TRANSITIONS ARE ABOUT PARADOXES, APPARENT CONTRADICTIONS. AS SUCH THE CHALLENGE IS TO PURSUE AND/AND, RATHER THAN EITHER/OR
In the decades ahead, our society will transform into a new order in which the power relations as we know them will have been radically altered. This is not a pipedream, but the inescapable outcome of the big transition underway. All social sectors that failed to put people center-stage are running up against their limits.
People themselves have begun to develop alternatives and implement them. Together, they form a bottom-up movement, which is essential for the transition towards a better adapted social and economic order.
Transition literally means reversal or turnaround. According to Jan Rotmans, a dedicated interpreter of our radically changing social and economic order, any transition will typically take the shape of an s-curve: a long initial pre-development phase, followed by a ‘tipping’ phase.
This teaches us several things: system changes develop intermittently, rather than in a linear fashion; they sometimes advance rapidly and sometimes slowly; they comprise long periods of balance disrupted by short periods of chaos in which the system is shaken.
“If in systems it is called a crisis, I consider it a blessing.”
Looking at developments in this way has specific implications for all efforts to guide them. In a ‘tipping’ phase, interventions may therefore have immediate effects. But in the early stage of a transition, things will be unmovable no matter how hard you try. This is why initially you need to experiment, while only later on you need to work towards a turnaround.
Once the transition process is picking up speed there is little one can do anymore, for the process will generate its own dynamic. Expertise only becomes relevant again for assessing and anticipating further transitional developments.