Building Thriving, Resilient Communities Guide

February 10, 2014

A Collection of Resources for You & Your Neighbors
to Create a Saner, Healthier Future Together

Compiled by Marissa Mommaerts; edited by Leslie Meehan & Ken White.
Sponsored by Thriving Resilient Communities Collaboratory.



This collection of books, online resources, trainings and courses was assembled by members and allies of the Thriving Resilient Communities Collaboratory (TRCC), who share a vision of a world that is sustainable, just, compassionate, and healthy.

Building Thriving, Resilient Communities explores many exciting resilient systems being created in communities across the nation (and planet) that demonstrate how we can live more sustainably, and in community, while respecting Nature’s limits. More than just inspiring stories, this collection contains tools—practical, tested, hands-on ways you can begin making your community more resilient. And best of all, most of these steps—collaborating with neighbors, supporting local farmers and tradespeople, reducing dependence on globalized trade—are the right thing to do… even if we weren’t facing unprecedented challenges!

Building Thriving, Resilient Communities consists of five guides:

  • Guide #1: Getting Started
    An introduction to the converging economic and ecological challenges we face as responsible people sharing this planet, along with exciting stories and useful tools to help us find our way
  • Guide #2: Taking Steps Toward Resilience: Lifestyle Changes
    A brief list of simple steps individuals and households can make to use less energy, become more mindful and resilient, with links to additional information and resources for DIY projects
  • Guide #3: Taking Steps Toward Resilience: Practical Projects
    Ideas, guides, and best practices for projects to mobilize your community – from relocalizing your food, energy, and economic systems to creating a culture of compassion and service
  • Guide #4: Building a Movement: Tools for Effective Collaboration
    Tools to help you learn how to work effectively as a team, identify community resources and needs, and design an environment from which creativity and collective genius can emerge
  • Guide #5: Shifting the System
    Legal information, organizing strategies, and models to shift current policies, systems, and infrastructure to support and foster community resilience

Enjoy the journey, and let us know what tools you discover or invent that might help others.

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Guide 1: Getting Started

Image via shutterstock. Reproduced with permission.
Image via shutterstock. Reproduced with permission.

Guide #1 collects our favorite sources for getting acquainted with the converging economic, energy, and ecological challenges we face as responsible people sharing this planet. This Guide also includes useful, inspiring stories, as well as tools you can use to share this information and begin to build understanding and support in your community.

Online Resources

  • 300 Years of Fossil Fuels in 300 Seconds: This short animated video from the Post Carbon Institute, written and narrated by Richard Heinberg, explains what it means to our economy and society to be reaching the end of the era of cheap fossil fuels.
  • Bioneers Media Center: Videos, radio interviews, and articles from visionary leaders who are developing nature-inspired solutions to the world’s environmental and social-justice challenges.
  • Economy Sandwich: This short animated video from the Sustainable Economies Law Center provides an introduction to the practical and legal aspects of sharing, cooperatives, Do-It-Yourself, and local economies.
  • Great Transition Stories: An open source wiki collection of scholarship and wisdom that presents stories of the “Great Turning” and the transition to a post-fossil fuel world.
  • The High Price of Materialism: In this short animation from Center for a New American Dream, psychologist Tim Kasser discusses how America’s culture of consumerism undermines our well-being and points toward solutions that promise a healthier, more just, and more sustainable life.
  • Hungry for Change: Food, Ethics, and Sustainability from the Northwest Earth Institute is a 4- to 6-session group discussion guide that helps participants explore our roles as consumers and creators through our food choices, culminating in personal action plans for each participant. It explores our impact on a range of issues, including ecosystem health, factory and farm worker treatment, and our global economy.
  • The Oil Journey: A customizable presentation you can use to tell your community’s journey from horse travel and local farms to today’s 24/7, strip-mall culture. You can use this tool to invite new people to join a conversation around the future we want to create.
  • is an online news, action and connection hub for the sharing transformation.
  • Share Spray: A New Way To Do Everything: This short animated video from the Sustainable Economies Law Center and the Center for a New American Dream illustrates how sharing can transform our lives and neighborhoods.
  • The Shift Network offers both free and paid online Summits and Courses by visionary leaders committed to “shifting our world’s operating system.”
  • Transition Infographic: The Transition Infographic explains the Transition movement in a friendly and accessible way that can invite new people into the conversation.
  • Visualizing a Plenitude Economy: This short animated video from Center for a New American Dream offers a vision of a post-consumer society, with people working fewer hours and pursuing re-skilling (learning nearly forgotten things like canning and carpentry), homesteading, and small-scale enterprises.
  • Who Ate the Economy?: This short video from Bay Localize tells the story of wealth distribution in the US, and what those left out (the 99%) can do about it.
  • Who Killed Growth?: This short, animated video from Post Carbon Institute, based on Richard Heinberg’s book The End of Growth, proposes that humanity has reached a turning point, where economic growth as we’ve known it can no longer continue on a finite planet.

