Transitions towards Sustainability: How to understand them and how to induce them? - Session Overview

Elzen, B. (Speaker), Ken Green (Speaker)

    Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


    Achieving sustainability requires a dazzling multitude of innovations and a set of transformations that have been referred to as: ‘system innovation’, ‘regime transformation’, ‘technological transition’, ‘socio-economic paradigm shift’. We use the phrase ‘transition’ in this brief description. Understanding transitions: Since transitions are complex, their understanding will require the combination of insights developed in separate disciplines. In this session, people from different disciplinary backgrounds will address transitions. Discussion between different perspectives will help to identify common themes and potential synergies, towards an interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary research agenda. The concept of a transition implies a structural change in our society, at the level of systems of production, distribution and consumption. This implies they share a number of characteristics like: • a wide range of actors, including firms, consumers, NGOs, knowledge producers and governments; • they are the result of the interplay of many factors and actors that influence each other; but they can also have their own trajectories of development. Mismatches occur, creating lags and tensions; • they imply changes at various levels: at the micro-level of individual actions, at the meso-level of structuring paradigms and rules and at the macro-level comprising a deep structural level of trends such as individualisation and globalisation. Such characteristics can be translated into more concrete questions. Inducing transitions: The important follow-on issue is how such insights can be used for ‘transition policy’ or ‘transition management’ as it is sometimes called. The complexity of transition processes implies a warning that such policies cannot be based on simple steering philosophies. They will need to take into account interaction between different stakeholders, and need to leave room for learning and feedback. Possibly, such policies will need to combine existing policy instruments with some new approaches and assessment methods to identify the optimal mix in specific circumstances. Themes to discuss between people from different disciplinary backgrounds are: • What kinds of interventions can governmental agencies most effectively make to induce, stimulate and ‘guide’ transitions? This will probably differ for different phases in transitions. • What are the roles of the variety of stakeholders, the public and private sectors in such processes; how should we redefine the public / private divide so that that the room for transitions is enlarged.
    Period14 Oct 2003
    Event title11th Greening of Industry Network Conference, GIN 2003: Innovating for Sustainability
    Event typeConference
    Conference number11
    LocationSan Francisco, United States, California
    Degree of RecognitionInternational