- freely available
Resources 2014, 3(3), 516-543; doi:10.3390/resources3030516
2. Transitions Literature—Theoretical Perspectives on Socio-Technical Transitions
2.1. The Multi-Level Perspective
- The landscape (macro-level) forms an exogenous environment, which provides a broader structural context in which changes usually take place slowly (decades) [10,21]. Landscape components can be considered as “gradients of force”, which influence the interaction of local practices  through translation by various actors. Landscapes are considered an external context, as actors cannot influence them in the short term. However, they are dynamic, in the sense of relatively slow changes (e.g., climatic variations) compared with the regime and niche-innovations.
- The regime (meso-level) is a relatively stable, yet complex, arrangement of dominant structures (social, technological, economic, environmental and political) that shape the system. A significant characteristic of regimes is that they embody established institutions and actors with strongly held convictions and interests concerning technological practices .
- Niche-innovations (micro-level) are sites of innovation and transformative change across a range of system components including technological, social, economic, cultural, business and governance. Niche-innovations develop through small networks of actors, often on the fringe.
- Regular—where change in the environment is low intensity and gradual;
- Specific shock—caused by individual and high intensity events, which may dissipate or lead to a step change;
- Disruptive—changes do not occur very often (historically) but lead to a significant change in direction; and
- Avalanche—change here occurs in a similar way to shocks but the key characteristic is that this type of change leads to changes in multiple dimensions rather than just one.
2.2. Transition Management
2.3. Transition Literature Key Concepts
- systems co-evolve in a process of cyclical and iterative change  (p. 4);
- transition pathways have multiple phases  (pp. 126–131); and
- sustainable transitions engage processes of co-design and social learning . In other words, successful sustainable transitions require knowing and doing that is both reflexive and shared.
- The systems concept highlights the fact that diverse elements are closely interrelated and dependent on each other. This has critical implications for the dynamics the systems exhibit, and especially for system transformation . From a socio-technical systems perspective, the analyst engages more holistically with both the system and nature of the transition process, as well as to the complex interrelationships between system components.
- The concept that socio-technical systems occur within and between the micro, meso and macro levels facilitates the process of identifying system components and leverage points for influencing and catalyzing transitions.
- The concept that transitions unfold over particular phases enables stakeholders to engage in activities that may facilitate progression through these phases.
- The concept of co-design and social learning processes in socio-technical transitions encourages stakeholders to initiate and support multi-stakeholder participatory activities and collaboration.
3. Key Critiques and Responses to the Transitions Literature
3.1. Key Critiques of Transitions Literature
3.2. Key Critiques of the Multi-Level Perspective
3.3. Key Critique of Transition Management
3.4. Principles Emerging from the Transitions Literature
- Recognition of uncertainty in the “problem” and “solutions”, and taking an approach that avoids “solutions” and rather looks to make improvements in the system.
- Mapping of the “problem” by diverse stakeholders including setting appropriate boundaries for the system of analysis and associated actions.
- Incorporating iterative processes that involve shared and experiential learning including feedback loops into the governance and decision making to continually refine and adapt the system over time.
- Collaborative and deliberative approaches used throughout all phases of the transition, which open up issues and provide multiple perspectives while drawing out hidden politics and power relations within and underlying the system interactions.
- Designing governance actions that are reflexive while recognizing that structural change may be necessary to achieve desired outcomes.
- Co-development of a shared long-term vision that guides strategy and local action amongst stakeholders and actors.
- Establishment of networks of communication through multi-stakeholder dialogues.
4. Critical Futures and Transitions—Further Responses to the Transition Critiques
- the litany of the day-to-day future;
- the systemic causes of events, issues, problems;
- the cultural, or worldviews, which shape our view of the world and that underlie the two surface layers; and
- the deep (often unconscious) stories, or metaphors, which underpin societal foundations.
