If we create a culture that promotes well-being and prosperity for all,
then we will be in a position to discover who we really are.
                                                 Martin Seligman

In my view most of us who are activists need to raise our game.

In 2014 Joel Makower, CEO of GreenBiz, commented: Despite its real achievements, the sustainability movement is failing.

Unless we think innovatively and mobilise passionate mainstream commitment to turning things around the continuation of business as usual will take current trends to their dismal conclusion.

Currently fossil fuel emissions are going up and most environmental trends such as ocean acidification and biodiversity loss continue to deteriorate. We are in a climate emergency now, and COP21, while it produced an aspirational sense of alignment, has no teeth.

The current guiding ethos of our global civilisation is economic growth, which is underpinned by increasing industrial production and associated fossil fuel emissions. The wealth gap continues to increase, and large corporations and governments push ‘trade’ agreements that destroy both environment and our capacity for democratic self regulation.

In contrast our proper intention, I suggest, is to transition to a life-sustaining society. A life-sustaining society will operate within planetary boundaries, and it will be organised to support the well-being of individuals and communities. The needed changes affect every sphere of life in a positive way. Rather than thinking just of a few specific changes, we would do well to think of a whole system change: changing all the driving forces that exacerbate global warming and social imbalance.

The most influential leverage point for change in any human system is in people’s thinking – their paradigms, worldviews, and ways of going about things. What is needed now is a new kind of activism that aims to catalyse a mindset shift to change the direction of our culture. We might call thistransformational activism.

Neoliberals have been consciously aiming to shape society according to their worldview for decades. However, the prospect of changing the direction of our whole society can seem daunting to many social activists and ordinary people.

My paper Understanding Whole System Change makes the idea of whole system change mentally manageable in a way that supports real-world transformative action at many levels.

There are also excellent articles, books, videos and study guides that cover the ground of whole system change. Two of them are Paul Raskin’sGreat Transition: The Promise and Lure of the Times Ahead and Annie Leonard’s The Story of Stuff.

The problem is: their reach is limited. Only a small proportion of the population seeks them out. Yet without informed passionate public will to transition to a life-sustaining society, we won’t. Muddling along won’t get us there.

Most activists work on specific campaigns. Despite our different emphases, perhaps we can align around the intention to successfully transition to a life-sustaining society, and the recognition that gaining mainstream commitment is essential for success.

If so, we have the basis for a new kind of activism that aims at mindset change.

My paper Accelerating the Great Transition - Engaging mainstream commitment to a life-sustaining societyoutlines a communication strategy whereby a multitude of groups and their members can align without requiring contentious strategy meetings. It includes tactics ranging from think tanks for businesses, governments and civil society down to inexpensive guerrilla marketing.

We have an innovative tool for conducting personal conversations called Kitchen Table Conversations. Kitchen Table Conversations enable people to connect the dots and develop a robust mental framework for assessing current trends, and seeing a positive way forward that they can contribute to. These conversations orient people mentally and emotionally to support constructive leadership at many levels when it emerges (which always happens), and to exert constructive leadership in their sphere of influence.

Thus the new opportunity for activists and environmental businesses is to add a component of public education about transitioning to a life-sustaining society to what they are already doing. This will not necessarily take a lot of time. The simplest tactic is to mention that we are transitioning to a life-sustaining society, and show how what they are already doing contributes to the transition.

More sophisticated educational approaches are also available, including training members / staff to act as citizen educators conducting Kitchen Table Conversations with people they know. We are about seeding the goal of transitioning to a life-sustaining society to a variety of low-key ways.

Inspiring Transitionis an open source platform to support this. It has ready-to-use communication tools including sample emails, articles, and the Kitchen Table Conversations manual.

The intention behind the Inspiring Transition initiative is to catalyse a global communication initiative that will transform society. We are not starting from scratch. As Paul Hawken and others have pointed out, a great wave of positive change is already occurring. If it fulfils its promise, historians of the future may describe our time as the Great Transition to a life-sustaining society. Our task is to vastly accelerate the Great Transition because, as Joel Makower observed, at the moment we are failing.

As I mentioned, there are a few groups – not many – who champion whole system change. Their reach is limited. The innovative idea behind Inspiring Transition is to engage thousands of groups and their members as champions of whole system change to a life-sustaining society. Together we can become a powerful force for cultural change that bypasses the media and inspires people to do their own thinking.