The Model



For a successful Great Transition we need to make change efforts at all three levels of the system (culture, regimes, niches) that reinforce one another to create positive feedback loops. Our strategic question should always be: What effect could my actions have on all of the levels and what feedback loops could it catalyse?


time20 mins




Tools to help us along the way: the Smart CSOs model

Along with having a vision, we need ways to think about the world and about different actors’ role in shaping it, otherwise we can be tempted to think of ‘the system’ as a monolithic, overwhelming force.

Using our vision as a guide, we can develop strategies to deconstruct different aspects of the system to see how and where different actors can have influence.

The first tool we propose to help with this is the Smart CSOs model.

The model helps us understand different dynamics at work in shaping culture, regimes and innovation.

Describe the Smart CSOs model and how it helps us learn to develop more effective strategies by taking into account the different levels of change (see Key Concepts, pp34-37).

Show how the Detox campaign maps on the Smart CSOs model (see slides).



Smart CSOs Model (pp34-37 guide)

We have found that models can be practical and important tools for re.imagining our strategies. How do systems change? And what does existing knowledge tell us about how our broken economic, political and social systems could be fundamentally transformed so that life on earth can flourish within the means of the planet? (p34)

The empirical experience from transition research helped us see how change happens at different, interconnected levels. We adapted these findings to our own needs. (p34)

Culture level is where the dominant societal values and worldviews lie and eventually shift. The Regimes level is where the dominant political, economic and social institutions lie and where new or transformed institutions emerge. The Niches level is where pioneers experiment with ideas and seeds of the new system. (p34)

If we want to change the system, trying to convince the existing system players (Regimes) to fundamentally change is often futile. (p35)

Instead of playing the game of politics, we need to use windows of opportunity in the old system to advance system change. (p36)

We need a much broader perspective on change that involves an understanding of the role of culture and radical innovation processes in catalysing change. (p35)

Most campaigns and activist strategies are not paying sufficient attention to the importance of culture in change. We rely too heavily on the power of information and rational argument. We communicate and represent values and frames of self-interest, consumerism and growth, thereby perpetuating the current culture.  (p36)

While there is a growing number of experiments with alternative economic models, most are simply tolerated by mainstream institutions or co-opted by the system to play by current market rules. (p36)

Disruptive innovators creating the seeds of the new system require support and protected spaces to incubate their innovations. If we can support these pioneers by helping them build communities of influence, they will become stronger, scale their innovations and eventually institutionalise a new system. (p36)


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