Operating Principles of Transition Port Angeles

Operating Principles of Transition Port Angeles

This Document

This governing document represents an elaboration upon the governing document Fundamental Principles of Human Rights and Freedoms. In this document we hope to touch upon the spirit, not merely the letter, of those fundamental principles, and combine them with concepts we inherit from the Transition movement.

The Operating Principles build upon each other conceptually, and represent a second cornerstone of Transition Port Angeles. Each particular principle interlocks with others, and provides greater understanding of still other principles. An honest understanding and internalization of these Operating Principles is critical to the success of the Initiative.

The Principles

           Inclusivity and Tolerance

We hold that those who celebrate the diversity of ideas, opportunities, cultures, and possibilities implicit in a wide range of perspectives exemplify the tolerance which this Initiative seeks to realize in Port Angeles. Our diversity of perspectives and tolerance of that diversity are assets to Transition Port Angeles and will help to unleash the collective genius of our community. Our diverse origins enrich the Initiative, and together we are responsible for the heritage of generations, our community, and its history, nature, languages and cultures.

All persons who are committed to the future of Port Angeles as a pleasant and resilient city are warmly welcome to participate in this Initiative. This welcome also extends to organizations — including but not limited to government, citizen, nonprofit, and business — with a pledge to find the common ground on which to collaborate.

We must be tolerant of all but the intolerant, and inclusive of all but the discriminatory, to prevent irreparable harm to the legitimacy and efficacy of Transition Port Angeles, forestall any injury to our community, and avoid diminishing the reputation of the Transition movement.


We hold that the consensus process is the absolute necessity for decision-making in the Initiative. Although the consensus process takes longer than majority-based methods, we believe that consensus is the best way to include a diversity of perspectives together and unleash our collective strengths.

The consensus process avoids false notions of “us and them,” and supports our belief that a group is greater than the sum of the participants. It also holds the greatest potential for resolving disagreements and conflicts since it avoids creating ‘winners’ and ‘losers’. Because some people may be unfamiliar with the consensus process, we feel it is best to learn by doing. As participants experience the consensus process, we believe smooth and constructive collaboration will become second nature. The process itself will bring us together, help us learn from our mistakes, and encourage us to improve how we work together.

           Organic Process

The Transition movement is infused with the concepts of Permaculture, as exampled under the section Stewardship. To thrive, Transition Port Angeles must be aligned with the natural world. We must personally model the patterns we wish to establish for the future we are building, so we can better convey those patterns to others.

In modeling the natural world, we seek to avoid arbitrary limitations; for example, limitations on participation or our collaborative vision. Everything we do will take as long as necessary to flower at its natural pace. The right people are those who fulfill the imperatives of the process laid down before them. Groups will become whatever size they need to be, so that they can tackle the problems only group genius can address.

All organic processes naturally find their point of balance and health with the world around them. This, perhaps above all, is what we seek to accomplish in our community.


Many issues which we face can be seen as stemming from excessive concentration of decision-making power. Additionally, some Initiatives have fallen prey to the problem of entrenched ‘leadership’, which sees well-meaning people attempting to control their Initiative by inappropriate concentration of decision-making power.

To prevent this, and to offer a positive alternate, we turn to the Transition model’s answer: the principle of subsidiarity. Subsidiarity states that decision-making power should be distributed as widely as possible, both to empower individuals and communities, and to ensure that problems can be approached by the most organic and appropriate ways possible. This principle is an intrinsic part of the spirit of the Transition process, and one which we wish to consciously include in building the future of Port Angeles.

           Mutual Trust

Circumstances will arise when individuals might need to step away from Transition Port Angeles for personal reasons. This will likely happen at all circles of participation, and should be at least loosely planned for by all groups. Every group within the Initiative must build mutual trust, such that people can step away from their roles and feel confident their fellow group members will carry on in good faith and in keeping with the spirit of the Initiative.

We who agree to represent Transition Port Angeles willingly take it upon ourselves to uphold the principles and spirit of the Initiative, as each participant represents us all. This is another facet of mutual trust: We trust that those who step forward do so in good faith and with good intentions.

Mutual trust involves an acceptance of the process in which we are participating, as well as changes it brings. These changes will be within ourselves and within the community of Port Angeles. This trust also means accepting the perspectives of everyone else participating within the process.

           Right Relations

As individuals and as groups, we affirm our commitment to practice attitudes and behaviors consistent with the spirit of the Charter and the Transition Towns movement. We commit ourselves to building and sustaining a healthy Initiative that is welcoming, inclusive, and empowering.

We affirm and celebrate each of our individual paths of self-expression, and we will support each other with respect, honesty, and compassion. Diversity of perspectives will be honored with considerate, civil, and forthright discussions.