|Futures pillar||Description||Associated methods|
|Mapping||Mapping methods involve identifying where we have come from and where we are going to—mapping the past, present and future in relation to an issue, topic or system.||Futures Triangle, Shared History, Futures Landscape|
|Anticipating||Anticipation methods look at the consequences of current activities over longer-time periods or where new social innovation may emerge.||Emerging Issues Analysis, Futures Wheel|
|Timing||Timing methods question what the future looks like over macro scale time periods to look at patterns of change.||No specific method. Questioning stakeholders—macrohistorical view of time, the future and change|
|Deepening||Deepening the future requires unpacking assumptions through questioning dominant discourses and images of the future by exploring underlying worldviews and stories.||Causal Layered Analysis, Four Quadrant Mapping|
|Creating Alternatives||Scenarios are the dominant tool facilitating the generation of alternative futures—through exploring the range of uncertainty and opening up the present.||Nuts and Bolts (structural functional analysis of organisations), Scenarios|
|Transforming||Transforming is related to the achievement of the preferred future that is identified through the principles used for the other pillars. It involves identifying the necessary steps to create the preferred future.Creative visioning, together with backcasting, are two complementary tools, which help to do this.||Creative visualization methods, Backcasting, Transcend Method|
5. Towards Transitions in Practice: Case Study of Metals in Australia within a Circular Economy
- The circular economy approach to resource management is a rapidly growing field of study and practice, which is yet to be applied in the Australian context;
- Australia is a major global supplier of many valuable metal-containing minerals; therefore changes to methods of production and supply are significant in the global context;
- The “regime” of production and consumption of metals in Australia is a mix of linear and circular;
- Despite this, a number of successful examples of reuse and recycling are present in parts of the Australian metals and metal waste sectors, however these occur where economic signals are present, but are not system-wide or integrated;
- This issue has been prioritized at the national research level through a three-year, Wealth from Waste collaborative research cluster, to investigate the potential for transitioning to a more sustainable system for metals in Australia.
5.1. The Circular Economy as a Vision for Sustainable Resource Management
5.2. The Case for Transitioning the Management of Metals in Australia
6. Towards a Practical Approach for Enabling Transition Pathways in Australia’s Metals Sector
|TMC Phase||Aims||Tasks||Related research questions||Possible research methods (Adapted from )|
|1||Problem structuring, establishment of the transition arena and envisioning.||Map the issues, set the system boundaries of investigation, identify and map stakeholders, and generate a shared vision.||What champions will commit to leadership on this issue? What are the boundaries of the sectors involved in managing metals we seek to transition? What and who constitutes the landscape, regime and niche-innovation levels? What is a picture of the Australian metals sector in terms of patterns of change? What changes have occurred? What enablers and challenges for transitioning to a circular economy exist within the established boundaries? Who are the stakeholders that will be involved and/or affected by this transition? What is the type of change sought and/or avoided? regular? disruptive? shocks etc, or total transformation or technological substitution in certain industries? What are the emerging issues and weak signals that signify change in a certain direction? What is the metals sector’s guiding vision? Who is not being represented in the process of establishing this vision/whose voice is dominant?||Stakeholder and systems mapping, Shared history, Futures Triangle, Futures Landscape, Environmental Scanning, Emerging Issues Analysis, Weak Signal Analysis, Futures Wheel, Causal Layered Analysis, MLP, Guided Visioning.|
|2||Developing images coalitions and transition agendas.||Clearly establish the transition agenda in networks, coordinate stakeholders into generating shared future direction and strategic action plans, and identify key actors in the process.||How will this vision be achieved? What are the changes across the categories of social, technological, environmental, economic and political/governance that will be required and when? Who are the actors that need to be mobilized to achieve these changes? What are key leverage points that are a must for improvements to be achieved?||Deliberative engagement processes, Scenario development, Creative processes to developing scenarios e.g., Scenario Art and Backcasting.|
|TMC Phase||Aims||Tasks||Related Research Questions||Possible Research Methods (Adapted from )|
|3||Mobilising actors and executing projects and experiments.||Collaboratively design appropriate scale projects/experiments to facilitate the desired vision (these may be at social, technical, economic, political or environmental focus drawing from the range of stakeholders from business, civil society, industry, government).||How can the broad category strategies by actioned by sub-sectors? What networks need to be established or strengthened for this purpose? What information is missing? What support mechanisms such as government policy, incentives or funding need to be put in place? What institutional factors may accelerate or form barriers to a circular economy for metals in Australia to be realized? How could values, supportive of sustainability, be incorporated into the process?||Deliberative engagement processes, and strategic planning connected to governance models.|