Publications & Films

  • The Abundant Community, by Peter Block & John McKnight, suggests that right in our neighborhoods we have the capacity to address our human needs, explaining how to nurture voluntary, self-organizing structures that reveal our gifts and allow them to be shared to the greatest mutual benefit.
  • Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re In Without Going Crazy by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone shows us how to strengthen our capacity to respond to changing times with unexpected resilience and creative power. Drawing on decades of “Work That Reconnects” teaching, the authors use a transformational process, informed by mythic journeys, modern psychology, spirituality, and holistic science.
  • Climate After Growth, by Post Carbon Institute’s Asher Miller and Transition Network’s Rob Hopkins, argues that the “new normals” of economic stagnation, climate change, and soaring energy costs mean that the environmental movement must adjust our strategies to focus on building community resilience, and makes the case for investing in local economies.
  • Crash Course by Chris Martenson provides a baseline understanding of the economy and its discontents, so we can better appreciate the risks we all face. (Also available in a free online video course.)
  • Emergence: The Shift from Ego to Essence by Barbara Marx Hubbard lays out an intimate and practical process for making the transition to the next stage of human evolution, a new type of human who is connected through the heart to the whole of life, evolving consciously and helping to co-create a new kind of spiritual.
  • The End of Growth by Richard Heinberg argues that world economic contraction is inevitable since we are already overusing most of Earth’s important resources, and that limits to debt and to affordable oil supplies, along with worsening environmental disasters, are bringing about this change roughly now (i.e., this decade).
  • In Transition 2.0, ad new film from Transition Network, captures inspiring stories of communities around the world, responding to uncertain times with creativity, solutions, and “engaged optimism.”
  • Leading from the Emerging Future: From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies: This new book from Otto Scharmer takes Theory “U” into the field as a tool for discovering and learning from new courses of action.
  • Local Dollars, Local Sense by Michael Shuman, one of the Post Carbon Institute’s Community Resilience Guides, explores how everyone can invest their money into building local businesses and resilient regional economies – exploring local options, explaining obstacles, and profiling investors who have paved the way.
  • Low Carbon Diet from Empowerment Institute is a guide to individual environmental behavior changes to reduce your annual household carbon emissions, from calculating your current carbon footprint to tracking progress.
  • A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster, by Rebecca Solnit, examines what becomes possible after disaster—moments of altruism, resourcefulness, and generosity that arise amid disaster’s grief and disruption—and considers their implications for everyday life. She points to a new vision of what society could become—less authoritarian and fearful, more collaborative and local.
  • Pedagogy of the Poor by Willie Baptist and Jan Rehmann is an interdisciplinary pedagogy that brings together antipoverty grassroots activism and relevant social theories about poverty.
  • The Post Carbon Reader collects essays by some of the world’s most provocative thinkers on the key issues shaping our new century, from renewable energy and urban agriculture to social justice and community resilience. (Available free online from Post Carbon Institute).
  • Power from the People by Greg Pahl, one of the Post Carbon Institute’s Community Resilience Guides, explores how American communities can plan, finance, and produce their own local, renewable energy, using examples from around the USA and the world.
  • The Power of Just Doing Stuff, by Transition Network founder Rob Hopkins, shares inspiring real-life examples of people who have created innovative local businesses and invested in all manner of new enterprises, arguing that this is the seed of a new economy, and the answer to our search for a new way forward.
  • Rebuilding the Foodshed by Philip Ackerman-Leist, one of the Post Carbon Institute’s Community Resilience Guides, refocuses the local-food lens on rebuilding regional food systems that can replace the destructive aspects of industrial agriculture, meet food demands affordably and sustainably, and be resilient enough to endure whatever future awaits us.
  • Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back, by Andrew Zolli and Ann Marie Healy, explores the factors that cause some systems to break down and others to rebound, sharing breakthrough scientific discoveries, pioneering social and ecological innovations, and important new approaches to constructing a more resilient world, from the coral reefs of Palau to the back streets of Palestine.
  • Sustainable World Sourcebook: This International Book Award-winning book from the Sustainable World Coalition is a “one-stop shop” for essential information needed to alter our perilous trajectory of resource depletion, species extinction, and extreme societal inequities.
  • The Transition Handbook, by Transition Network founder Rob Hopkins, provides a vision and a model for a just, sustainable, and resilient world, by applying permaculture principles to redesign food, energy, and economic systems at the community level.
  • Walk Out, Walk On, by Deborah Frieze and Margaret Wheatley, profiles seven communities around the world where people have walked out of limiting beliefs and assumptions and walked on to create healthy and resilient communities, documenting their experiences through essays, stories, and beautiful color photographs.

