A Q&A with Rob Hopkins, author of #DoingStuff

We are privileged to be working with Rob Hopkins, co-founder of the Transition Town movement, which demonstrates the enormous potential of people and communities to create change and to unite people in responding to the challenges we face, to create a much more vibrant and resilient community.We asked Rob about why he wrote the book, what he is trying to achieve from it, and what his experience of growing fine beetroots has to do with inspiring Transition Towns.The Power of Just Doing StuffWhat can the work of Transition initiatives, now popping up in more than 1000 communities in 40 countries, contribute to our thinking about how we create a sustainable, and more resilient future? I was amazed and inspired by the stories that I came across where research the book – tales of how solar energy is reviving a London community, how a small garden in a town in Portugal brought a community back together, of the communities looking to community resilience as the foundation of their economic future, and the pioneering local food business founded by people with no previous knowledge of either running a business or local food.It is through joining up such stories that a new economic story starts to emerge, one that goes beyond theory and can already be seen in action around the world.If you had to describe the book in a sentence what would you say?There is an inspiring alternative to austerity, and it’s already underway – communities are reclaiming their local economies and coming alive in the process.Tell us more about the book and what we can expect to find?The book is about the concept of community resilience as economic development, and how that has the potential to be the defining economic idea of our time. It argues that the end of the age of cheap energy, climate change and the economic crisis mean that we need solutions that go beyond changing light bulbs but which fundamentally rethink the scale on which we do things.What can currently be observed as small, disparate enterprises and projects (pop-up shops, craft breweries, community renewable projects, local currencies), when looked at together they represent the emergence of a new economic story, on with the potential to define the next century.The book draws from the experience of the Transition movement, which has spread to more than 1000 communities in over 40 countries in just over 7 years, inspiring people to organise at the local level and start building the kind of local economy they want to see.The focus of ‘The Power of Just Doing Stuff’ is on how it feels to be part of such a process, as told through the voices of people in the UK, Portugal, Spain, Argentina, the US and elsewhere. It is positive, solutions focused, but above all inspiring.It shows how such a shift is not just an idea, it is already happening, in community after community around the world, these are people who aren’t waiting for permission, but are creating a new economy from the ground up.What are you trying to do with the book?We want to take Transition mainstream – to inspire and demonstrate that we have an opportunity to work together to create vibrant and thriving communities.What I wanted to do through the book was to bring that to the fore, to share some of the stories of some of the most amazing projects I have seen so far, and put them in the context of what it says if you look at them in a wider context and what they say about the future of the economy. It feels vital to me that another possibility is out there, and that’s what I have set out to do.I spoke to some great people around the world doing Transition, and even though I am involved in this stuff day in day out, I learnt about new projects, and really got to connect into the passion people put intothis stuff. I found it a really inspiring process to pull it together, and working with the knowledge that this was to be a smaller book, and being concise was also really good.Who will the book appeal to?As many people as possible, and while it needs to appeal to those who are already doing Transition, and be something they feel reflects them, but I want this to get way beyond them.Or it will appeal to someone who is feeling despondent that the future just looks like a gradual lurch into things getting worse and worse and needs a sense of what other possibilities there might be. People who have a sense that things aren’t right but haven’t been able to pull it all together in a way that makes sense.People involved in any kind of community work who are inspired by the potential of where it could all go. People who are interested in preserving their High Street, their local economy, and are looking for inspiration.How does your background impact on what you are doing for Transition?I have been a permaculture teacher for many years, teaching food growing, natural building and permaculture design. In 2005 I found myself inadvertently kicking off rapidly-growing movement, the Transition movement. I have a first class honours degree in Environmental Quality and Resource Management, and a PhD which was awarded in 2010. I am a Visiting Fellow of Plymouth University and in July will be awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science by UWE Bristol.I am an Ashoka Fellow, a Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute, and my blog was recently voted ‘the 4th best green blog in the UK'(!). I tweet as @robintransition, and recently came 11th in the PeerIndex-driven Sustainability Drivers List.And in your personal life?I am a keen gardener and grow fine beetroot. In my spare time I like to draw (although I rarely find time for that). I have 4 sons and I am passionate about music. I once built a strawbale house in the middle of Ireland’s biggest garden show. I was voted one of NESTA’s ‘Britain’s 50 New Radicals’ a couple of years ago. I am also involved in starting a community brewery.

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