|4||Monitoring, evaluation and learning.||Each project, as part of a broader vision to incorporate program logic or other evaluation frameworks, which can be evaluated at regular intervals, outcomes fed back to stakeholders and revisioning of process, strategies and aims as required.||What lessons are being learnt through each of these processes and experiments at the individual What are the different actors telling us is working and not working? What changes have occurred in the system and is this moving towards the envisioned future? What needs to shift course? How can we share what we are learning with others? At what points can learning be reflected on and fed back into the processes of change at different levels?||Iterative and Shared Learning approach, M&E tools including Program Logic Evaluation, Reflective processes, Anticipatory Action Learning.|
6.1. Problem Structuring
|Possible Boundary for Transition||Landscape Pressures Examples||Socio-Technical Regime Examples||Niche-Innovation Examples|
|(i) Australian resources level in the economy||Default linear economy; Assumed model of continuing economic growth; Tyranny of distance‘ Lucky-country mentality; (Emerging) sustainable development pressuring the regime; Peak minerals (minerals are finite resources and cost of extraction increase as the quality and quantity of ore grades decline)||Dig and sell business model with limited local value add; Industry privately (and often foreign) owned; Minerals owned by States in Australia; Government has dual role of approvals and monitoring compliance (e.g., environmental)—benefits accrue via royalties and taxes||Technology for remote tele-operation of mining equipment; Extended producer responsibility legislation for television and computers; |
* Waste levy (some states)
|(ii) Australian waste industry (metals and other materials)||Default linear economy; Increasing rates of waste generation; Decreasing land available for landfill; Consumer culture of consumption (throwaway society); (Emerging) sustainable development pressure||Waste industry run by “blokes and trucks”; Landfill spaces constrained; National waste policy; International conventions guide trade practices e.g., Basel -hazardous waste||Container Deposit Legislation; Waste to energy technologies e.g., pyrolysis; Community collection stations for products# Collaborative consumption and sharing economy business models|
|(iii) Commodity Level e.g., steel||Steel is the underpinning of a country’s industrialization—buildings, transport; Global demand for steel rising with growth of China and India; Iron is a major component in steel and it is estimated that Australia’s iron ore production will peak in around twenty years||Limited technological innovation globally, limited culture of R&D by industry nationally (mainly government funded); Australian steel making has declined; No longer industry assistance packages for steel (unlike car industry); Australia exports iron ore, rather than finished steel||Iron ore—automation in mining. Steel Stewardship Forum^—responsible supply chain certification, mapping the steel value chain footprint|
6.2. Establishing Transition Networks and Agendas for Action
6.3. Enabling Implementation Strategies
6.4. A Cycle of Learning and Iteration
6.5. Wealth from Waste—An Opportunity for Further Practice
- Trends in interest and commitment to greater resource efficiency amongst key stakeholders at local, regional, national and global scales; and
- Success factors in transitions from linear to more circular patterns of production and consumption including:
- Economic, social and environmental drivers towards increased recycling;
- Spatial and socio-economic determinants of existing systems of resource use and disposal at end of life;
- Socio-technical systems that can or do provide support for present and future resource management; and
- Business and innovation models that support different levels of resource efficiency.
6.6. Limitations of This Paper
Conflicts of Interest
- Goldsmith, E.; Meadow, P. The Limits to Growth; Meadows, D.H., Ed.; Universe Books: New York, NY, USA, 1972. [Google Scholar]
- Ackoff, R.L. Systems, messes and interactive planning. In Redesigning the Future; Wiley: New York, NY, USA, 1974. [Google Scholar]
- Armson, R. Growing Wings on the Way: Systems Thinking for Messy Situations; Triarchy Press: Devon, UK, 2011. [Google Scholar]
- Greyson, J. An economic instrument for zero waste, economic growth and sustainability. J. Clean. Prod. 2007, 15, 1382–1390. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Bergek, A.; Jacobsson, S.; Carlsson, B.; Lindmark, S.; Rickne, A. Analyzing the functional dynamics of technological innovation systems: A scheme of analysis. Res. Policy 2008, 37, 407–429. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Farla, J.; Markard, J.; Raven, R.; Coenen, L. Sustainability transitions in the making: A closer look at actors, strategies and resources. Technol. Forecast. Soc. Chang. 2012, 79, 991–998. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Genus, A.; Coles, A.-M. Rethinking the multi-level perspective of technological transitions. Res. Policy 2008, 37, 1436–1445. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Markard, J.; Truffer, B. Technological innovation systems and the multi-level perspective: Towards an integrated framework. Res. Policy 2008, 37, 596–615. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Shove, E.; Walker, G. CAUTION! Transitions ahead: Politics, practice, and sustainable transition management. Environ. Plan. A 2007, 39, 763–770. [Google Scholar]