Trainings & Events

  • Awakening the Dreamer Symposium from Pachamama Alliance is a multimedia presentation drawing on some of the most respected social and scientific experts of our time, interwoven with indigenous wisdom, to inspire and educate participants to bring forth an environmentally sustainable, socially just, and spiritually fulfilling world.
  • National Bioneers Conference: This annual conference held in San Rafael, California brings together leading social and scientific innovators to illuminate breakthrough solutions for restoring people and planet.
  • Transition Launch Training offers detailed introduction to the most important skills necessary to successfully set up, develop, and run a Transition project in your locality. It is designed for people who are just getting started or are already part of an effort, and can be used as a two-day in-person workshop or as an online course.
  • Generation Waking Up’s workshops & trainings mobilize young people locally and globally across issues, geography, and lines of difference, unleashing the collaborative power of the Millennial Generation.


Guide 2: Taking Steps Toward Resilience: Lifestyle Changes

photo: (cc) by-nc-sa Marissa Mommaerts
photo: (cc) by-nc-sa Marissa Mommaerts

This is the briefest Guide, but perhaps the most personal. Here are 10 simple steps you, your family, and friends and neighbors can take to use less energy, become more mindful about your choices, and build resilience. Many of the links lead to additional information and resources for DIY projects.

  1. Build community. Relationships are the foundation of resilient communities. Get to know your neighbors by organizing a potluck, sharing something, or simply stopping by to say hello.
  2. Grow some of your own food. You can start simple by growing in containers on a patio or windowsill or renting a plot in a community garden. Or, if you have access to land, start a garden or go all out with a permablitz.
  3. Share and repair. Two simple and rewarding ways to reduce consumption and save money are by sharing things you don’t use all the time (vacuum, car, tools, etc.) with friends and neighbors, and by repairing items when they break instead of buying new ones.
  4. Minimize waste by purchasing fresh and bulk foods to avoid extra packaging, and start composting organic waste.
  5. Help keep wealth in your community. Buy local when possible, and consider switching to a local bank or credit union.
  6. Reduce home energy use and save money by hanging a clothesline or conducting a home energy efficiency audit.
  7. Conserve water. Fix the leaks, take shorter showers, sheet mulch your lawn, and install a greywater or rainwater harvesting system.
  8. Green your ride. Walk or get a bicycle, learn how to use public transport, or redesign your routine to minimize your drive.
  9. Build inner resilience. Cultivate meaningful relationships, practice mindfulness or spend time in nature.
  10. Join a Transition town or community resilience initiative near you, and start transforming your community!


Guide 3: Taking Steps Toward Resilience: Practical Projects

photo: (cc) by-nc-sa Transition US
photo: (cc) by-nc-sa Transition US

Ready to team up with neighbors? Guide #3 provides ideas, guidelines, and best practices for mobilizing your community to use less energy and become more resilient—from relocalizing your food, energy, and economic systems, to creating a culture of compassion and service.


  • Guide to Going Local from BALLE and Center for a New American Dream offers tips, videos, and resources on how to strengthen the local economy in your town through buying local, highlighting new entrepreneurs, instilling local pride, investing locally, and more.
  • Guide to Sharing from Center for a New American Dream and Shareable explains how to create a sharing economy, using tips, videos, and resources to explain everything from starting a tool library to organizing a solar cooperative, from holding a clothing swap to launching a time bank.
  • How to Start a Timebank webinar from Center for a New American Dream explores how to start up a time bank and skill exchange in your community, featuring speakers from successful time banks around the country.
  • How to Start a Tool Library webinar from Center for a New American Dream explores how to start up a new tool library in your community, featuring speakers from successful tool libraries around the country. Topics included obtaining funding, finding a location, tracking tools, navigating through legal issues, and more.
  • Reconomy project by Transition Network offers a framework for strengthening local economy—emphasizing leadership and visioning, transforming existing enterprises, and starting new enterprises.
  • Think Outside the Boss Manual from Sustainable Economies Law Center is a legal guide to creating worker-owned enterprises. Topics include forming a new cooperative entity, converting an existing entity into a cooperative, financing, employment law, and more.


