Municipalities in Transition

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Municipalities in Transition is a key approach designed to help communities and municipalities to collaborate well to create systemic change for sustainability.

This page is part of an ongoing, open-ended online collaborative database, which collects relevant approaches that can be used by city-makers to tackle unsustainability and injustice in cities. It is based mainly on knowledge generated in EU-funded projects and touches on fast changing fields. As such, this page makes no claims of authoritative completeness and welcomes your suggestions.

General introduction to approach

Municipalities in Transition (MiT) is a grassroots policy innovation that promotes synergies between local governments and community-led initiatives, using systems thinking and a flexible framework system to find innovative ways to facilitate transformative change, as studied and reported in the Local collaborative transformations report.[1] The Municipalities in Transition methodology is being further developed and tested in Pioneer municipalities in 2019-2020.

Shapes, sizes and applications

Municipalities in Transition is a project of the Transition movement (jointly led by Transition Network and the Transition Hubs group).[2] In 2018-19 the Municipalities in Transition System was piloted in 6 communities:[3]

  • Valsamoggia, Italy
  • Santorso, Italy
  • Telheiras, Portugal
  • La Garrotxa, Spain
  • Kispest, Hungary
  • Ecobairro São Paulo, Brazil).

Relation to UrbanA themes: Cities, sustainability, and justice

Transition Network has identified the municipal level of scale as a space where people can engage in the need for systemic change in a meaningful way, spotting connections, building trust, countering social and economic inequality and fostering a stronger and more practical sense of environmental stewardship. The Municipalities in Transition System fosters this potential at municipal scale, as an approach to help communities and municipalities engage in a collaborative transition towards a more sustainable future.

Narrative of change

The “beta” Municipalities in Transition System, trialled by the pilot communities in 2018-2019, shows the key functions of Evaluation & Diagnosis; Co-design; Co-Implementation; Toolbox; and Cultural Leverage.[4] The new system includes also the function of Governance. The System is recommended for use with a skilled facilitator, or “tutor” to ensure that the process is participatory and inclusive, and help navigate the complexities of cultural and behavioural change. The Municipalities in Transition System is inspired by system thinking, recognising and working with local variables, resources and opportunities, pursuing the purpose of creating deep cultural and practical changes towards sustainability and wellbeing through the implementation of the Transition Principles. It also uses the concept of fluxes: narratives, actions and social structures that can move and influence wider portions of society in a transversal way, informing, connecting and fostering as many groups as possible at the same time. This was partially inspired by the work of the economist David Lane on complexity and social interactions.[5]

The Municipalities in Transition system has the following features, that makes it a very practical tool for transition:

  1. It has a Purpose
  2. It’s closely linked to the Transition principles[6]
  3. It’s implementable in a top-down and/or a bottom-up approach
  4. It’s powerful enough to cope with high levels of complexity and uncertainty
  5. It’s simple enough to be relatively easy to learn and to use in real life
  6. It has a low level of preconditions for adoption (low resources, low technology)
  7. It’s easily adaptable to a wide variety of very different contexts and cultures
  8. It’s designed to be iteratively evolved through its use
  9. It’s suitable for use in a context of shared/diffused governance
  10. It’s capable of improving the quality of the cooperation between the involved actors
  11. It’s preparatory to a deep adaptation community strategy

Transformative potential

Pedro Macedo reports that, in the six Municipalities in Transition pilots 2018-2019, “Even in a short time, quite dramatic changes occurred. This was the product of the reflexive experimentation, the new social relations, the empowerment process, the changing tensions, the translocal connectivity, the discourse formation, the new institutional homes and the strategic actions. New ways of doing, organizing, framing and/or knowing.”[7]

The Municipalities in Transition System challenges power relations through the process being led by a collaborative group where community and municipality representatives are equals in decision-making. This aims to empower a broad range of actors to see beyond their immediate needs, short-term interests and professional preoccupations, connect to their longing for transformational change and come together to design and implement activity with the potential to shift the system.


  1. Macedo, P. (2019a). Local collaborative transformations - Existing experiences and a new systemic framework for reflexive governance. Porto: Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Changes, Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade de Lisboa.
  2. Accessed 4th December 2019
  3. Accessed 4th December 2019
  4. Access date 4th December 2019
  5. Antonelli, C., 2011. Handbook on the Economic Complexity of Technological Change. Edward Elgar Publishing.
  6. Accessed December 5th 2019.
  7. Macedo, P. (2019b). Municipalities in Transition - Deep collaboration between community-based initiatives and local governments. Porto: Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Changes, Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade de Lisboa