The Transition Town movement is a decentralised and evolving approach to community-led sustainability. It offers a model for a societal shift from oil dependency towards more energy efficient and low carbon lifestyles (Hopkins, 2008). Whilst communities in the UK are the pioneers of this movement, since 2005 transition initiatives have begun to develop in communities of various shapes and sizes worldwide. In Germany, the Transition movement developed alongside the ‘Energiewende’ and is suggested to occur both physically as well as within people’s minds. The fundamental aims of the Transition Town movement are to build local resilience and robust responses towards issues including energy demand and fossil fuel dependency. Communities are encouraged to develop ways in which to overcome such issues using resources specific to their situations as opposed to more top-down driven transitions.

There are twelve guiding steps or ingredients to transition which aim to draw up and implement an energy descent plan involving a wide range of local actors at all levels of the process. These have recently developed into a more flexible and broader set of principles, which resemble certain principles from organisational psychological such as the participatory development of socio-technological systems (Schweizer-Ries, 2008). Psychological knowledge could inform the parallel concepts that may develop at this point and further benefit the Transition movement. A central aim of this research will be to revise the principles and consider rooting them within a Rubicon model of action phases (Achtziger & Gollwitzer, 2007). The rationale behind this is that more reference and higher commitment to conscious decision-making processes may be required for Transition Initiatives to gain momentum.

Methodologically, this work aims to compare the development of the Transition Town movement and related initiatives in the UK with those that have more recently begun to evolve in Germany. This will take the form of a comparative case study of a community in Germany and in the UK, similar in size and demographic backgrounds. The local processes as well as responses towards local Transition Initiatives will be analysed. A mixed-methods approach will be used, where qualitative interviews may have greater value when identifying the important aspects of the Transition movement from local initiators. Quantitative data will be collected from local residents, as it will allow for a wide range of data to be gathered in an efficient manner. It is imaginable that a standardised questionnaire for sustainability and energy consciousness will be used (currently under construction). Furthermore, this study will adopt a transformative research method in the sense that it will aim to contribute to on-going projects as opposed to a more extractive driven research process.

The value of this comparative study is that it is thought to lead to a more thorough understanding of how the Transition movement is implemented and accepted in two related yet very different settings, i.e. countries that are economically and socially comparable but which have taken different stances on energy efficiency and ways to overcome oil dependency. Cultural and political frameworks in Germany and the UK may provide a contextual basis for the analysis of the development of Transition Initiatives and their uptake. Furthermore this research aims to identify the ways in which psychology, or more specifically concepts from environmental psychology, can help shape the Transition process successfully.