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Sheffield Demonstrators

About the project

Demonstrating the Transformational Capabilities of Cities in Sheffield 


Today, humans are facing a complex entanglement of economic, social, environmental and health crises. The coming decade will be oriented by our collective ability to face up to the gravity of our transition as a species. We are required at a moment like this to reflect deeply on the worldviews and frameworks that have brought us to this point and to navigate the practicality, imagination and the urgency of the transitions required of us. 


Increasingly, places and municipalities are at the vanguard of facing the cascading crises. They are the locations where the energy crisis becomes a health crisis, where the health crisis becomes a social and economic crisis. Places are also at the intersection of being able to demonstrate the multiple and intersecting transitions required of civilization over the next two decades. They are also networked enough that meaningful engagement with critical institutions, communities and citizens is possible for shared sensing, shared sensemaking and shared action with legitimacy, and they are significant enough that results from demonstration into the transitions ahead are relevant, replicable and transferable. 


Increasingly it is clear that at the ‘delivery’ end of centralised policy making we are failing to build the pathways for legitimate transition. There is a growing discomfort within municipalities, citizens and institutions that current approaches and provision are insufficient and disproportionate to creating the necessary conditions for deeper and faster transitions. 


Ensuring an effective, just and fair transition will require a new approach to mass participation and deep democratic transition. It will require bold and adaptive experimentation, co-development of new institutional infrastructures alongside and in parallel with distributed learning and deployment of demonstrator projects in place. It is only through ‘doing’ that we will generate the inclusive and empowering ‘everyday politics’ of transition, alongside the insight and strategic knowledge to scale up towards a whole system transition. 


Demonstrating this future effectively and at pace requires us to operate in places where the conditions for multi-sector, multi-stakeholder alignment and alliance are possible and have already been nurtured – places where at least some institutional partners are open to connecting with entirely new ways of working, but also where an existing civic appetite and supporting infrastructure for cultural transformation, renewal and change is present. 


We believe that Sheffield is one of a handful of places in the UK where conditions could enable effective demonstration of the new ecological, economic and participatory frameworks required of societies to meet the transitions ahead.


To demonstrate and explore different ways of working and being together which act as proofs of possibility, creating pathways towards a just and sustainable transition in Sheffield.


To identify, connect, highlight and celebrate work already taking place in and around Sheffield and South Yorkshire which illustrates these pathways, and to accelerate the impact and learning from this work.


To do this by exemplifying collaborative and inclusive ways of working together in coalition.

To be open and adaptable to new frameworks and ideas which serve these purposes and develop the institutional infrastructure and collective intelligence to unlock and sustain this working in a distributed coalition of actors.


This will be multi-phased work over multiple years in Sheffield.

Phase 1

Building the everyday Politics: A new City Discourse for Transition. 

Sheffield contains many of the ingredients on which this work rests. 

Phase 1 of this work is concerned with the strengthening and alignment of those ingredients in order to build multi-stakeholder coalitions, which not only model the shift in governance and culture required of us, but also create the necessarily robust foundations for direct investment into demonstration projects.

Partner organisations

This work involves many stakeholders and organisations across the city. The work is being curated by Dark Matter Labs, Citizen Network and Opus.

People working on this project



Get involved

Take a look at some of the inspirations behind this work: 

If the ideas in this project excite you, or you feel that you have gifts to bring to this work, and you'd like to find out more, please get in touch at

Latest updates

Our first food and finance domain workshops took place in April, and our first networking event on transitions as part of Festival of Debate took place on 24th April - From What if to So What:

20 May 2024

Our neighbourhood mapping work, led by Citizen Network, is underway, the first results can be found here:

20 May 2024

We have published a number of ‘Honest Conversations’ pieces via Now Then magazine, which aim to unravel the myths and falsehoods that prevent us from tackling the most urgent problems we face:

20 May 2024

Photo credit: Rachel Rae

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