The Anne Behan Community Sustainability Award

For Transition Initiatives on the island of Ireland

‘Sustainability is a concept more than a strict code. It refers to responsible and ethical methods of practice in economic, social and environmental management. In many ways sustainability refers to new methods of old practices. It is often misinterpreted as relating solely to the environment, but in practice, it is an integrated approach to all aspects of life – economic, social, environmental and cultural.’

Anne Behan, 1959-2004

The Anne Behan Community Sustainability Award for Transition Initiatives will be presented every year by Feasta, the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability, to the community in Ireland which, in the opinion of a panel of judges, has done most to build local resilience, economic self-reliance, to strengthen itself socially and culturally and to protect and enhance its natural environment.

What is a Transition Initiative?
Transition Town initiatives engage communities in planning and action to build resilience in the face of peak oil and climate change.

Transition Ireland Network
The Irish Network was set up to inspire; to encourage; to network; to support and to train communities as they as they consider, adopt, adapt and implement the transition model in their district. If you are interested in finding out more contact

Objective of Award:
To celebrate communities and groups who are using the Transition Process to meet local cultural, social, economic and spiritual needs in ways which strengthen the bonds of the community, build its resilience, economic self-reliance and protect and enhance its natural environment.

Eligible Groups:
Transition initiatives on the island of Ireland that can demonstrate they have made a contribution to the resilience, economic, social, cultural and environmental sustainability of their community.

Criteria for Appraisal:

  • Started the Transition Process
  • Evidence that the project meets local needs using local resources in a sustainable way
  • Evidence of broad-based local support and involvement
  • Evidence of innovative thinking
  • Groups that have worked in conjunction with other groups in the community and/or neighbouring communities will be favoured.

The judges will be looking particularly for communities that have strengthened more than one aspect of local life by taking the integrated approach, which Anne Behan favoured and which the Transition Process advocates.

There will be two phases in the award procedure.

Phase One
Three communities will be short-listed on the basis of the application forms submitted.

Phase Two
The panel of judges will visit the three short-listed communities in order to decide the winner.

Winning Community
The award winners will receive for the year a bog oak bowl, hand turned by Ken Maye, Anne Behan’s husband, and mounted by him on a modern oak base to represent the old and the new in harmony.

Feasta will provide a speaker for a briefing or event for the winning community. The nature of this event will be determined by the needs of the winning community. The winning community will also receive a sustainability resource pack from Feasta and the Powerdown TV show from Cultivate.

The two runner-up communities will each receive a Feasta publications pack and the Powerdown TV show.

Anne Behan Appreciation: About Anne Behan

Anne Behan (1959-2004) was a native of Kildare and studied for her doctorate in Zoology at UCD. She worked as an independent environmental consultant from her home at Redhills, Kildare. Her consultancy work involved environmental impact, wildlife and landscape assessments, surveys and many community-related projects.

Anne believed that the environment belongs to everyone but that a problem had been created in modern times because people have been removed from immediate contact with it. This, she believed, created difficulties when there was a decision to be made or a dispute to be resolved.

Anne’s life was dedicated to environmental awareness and education and to developing an integrated approach towards sustainable living in communion with all life. Her eco-tourism initiative, ‘The Hidden Wilds’, showed her that an association with the environment came naturally to people but that they were often denied the chance to build such a link by the pressures of modern life.

Anne was a keen wildlife and landscape photographer and used her photographs to illustrate the “hidden” environment which she used to good effect in her award-winning slide shows and in Environment Kildare a publication commissioned and funded by KELT, the Co. Kildare Leader company, and in her final piece of work Local Environment Ð Clonroche, Newbawn, Raheen, Co. Wexford, for County Wexford Partnership.

Anne’s words, ‘To understand any area, one must first look to the landscape because it is the land itself that shapes the plant and animal communities that live upon it, that determines the nature of soils and water flows and influences the lives of the human community’ capture her belief that for communities to flourish they must understand the landscape and environment that surrounds them. Only with such an understanding can local people make an informed input to the decisions that determine their future.

Anne believed in the capacity of all communities to forge a future for themselves and to ‘facilitate the development of vibrant, self-motivated and self-sustaining communities ….while celebrating difference and ensuring that adequate care is taken of vulnerable members of the community.’

While working in Wexford, Anne often used this quotation from Soil and Soul by Alastair McIntosh, a Scottish environmentalist, activist and philosopher: ‘It is when the capacity of a place to sustain itself becomes ruptured that the human mind is forced to reflect on ecology. Only then do most of us consider the interconnections between plants and animals and their environment.’

Article by Anne Behan outlining her approach to community sustainability

Note: Feasta is a forum for exchanging ideas. By posting on its site Feasta agrees that the ideas expressed by authors are worthy of consideration. However, there is no one ‘Feasta line’. The views of the article do not necessarily represent the views of all Feasta members.