What types of activity are required?

Here we describe six types of activity that may be required to move from experimental new practices to a social movement. Which activities you adopt depends on the subject matter, but probably even more on the mission and formal tasks of your organisation.

1 Elaborating concepts or key ideas for system innovationand setting up new experiments in other contexts (expansion of innovation). These activities should always be accompanied by evaluations in order to learn about important regime or structural constraints on innovation. When starting new transition projects, also take into account any obstacles that you encountered in previous projects, since they may require new types of activity.

2 Creating coalitions or consortia to implement innovations. This type of activity is often carried out in tandem with category-1 activities. An example would be the creation of a new consortium with the specific task of further developing a new idea or launching new projects.

3 Creating a sense of urgency and legitimacy for innovation. This can be done by:

  • Collecting current data about problems. Examples might be data about climate change and its impact on water systems in order to underpin the need for different approaches to water management
  • Collecting up-to-date information to demonstrate the value of providing structural support for projects, for example through social business case
  • Actively communicating the facts that underscore the need for a sense of urgency. For this purpose you can use the media or trade journals, speak at conferences, publish newsletters or create websites; you could also try to convince sponsors or advisory bodies with status to help to disseminate the message of urgency or the vision to specific target groups
  • Formulating a vision at a higher level than that of interesting individual projects, for example the level of a sub-sector or sector. This higher-level vision, or social agenda, could also provide overarching legitimacy for other new initiatives

Disseminating the philosophy ofsystem innovation. This can be done, for example, by having articles on the subject published in trade journals, arranging media exposure, producing audio-visual materials, etc. You could also try to recruit sponsors with status to help disseminate the ideas.

5  Promoting the incorporation of new ideas in formal policy documents.  Examples of such documents would be structural plans, government vision statements, corporate mission statements and strategic plans. In order to succeed you will need to have excellent contacts and a clear idea of which decisions are made when in the relevant organisations. National advisory councils such as the Environmental Council, the Council for Rural Areas and the Health Research Council could prove to be valuable intermediaries in publicising new ideas. Once the ideas for the transition have been included in formal policy documents they become a guideline for policy or an element of formal policy.

Promoting structural changes/new institutions This is an essential element of a transition project. On this point, see also the question 'What institutional changes should I consider?'

In practice, the activities can overlap. Some activities are also mutually dependent. For example, it is easier to change policies when there is a widely shared sense of urgency. It is then also easier to create coalitions for change.