In the support and defense of our mutual respect and trust, we agree to cultivate the following attitudes and behaviors within groups and between each other:

  • We will be courteous, respectful, and helpful.
  • We will honor our promises and fulfill our commitments.
  • We will communicate in an open, honest, and direct manner with each other.
  • We will remain true to our personal convictions and support others to do the same.
  • We will seek to have controversy be an opportunity for growth, education, and renewal, and strive to avoid bitterness and contention.
  • We will not use or create any exclusionary processes, norms, or concepts.
  • We will be mindful of our framing of concepts, and continually strive to avoid patronizing, or divisive language.
  • We will welcome constructive criticism with respect to any ‘blind spots’ within our minds and philosophies.


The principle of mutual trust extends to building trust between the Initiative and the wider Port Angeles community. We wish to steer a new course for the city on behalf of all its inhabitants. In order to become a credible and respected voice in the community, we must promote transparency and seek a general understanding of our vision, purpose, and objectives.

Transparency reduces the risk of internal duplication of effort within the Initiative, and ensures that our work is building positive energy and effective group dynamics.

In addition, we wish to show that we, as an Initiative, are meeting the expectations and requirements of being a Transition Initiative. We must provide full access to our experiences and actions, so that other Transition Initiatives might learn from our efforts.

Every participant in the Initiative is responsible for ensuring the free flow of information, skills, and knowledge. This flow must be not only within Transition Port Angeles, but between the Initiative and the community of Port Angeles, and between the Initiative and the Transition movement.

The information to be shared extends beyond simple notes from meetings or project overviews; it also includes working documents, records of conflicts and their resolutions, and other artifacts of our process. All of this will be useful for someone, somewhere; it might be someone in Transition Port Angeles, or another Initiative, or mullers around the world.

           Circles of Participation

We desire to include everyone in Port Angeles as participants in the Initiative and its process. Although this is perhaps not possible, it is an ideal.

We hold that all who come to participate in Transition Port Angeles are equal in commitment to the Initiative and that we all, equally, want to see Port Angeles thrive.

Although all are equal in their commitment, not all are equivalent in the ability to participate. Some people might not have the personal time or energy to participate in regular planning meetings, but instead might be able to participate in community projects, such as a day-long gardening event, for example. The commitment from each is beyond question; every person must find where best to participate.

We completely reject any suggestion of “us and them” or some sort of hierarchy. Rather, we visualize participation as in a series of concentric circles. We are all equal, in that we are all within the widest circle, which represents the entirety of Transition Port Angeles. We are also equal in our ability to move from one concentric circle to another.

The only difference lies in which of the concentric circles we occupy, as appropriate to our ability to participate, our willingness to commit ourselves, and where within the Initiative we are best suited to apply our efforts.

Within these concentric circles there are no “leaders” in any traditional or business sense. No one is “above” anyone else; there is no top or bottom to a circle, nor is there a beginning or an end. Individually, in groups, and as an entire movement we will identify what needs to be done, and together we will build our future.


The tenets of Permaculture are integral to the entirety of the Transition movement. To make this relationship explicit in the Charter, we adhere to the three ethics of Permaculture:

Earthcare: recognizing that the Earth is our only home and that we are a part of the Earth’s web of life, not separate from it.

Peoplecare: supporting and helping each other to develop healthy societies, and to live in ways that do not harm ourselves or the planet.

Fairshare: ensuring that the Earth’s limited resources are used in ways that are equitable and wise for both the present and future well-being of the entire biosphere.

In this spirit, we must be stewards of the trust which has been placed in us, and the trust which we have earned. We must also be stewards of what the past has given us, not only in the physical infrastructure of the city, but the history upon which we build.

           Human Resilience

Every human being has the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. The future we face is filled with many serious and lasting changes which will require all of us to adapt. These adaptations are part of our own personal transitions, and represents opportunities to move toward and better realize the future we seek.

We hold that everyone has the strength and flexibility to make these transitions in their lives. The human spirit is inexhaustible and resilient when faced of all sorts of changing circumstances. Indeed, it is the nature of humanity as a whole to transform challenges into opportunities. Part of unleashing the genius of groups is tapping into that spirit.

           Model the Transition

Transition is a generalized process, which we will tailor for the unique circumstances Port Angeles faces. We are building a model of that unique process, and strive to honestly and scrupulously follow this model in the spirit of the Transition process. This is nor intended to limit any elaboration for our unique needs.

Modeling goes deeper than our operating process. We believe it is critical that all participants come to model the Transition process in their own lives, to the extent that each is able. Our individual understanding of the process will deepen and broaden as we ourselves become more of the change we wish to see in the world. Through our own personal transitions, will help shape the future of Port Angeles.

Affirmation of this Document

In the spirit of the future we wish to facilitate, we affirm our whole-hearted support of this constituent governing document of the Charter of Transition Port Angeles by our signatures:


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