How do I handle opposition?

Transition projects almost always encounter opposition because they run counter to existing interests. But opposition to your project can also arise because others assign different priorities to specific aspects of sustainability than you.

Types of opposition

Whatever the reason, opposition can appear in many guises, ranging from indifference to active obstruction or attempts to sabotage the project, for example by expressing negative opinions or trying to divert resources away from your project. The opposition to your plans may be openly expressed, but might also be implicit. The latter form of opposition is perhaps the most difficult to counter.

Learning from criticism

As a general rule, you should be curious about who has objections and what their objections are. Always listen carefully to them! Keep asking questions to find out what the underlying reasons are for their objections and to discover what their reservations are and what it is they want.

You can also learn what improvements you can make to your project or the process from your critics. Ask what you can do to address genuine objections, for example, with additional knowledge, by making changes in the stakeholder network, by revising the vision, by mobilising supportive members of the network. Formulate plausible arguments to refute unrealistic objections.

Methods you can use include in-depth interviews or semi-open question-and-answer sessions with key figures who are able to clearly articulate the objections, interests and values of the people they represent.

How to deal with a damage infliction strategy

If you are confronted with a damage infliction strategy you must act as quickly as possible. This type of strategy is usually based on fundamental differences of principle that are difficult or impossible to overcome. If it is impossible to engage in a dialogue, publicise the opposition more widely. Activate people who support your project and, if necessary, consider keeping the critics well away from your experiment.