Tag Archives: transformation

Conference “Experiments, system innovation and sustainability transitions in Asia”

Experiments, system innovation and sustainability transitions in Asia
15-17 July, 2010, AMARI Rincome Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand
*** Call for Papers***
Deadline for Short Papers: 30 April, 2010
Transitions to alternative, more sustainable, development pathways are crucial to human well-being world-wide, but have been more studied with the focus of policy action mainly in developed country contexts. However, the transformative changes occurring now in the rapidly urbanising and industrialising Asian countries mean that this focus needs to shift. Transitions towards more sustainable development pathways are also fundamental challenges in emerging and rapidly-growing economies and societies.
Achieving a more profound decoupling of economic growth and development gains from resource and pollution intensities requires deep-seated social, institutional and technological change. Such change needs to be systemic in the sense of affecting structures and behaviour across the economy and society; what has come to be called ‘system innovation’.
Previous research has shown that system innovation occurs through a quasi-evolutionary interaction between innovations emerging in niches and opportunities for change opening-up in socio-technical regimes. System innovation involves the destabilisation of existing incumbent regimes and their reconfiguration or transformation by new technologies, actors, behaviours and rules. Such processes tend to take time; typically some decades.
The new research challenge is to apply these concepts and ideas to rapidly-developing country contexts. Here socio-technical regimes are already undergoing transformation, but often following models from technologically-leading countries. The question is whether in rapidly developing country contexts we can also identify interactions between niches generating sustainable alternatives and emergent socio-technical regimes that could transform development pathways.
There is preliminary evidence of a great variety of ‘sustainability experiments’ – defined as planned initiatives to embody a highly-novel socio-technical configuration likely to lead to substantial (environmental) sustainability gains – underway in Asia. This conference will focus on the nature and role of these spaces for innovation in transforming Asian development pathways in field such as energy, mobility, agriculture and housing in both urban and rural areas.
The conference will take stock of what has been learned in the IHDP-IT (International Human Dimensions Programme Core Project on Industrial Transformation) over the last years, as well as move forward the new research agenda now supported by the APN (Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research). We welcome an international network of researchers, practitioners, policy makers and other actors who are interested in exploring alternative, more sustainable development pathways.
All enquiries about the conference should be directed to the conference email: it-apn2010@ivm.vu.nl. Information about registration, accommodation, venue etc will be posted at the conference website.
The conference is organised under the auspices of the IHDP’s Industrial Transformation project; APN – Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research; USER, Chiang Mai University, Thailand; Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands and the Jadavpur University, India.

Governance, memory and transformation

by Stephan Barthel

Thinkers that study social relations agree that socially constructed images of the world – negotiated versions and meanings of the past – to a large degree determine social practice . For instance, Bo Rothstein (2005) on his work on social capital shows with game theory that ‘the history of play’ determines trust and future strategies. This is what social memory is about. Can these thinkers teach us anything about governance of desirable trajectories of social-ecological systems, or even about transitions from undesirable ones?
Social-ecological memory is the means by which social practice about how to manage a local ecosystem is retained and stored among a group people, and modified and transmitted through time (Barthel et al 2010). Reification processes co-produces things that persist, which stores memory. Participation in ecosystem management is a mean for capturing and transmitting memory and identity. The one cannot continue without the other. Over time their combination in “community of practice” (Wenger 1998) becomes invested in social-ecological memory that tends to guide behavior (Barthel et al 2010).
In allotment gardens memory is captured and transmitted for instance via mentor programs, collaboration in management of commons and exchange of seeds, and it is stored in property rights, norms, proverbs and physical things such as artifacts, fruit trees, seeds, chalets and vegetable plots which all tend to outlive the repertoires of participation that first shaped them. Complicated? Well in short, social-ecological memory lives within relations, and it may be a conservative force of trajectories since it temporally carries social practice that co-evolves with local ecosystems.
How about transitions from undesirable trajectories? Rothstein argues (2005) that traps of low social capital are essentially impossible to get out since the history of play ‘sticks’ in the social memory of the players. It seems then that when working for transformation of a trap of mistrust, or an undesirable social-ecological trajectory, memory must be addressed. The logic goes; transformation of memory creates transformation of social practice. So if allotment gardens were on an unsustainable trajectory the work for transformation could address mentor programs, the way collaboration is performed and proverbs, as well as property rights regimes, artifacts, and physical objects. Maybe this kind of memory-practice thinking could be of interest when designing theories about adaptive governance for transformation.
Starting to sound scary? You all are aware of the creation and modification of social memory that has been done before in history (Nazi Germany, Soviet, Apartheid South Africa etc), so even if our goal is restricted to support resilient local social-ecological systems that generate ecosystem services, such thinking will require deep ethical reflections and analysis.

VIII. You say “transition”, I say “transformation”…

The need to support transitions, or transformations, towards sustainability has become one of the hottest topics amongst sustainability scientists the last years. A range of theoretical approaches deal with different aspects of transformational system change, including scholars of “transition management” and “resilience theory”. These communities have worked separately for decades, but seem too be converging. But, what is the difference between “transitions” and “transformations”? Really?

Listen to Dr. Derk Loorbach from the Dutch Research Institute for Transitions (Drift, Erasmus University Rotterdam), as he explores what he sees as the main similarities and differences between the two schools. Listen also to Dr. Per Olsson at the Stockholm Resilience Centre (Stockholm University), as he responds to Derk’s observations.

Interview with Dr Derk Loorbach [external link]. What is “transition management”, and how is that different from “transformations”? And which policy interventions support transitions?

Interview with Per Olsson by Eric Paglia at Think Globally Radio. What is a “transformation” in a social-ecological system? How is it different from “transition management” approaches? And how can transformations be supported?