  • Community Renewable Energy Webinar from Sustainable Economies Law Center discusses the legal barriers, policy opportunities, and steps to creating a new energy future.
  • How to Start a Solar Co-op webinar from Center for a New American Dream features community solar experts from Community Power Network and SunCommon on how everyday people can work with neighbors to bring solar energy to their community. Topics included solar cooperatives, bulk purchasing, group net metering, and more.
  • Power from the People webinar from Post Carbon Institute, Transition US, and Chelsea Green with community clean power experts from Piedmont Biofuels and Co-op Power explores what it takes to conceptualize and organize a community-scale clean energy project, focusing on biofuels.


  • How to Host a Permablitz by Shareable and the Permablitz Network is a guide to working with friends, neighbors, and volunteers to transform your home into a homestead and food forest – similar to the concept of barn-raising.
  • How to Start a Seed Library webinar from Center for a New American Dream features experts from around the country on starting a seed lending program at your public library. Topics include funding models, obtaining starter seeds, patron orientation, and more.
  • Rebuilding the Foodshed webinar from Post Carbon Institute, Transition US, and Chelsea Green with author Philip Ackerman-Leist discusses how to redesign our food system to be just, sustainable, and resilient, highlighting communities that have succeeded in rebuilding their local foodsheds.
  • Start Your Own Food Rescue is a guide to starting a bike-powered gleaning program to reduce hunger and food waste in your community, produced by Boulder Food Rescue.
  • Your Community Garden: Tips for Success from Environmental Change-Makers provides an overview of how to launch and maintain a successful community garden, with a focus on working with churches to house the garden.

Community & Society

  • Compassion Games, started by Compassionate Seattle and organized by the Compassionate Action Network, is a designated week in September when community members perform acts of service—either organized projects or random acts of kindness—to heal, inspire, and build just and happier communities.
  • How to Start a Babysitting Co-op webinar from Center for a New American Dream explores different types of babysitting co-ops, how they work, and tips on how to successfully start your own co-op from scratch.
  • Summer of Solutions is a summer-long program by Grand Aspirations that brings together young people in communities across the US to develop self-sustaining projects that address social justice, economic instability, and environmental sustainability; have a direct impact the on their communities; and serve as models for others to build on.
  • Transition Streets, developed by Transition Network, is a program for forming small, social groups of friends, neighbors and colleagues and helping them take effective, practical, money-saving, and carbon-reducing steps. It includes a workbook that helps individuals and families build Practical Action Plans to improve household energy efficiency, minimize water use, reduce waste, explore local food options, and more.


Guide 4: Building a Movement: Tools for Effective Collaboration

photo: (cc) by-nc-sa Transition US

Collaboration is key to building resilient communities, but working together as a group can be challenging. Guide #4 offers tools to help you work effectively as a team, identify community resources and needs, and design an environment from which creativity and collective genius can emerge.

  • Art of Hosting Trainings teaches a combination of powerful conversational processes that harness the collective wisdom and self-organizing capacity of groups of any size to take charge of the challenges facing them.
  • Asset Mapping Toolkit from the Asset-Based Community Development Institute at Northwestern University provides a framework for identifying community assets as an alternative to needs-based community mapping.
  • Community At Work offers consulting and training on participatory-based group facilitation, strategic planning, team development, and more.
  • Community Resilience Toolkit from Bay Localize guides community groups in leading workshops to build resilience in their communities while decreasing reliance on fossil fuels. The Toolkit offers San Francisco Bay Area-specific resources and action ideas in food, water, energy, transportation and housing, jobs and economy, and civic services.
  • Designing a Resilient Community from the Center for Ecoliteracy is an interactive curriculum for high school students, introducing them to innovative strategies for redesigning communities to increase their resilience.
  • Community Strategic Visioning Workshops by Future Search are three-day task-focused planning meetings which bring people brings together to tell stories about their past, present and desired future; discover common ground; and make action plans.
  • Loomio is an open-source online tool for collaborative decision-making.
  • Effective Groups is a curriculum developed by Transition Network trainer Nick Osborne to equip social change projects with tools to navigate group dynamics, improve communication, facilitation, and conflict resolution so people work together effectively.
  • Open Space is a self-organizing facilitation methodology in which participants create and manage their own agenda of parallel working sessions around a key theme.
  • World Cafe is a facilitation methodology for hosting large group dialogue around a specific question or theme, based on a set of integrated design principles.


Guide 5: Shifting the System

photo: (cc) by-nc-sa Poverty Initiative
photo: (cc) by-nc-sa Poverty Initiative

Ready to connect change in your neighborhood with change in larger systems? Guide #5 includes research, legal information, organizing strategies, models and tools to shift current policies, systems, and infrastructure in ways that will support and foster community resilience.

