Strategic Issues and Perspectives
Accelerating and Rescaling Transitions to Sustainability
An in-depth study of local transition initiatives and acceleration dynamics to advance transitions towards sustainable societies
ARTS (Accelerating and Rescaling Transitions to Sustainability) is committed to understanding the role and impact of transition initiatives in cities and examining the conditions that can aid accelerating change towards a sustainable low-carbon society. New initiatives, ideas and products change the way we relate to each other and to our environment, as well as the way we define and fulfill our needs. Transition initiatives are the pulse of transformative change, by demonstrating and innovating how citizens and communities can live sustainably. With this realization come a number of critical questions concerning their impact in changing conventional course of action and in balancing imperative for change with remaining inclusive to citizens in their context.
The ARTS project, coordinated by the Dutch Research Institute for Transition (DRIFT) of the Erasmus University Rotterdam and established in collaboration with ten partners across Europe, explores in an inter- and transdisciplinary way how lessons from local initiatives in five transition regions (Brighton, Budapest, Dresden, Genk and Stockholm) can be drawn for accelerating transitions towards sustainable city-regions. Therefore, it focuses on the activities of so-called ‘local transition initiatives’ and analyses which conditions and mechanisms enable or hinder their efforts to transform communities’ infrastructures and citizens’ lifestyles towards sustainability. These transition initiatives range from food production and distribution (e.g. food cooperatives and urban agriculture), mobility and transport (e.g. car and bike sharing), the built environment (e.g. resource-efficient building stock and settlement structures), environmentally-friendly energy production and environmental education to resource management and nature conservation. The IOER-team will conduct an in-depth case study of the city-region of Dresden, where multiple transition initiatives have been established and engaged over the past years. Those are cross-domain initiatives such as the Dresden Transition Town Movement, the Local Agenda 21, the RECKLAM-project for climate change adaptation or the Concept for a Future Dresden 2025+ developed by the city-council as well as domain-specific-initiatives such as the ‘VG Verbrauchergemeinschaft’ (local food cooperative), ‘Bürgerkraftwerke’ (local power plants managed by citizen cooperatives) or the DREWAG Innovation Fund (fund of the local energy provider to support environmentally-friendly energy production and consumption). The ARTS project explores how these initiatives can be coupled and rescaled to accelerate city-regional sustainability transitions and give new impetus to a European-wide transition of city-regions.
Overall research question and subquestions
How can local transition initiatives accelerate sustainability transitions in their city-region?
- How can interactions between transition initiatives across domains enable or hinder them to accelerate sustainability transitions?
- How can interactions between transition initiatives across scales enable or hinder them to accelerate sustainability transitions?
- How do city-regional conditions and mechanisms enable or hinder the acceleration of local sustainability transitions?
- How do multi-level context dynamics (sub-national, national, European) enable or hinder local initiatives to accelerate sustainability transitions?
- How can local transition initiatives leverage acceleration, yet ensure inclusivity?
- Conducting in-depth case studies in five European city-regions (embedded multiple case design) drawing upon grassroots research, as well as innovation, governance and urban studies,
- Engaging with local actors from civil society, the public and the private sector by organising conferences, workshops and world cafes and conducting in-depth interviews,
- Promoting participation and social learning by cooperating with citizen bloggers and art communities in the transition regions.
The ARTS project aims at advancing our understanding of the conditions, challenges and mechanisms for accelerating and rescaling transitions to sustainable societies. It strengthens the local science-society interface to enhance theory building, policy experimentation as well as social innovation and learning. The project contributes to new governance approaches and instruments to stimulate public debate on sustainability and citizen participation. With regard to the transition region Dresden it intends to develop a local transition roadmap, outlining strategies for coupling and rescaling local transition initiatives. The comparison of the five transition regions shall provide insights on acceleration dynamics, which can advance nation- and EU-wide sustainability transitions from the bottom-up.