- Smith, A.; Voß, J.-P.; Grin, J. Innovation studies and sustainability transitions: The allure of the multi-level perspective and its challenges. Res. Policy 2010, 39, 435–448. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Markard, J.; Raven, R.; Truffer, B. Sustainability transitions: An emerging field of research and its prospects. Res. Policy 2012, 41, 955–967. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Boons, F.; Montalvo, C.; Quist, J.; Wagner, M. Sustainable innovation, business models and economic performance: An overview. J. Clean. Prod. 2013, 45, 1–8. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Rip, A.; Kemp, R.P.M. Technological Change. In Human Choice and Climate Change; Rayner, S., Malone, E.L., Eds.; Battelle Press: Columbus, OH, USA, 1998; pp. 327–399. [Google Scholar]
- Geels, F.W. Technological transitions as evolutionary reconfiguration processes: A multi-level perspective and a case-study. Res. Policy 2002, 31, 1257–1274. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Loorbach, D.A. Transition Management: New Mode of Governance for Sustainable Development; International Books: Utrecht, The Netherlands, 2007; pp. 1–328. [Google Scholar]
- Loorbach, D.; Rotmans, J. The practice of transition management: Examples and lessons from four distinct cases. Futures 2010, 42, 237–246. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Rotmans, J.; Loorbach, D. Complexity and transition management. J. Ind. Ecol. 2009, 13, 184–196. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Späth, P.; Rohracher, H. “Energy regions”: The transformative power of regional discourses on socio-technical futures. Res. Policy 2010, 39, 449–458. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Geels, F.W. Technological Transitions and System Innovations: A Co-Evolutionary and Socio-Technical Analysis; Edward Elgar Publishing Limited: Cheltenham, UK, 2005. [Google Scholar]
- Kemp, R.; Schot, J.; Hoogma, R. Regime shifts to sustainability through processes of niche formation: The approach of strategic niche management. Technol. Anal. Strateg. Manag. 1998, 10, 175–198. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Geels, F.; Schot, J. Typology of sociotechnical transition pathways. Res. Policy 2007, 36, 399–417. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Smith, A.; Stirling, A.; Berkhout, F. The governance of sustainable socio-technical transitions. Res. Policy 2005, 34, 1491–1510. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Grin, J.; Rotmans, J.; Schot, J. On patterns and agency in transition dynamics: Some key insights from the KSI programme. Environ. Innov. Soc. Transit. 2011, 1, 76–81. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Loorbach, D. Transition management for sustainable development: A prescriptive, complexity-based governance framework. Governance 2010, 23, 161–183. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Kent, J. Climate Change—Whose Responsibility? From the Personal to the Global; Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology: Sydney, Australia, 2012. [Google Scholar]
- Geels, F.W. Processes and patterns in transitions and system innovations: Refining the co-evolutionary multi-level perspective. Technol. Forecast. Soc. Chang. 2005, 72, 681–696. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Geels, F.W. Ontologies, socio-technical transitions (to sustainability), and the multi-level perspective. Res. Policy 2010, 39, 495–510. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Stirling, A. Deliberate futures: Precaution and progress in social choice of sustainable technology. Sustain. Dev. 2007, 15, 286–295. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Meadowcroft, J. Engaging with the politics of sustainability transitions. Environ. Innov. Soc. Transit. 2011, 1, 70–75. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Rotmans, J.; Kemp, R. Detour ahead: A response to Shove and Walker about the perilous road of transition management. Environ. Plan. A 2008, 40, 1006–1011. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Meadowcroft, J. What about the politics? Sustainable development, transition management, and long term energy transitions. Policy Sci. 2009, 42, 323–340. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Carson, L. Creating democratic surplus through citizens’ assemblies. J. Public Delib. 2008, 4. Article 5. [Google Scholar]
- Hartz-karp, J. How and why deliberative democracy enables co-intelligence and brings wisdom to governance. J. Public Delib. 2007, 3. Article 6. [Google Scholar]
- Wiederhold, A.M. Local art, local action: A proposal for deliberating on and about main street local art, local action: A proposal for deliberating on and about main. J. Public Delib. 2003, 9. Article 14. [Google Scholar]
- Inayatullah, S. Six pillars: Futures thinking for transforming. Foresight 2008, 10, 4–21. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Cooper, C.; Giurco, D.; White, S. An Integral Futures Strategy for Linking the Minerals Industry to a Sustainable Future; University of Technology: Sydney, Australia, 2009. [Google Scholar]
