different aspects of climate, the environment, and social change.

These are our potential change agents. They are distributed both geographically and in terms of social strata. People will communicate about transformative change where they are, whether it is in conversations at Davos, discussions about the need for transformative change with business colleagues, meetings in local neighbourhood centers, or in personal conversations.

Messages will appear in newsletters, blogs, articles in magazines such as Mother Jones and the Huffington Post, and in LinkedIn discussion groups.

Flyers and small ads referring people to the Transition Leader Network for self education about whole system change will appear whenever people put them. Guerrilla marketing!

We have here huge potential for a massive multi-strand marketing campaign conducted at almost no cost by people who buy into the Great Transition initiative.



Who will take these actions?

The groups who care potentially include

  • Cultural Creatives - recently estimated to be about 35% of the US population by researchers Ray and Anderson.
  • Sustainability consultants and academics - most major universities have sustainability departments
  • Renewable energy businesses
  • Ethical investors
  • Groups involved with generic modified crops, open democracy, permaculture, Transition Towns, mental health, personal development, Conscious Capitalism, spirituality, zero population growth and a steady state economy... and more. All of these have a stake in whole system change to a life-sustaining society, even if their primary brief is not about dealing with climate change.


In addition there are people who care who are not necessarily affiliated with any particular group.

Administrative support for the Great Transition initiative is provided by Be The Change Australia. will become the platform for the Great Transition initiative. Our tools for self-education about whole system change, and for acting as citizen educators (transition leaders), are on the Transition Leader Network website.

Although we provide administrative support, we do not presume to direct what people do. The Great Transition initiative and the Transition Leader Network are open source communities of practice. People do what they are moved to do, without direction from us. Our whole model depends upon individuals and organizations championing the Great Transition, and trusting that others will also be doing it.  Self-initiated action!

The feminist movement at its height in the 1970s is a precedent. In addition to the inspiring books, women organized workshops, conferences and the famous consciousness raising groups. A ferment of self-organised activity!





What are key benefits?

The primary benefit of shifting mainstream consciousness will be that we actually succeed in averting global environmental collapse.

We think that there are two fundamental operating principles of environmentally sustainable society. They are

  • Good willed collaboration for the well-being of unity and the environment.
  • Ecological sustainability in the rigorous sense articulated by The Natural Step.


A simple metaphor for ecological sustainability is to harvest the apples, but not cut down the apple tree. And don't poison it with industrial toxins.

Good willed collaboration, in contrast to self-seeking competitive individualism and a dominator mentality, will tend to bring out the best in people and support individual and community well-being.

Ecological sustainability will produce healthy food, healthier kids, and freedom from the subtle anxiety that we are destroying our life-support system.

What are the proposal’s costs?

In terms of funding the Great Transition initiative, groups can fund their own activities at modest expense.

Economic growth, industrial production to support that growth, and environmental damage including fossil fuel emissions are closely coupled under the current paradigm. Therefore arguably we need to slow the economy if we are to solve global warming.

We are not talking about cutting back on people's needs. We are talking about reducing excess consumption - stuff people do not really need or necessarily enjoy. And we are talking about design for durability.

Under the current paradigm economic growth and achieving environmental sustainability are incompatible. Therefore some advocate transitioning to a steady state economy.

In this were to happen, the value of many investments would fall. At the same time, local economies, in contrast to the speculative economy would strengthen. Winners and losers. No doubt the transition will be contentious, messy and painful for some.


Time line

Given that at current global temperatures gas hydrates are being released from the floor of the Arctic Ocean, and there is the real potential of a 'methane burp' that will kick off uncontrollable global warming, we need to operate at emergency speed to turn things around.

Rather than work out a staged timeline, like a guerrilla force we start where we are, recruit allies as we go along, and respond to opportunities as they appear. However, we think that if we do not succeed in changing the direction of our society within a short time frame it is game over.

People are waking up. It may be that we are closer to a positive tipping point than we realize. We humans are highly creative and adaptable, once we see what is needed. We can do it. Indeed the necessary changes are already underway.




How do these sub-proposals fit together?


Explanation of model inputs



Hawken, Paul Blessed Unrest Penguin, 2007

Pachamama Alliance

Sustainable World Coalition

Be The Change Australia

Transition Leader Network