Best Practices & Policy/Legal Resources

  • provides legal information, best practices, and supporting tools for time banks, local currencies, and barter exchanges, curated by the Sustainable Economies Law Center.
  • shares legal information, best practices, and supporting tools for local finance and investing, curated by the Sustainable Economies Law Center.
  • highlights strategies and models for democratic, community-based economic development.
  • shares legal information, best practices, and supporting tools for cooperatively owned businesses and organizations, curated by the Sustainable Economies Law Center.
  • Dig, Eat, & Be Healthy: Guide to Growing Food on Public Lands from ChangeLab Solutions is a collection of resources to access public land for growing food, including strategies for partnering with public agencies, common types of agreements that govern the relationship between food-growing groups and public entities, special issues related to growing food on school district properties, and more.
  • Institute for Local Self-Reliance produces research, publications, and multi-media materials exploring the impacts of big-box retail as well as the benefits, trends and opportunities in independent business and local self-reliance.
  • Legal Eats: Legal Resources for Food Justice Enterprises, from the Sustainable Economies Law Center, is available online in a text manual & video workshop series
  • On the Commons is an online hub and strategy center for the Commons Movement, which highlights co-creative projects and innovative strategies for creating and protecting our commons, such as water, food, farmland, and seeds.
  • Practicing Law in the Sharing Economy: Helping People Build Cooperatives, Social Enterprise, and Local Sustainable Economies by Janelle Orsi of the Sustainable Economies Law Center is designed for attorneys interested in developing the basic skills and knowledge to serve the legal needs of the sharing economy.
  • Policies for Shareable Cities: A Sharing Economy Policy Primer for Urban Leaders, from Shareable and the Sustainable Economies Law Center, details 32 specific policy steps that local leaders can take to benefit from the growing sharing economy and support innovations such as car-sharing, ride-sharing, urban agriculture, housing, cooperatives, and more.
  • Raising Student Voices: Student Action for University Community Investment from Democracy Collaborative is a report and webinar exploring strategies for university investment in local economies, drawing from successful examples around the US.
  • Seeding the City: Land Use Policies to Promote Urban Agriculture, from ChangeLab Solutions, is a toolkit to promoting urban agriculture through local land use codes, drawing from the experiences of communities across the US.
  • is an online resource center for legal information, best practices, and supporting tools for urban agriculture in the US, curated by the Sustainable Economies Law Center.

Campaigns & Organizing

  • 350 Workshops Toolkit by is a collection of documents, notes, tips and ideas on climate leadership and organizing.
  • Cool Community Campaign, from Empowerment Institute, assists local governments and community-based organizations in implementing the Low Carbon Diet in their communities.
  • Democracy School, by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, is an in-person course teaching citizens and activists how to reframe exhausting and often discouraging single-issue work (such as opposing toxic dumps, factory farms, etc.) in a way that confronts corporate control on a powerful single front: our constitutional rights.
  • Ecological Justice: A Training Manual for Urban Social Justice Organizations, developed by Movement Generation Justice and Ecology Project, is a curriculum that explores and supports the formulation of just solutions to the intensifying ecological crisis and its impact on urban communities of color.
  • Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaigns, coordinated by, offer organizing support, resources, and networking between student-run fossil fuel divestment campaigns at universities across the US and around the world.
  • The Most Amazing Online Organizing Guide, by Green Memes, compiles strategic advice, tactical tips, and case studies on social media, messaging and storytelling, graphics, and email communication from more than 30 talented online organizers.
  • Thrive Hub Organizing Guide, from Generation Waking Up, provides simple steps for young people to learn together, build community, and take collaborative action toward making their campus and community a model of a thriving, just, and sustainable world.
  • Training for Change hosts an online resource hub for activist training materials for groups standing up for justice, peace, and the environment through strategic non-violence.


  • Community Commons offers tools for creating community maps and data reports that can be saved and shared.
  • Dreaming New Mexico by Bioneers is an energy and foodshed mapping project utilizing strategic convenings, targeted briefings, education, collaborations and alliances to develop a collaborative framework for a cross-sectoral vision of restoration, including breakthrough ideas, tools, processes, strategies, and “future maps.”
  • Getting Your Green-Collar Job, hosted by Green For All, is an online collection of resources for green-collar job postings and trainings.
  • Guide to Developing an Energy Descent Action Plan, from Transition Network, provides a framework for a community visioning, engagement, and strategic planning process to move away from fossil fuel dependency toward local resilience.
  • Regional Calculators for Local Investment and Job Creation, from Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, allows users to easily identify what their community buys and imports, revealing the obvious in-demand business and job creation opportunities available in their local economy.

Tags: building resilience, building resilient communities

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