- Kemp, R. An Example of a “Managed Transition”: The transformation of the waste management subsystem in the Netherlands (1960–2000). In Innovations Towards Sustainability: Conditions and Consequences; Physica-Verlag HD: Heidelberg, Germany, 2007; pp. 87–94. [Google Scholar]
- Meadowcroft, J. Environmental political economy, technological transitions and the state. New Polit. Econ. 2005, 10, 479–498. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Slaughter, R.A. Futures studies: From individual to social capacity. Futures 1996, 28, 751–762. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Inayatullah, S. Causal layered analysis: Poststructuralism as method. Futures 1998, 30, 815–829. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Inayatullah, S. Anticipatory action learning: Theory and practice. Futures 2006, 38, 656–666. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Inayatullah, S. Layered methodology: Meanings, epistemes and the politics of knowledge. Futures 2002, 34, 479–491. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Lederwasch, A. Scenario art: A new futures method that uses art to support decision-making for. J. Futur. Stud. 2012, 17, 25–40. [Google Scholar]
- Su, B.; Heshmati, A.; Geng, Y.; Yu, X. A review of the circular economy in China: Moving from rhetoric to implementation. J. Clean. Prod. 2013, 42, 215–227. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Towards the Circular Economy: Economic and Business Rationale for an Accelerated Transition; Ellen MacArthur Foundation: Isles of White, UK, 2013. [Google Scholar]
- Starke, L. Breaking New Ground: Mining, Minerals and Sustaintainable Development: the MMSD Project of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED); Earthscan: London, UK, 2002. [Google Scholar]
- Boulding, K.E. The Economics of the coming spaceship earth. In Environmental Quality in a Growing Economy; Jarrett, H., Ed.; Resources for the Future/Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore, MD, USA, 1966; pp. 3–14. [Google Scholar]
- Pearce, D.; Turner, R.K. Economics of Natural Resources and the Environment; Harvester Wheatsheaf: London, UK, 1990. [Google Scholar]
- United Nations Environment Program. Metal Recycling: Opportunities, Limits, Infrastructure. United Nations Environment Program: Nairobi, Kenya, 2013. [Google Scholar]
- Mason, L.; Prior, T.; Mudd, G.; Giurco, D. Availability, addiction and alternatives: Three criteria for assessing the impact of peak minerals on society. J. Clean. Prod. 2011, 19, 958–966. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Giurco, D.; Prior, T.; Mudd, G.; Mason, L.; Behrisch, J. Peak Minerals in Australia: A Review of Changing Impacts and Benefits; prepared for CSIRO Minerals Down Under Flagship, by the Institute for Sustainable Futures (UTS, Sydney, Australia) and Department of Civil Engineering (Monash University): Sydney, Australia, 2010; p. 116. [Google Scholar]
- Mason, L.; Mikhailovich, N.; Mudd, G.; Sharpe, S.; Giurco, D. Advantage Australia. Resource Governance and Innovation for the Asian Century; prepared for CSIRO Minerals Down Under Flagship, by the Institute for Sustainable Futures (UTS, Sydney, Australia) and Monash University: Melbourne, Australia, 2013. [Google Scholar]
- Department of Industry Innovation Science Research and Tertiary Education. Key Facts Australian Industry; Department of Industry: Canberra, Australia, 2012. [Google Scholar]
- Cooper, C.; Giurco, D. Mineral resources landscape: Reconciling complexity, sustainability and technology. Int. J. Technol. Intell. Plan. 2011, 7, 1. [Google Scholar]
- Prior, T.; Giurco, D.; Mudd, G.; Mason, L.; Behrisch, J. Resource depletion, peak minerals and the implications for sustainable resource management. Glob. Environ. Chang. 2012, 22, 577–587. [Google Scholar]
- Geoscience Australia and Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics. Australia’s Mineral Resource Assessment 2013; Geoscience Australia and Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics, Canberra, Australia, 2013.
- Department of Environment Climate Change and Water. NSW Extended Producer Responsibility Priority Statement 2010; Department of Environment Climate Change and Water: Sydney, Australia, 2010. [Google Scholar]
- Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association Mobile Muster. Available online: http://www.mobilemuster.com.au (accessed on 23 February 2013).
- Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association Mobile Muster: COLLECTION RESULTS. Available online: http://www.mobilemuster.com.au/news/collection-results/ (accessed on 23 February 2013).
- Steel Stewardship Forum Steel Stewardship Forum, Responsible Steel. Available online: http://steelstewardship.com (accessed on 25 March 2013).
- Phdungsilp, A. Futures studies’ backcasting method used for strategic sustainable city planning. Futures 2011, 43, 707–714. [Google Scholar]
- Wealth from Waste Cluster. Available online: http://www.csiro.au/Organisation-Structure/Flagships/Minerals-Down-Under-Flagship/mineral-futures/wealth-from-waste-cluster.aspx (accessed on 23 February 2014).
- United Nations Environment Program. Decoupling 2 Technologies, Opportunities and Policy Options; United Nations Environment Program: Nairobi, Kenya, 2014. [Google Scholar]
© 2014 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/).