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Sustainability 2017, 9(5), 737; doi:10.3390/su9050737

Linking Transitions to Sustainability: A Study of the Societal Effects of Transition Management

1
Faculty for Sustainability, Leuphana University of Lüneburg, 21335 Lüneburg, Germany
2
UFZ—Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Department for Environmental Politics, 04318 Leipzig, Germany
3
DRIFT—Dutch Research Institute for Transitions, Erasmus University Rotterdam, 3000 DR Rotterdam, The Netherlands
4
UFZ—Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Department for Environmental Politics, 04318 Leipzig, Germany
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Paul Burger
Received: 14 December 2016 / Revised: 21 March 2017 / Accepted: 18 April 2017 / Published: 3 May 2017
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Abstract

Sustainability transitions as processes of fundamental change in societal systems are open-ended, nonlinear and uncertain. Respective research and governance approaches, e.g., transition management, propose a reflexive way of governing, aiming for a number of societal effects to help facilitating a transition. Effects include empowerment, social learning and social capital development. Jointly mentioned effects shall allow for reflexivity and innovation in developing socially robust and contextualized solutions to sustainability challenges that work in practice. But, understanding the mentioned societal effects and their interplay in more depth is necessary to design and assess transition management processes. While such understanding and related assessment framework is under development in the transition management literature, transdisciplinary sustainability research can provide a rich body of tools and experiences. Building on a review of the literature, this article develops an evaluation framework focusing on social learning, empowerment and social capital as important and hitherto under-conceptualised aspects of the sustainability transition literature. This framework is used to empirically investigate the effects of two specific transition management processes at the local scale. In doing so, the article provides a conceptual and empirical understanding of how social learning, empowerment and social capital contribute to a transition towards sustainability. The three effects are shown to be interrelated, mutually supportive and bridging different scale levels from individuals to groups, niches and beyond. Results highlight possibilities to facilitate and assess societal effects, addressing sustainability as their inherent quality. View Full-Text
Keywords: assessment; case study; empowerment; social capital; societal effects; social learning; sustainability transition; transition management; sustainability transformation assessment; case study; empowerment; social capital; societal effects; social learning; sustainability transition; transition management; sustainability transformation
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Schäpke, N.; Omann, I.; Wittmayer, J.M.; van Steenbergen, F.; Mock, M. Linking Transitions to Sustainability: A Study of the Societal Effects of Transition Management. Sustainability 2017, 9, 737.

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