Call for papers: Special issue on local transition governance

10 July, 2018

What is the role of local governance in districts and local communities for large-scale transitions? With a special issue of Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, editors Elisabeth Dütschke (Fraunhofer Institute), Jonathan Köhler (Fraunhofer Institute), Norman Laws (Leuphana University) and Julia Wittmayer (DRIFT) aim to enrich the literature on (sustainability) transitions and (socio-technical) innovations with a deeper understanding of the role of communities and local governance institutions.

Initial research on sustainability transitions and governance was focused on dynamics and processes at the national level. It is only in recent years that the literature has turned to the city as a critical site for sustainability transitions. The editors aim to take this move one step further towards local configurations and draw attention to districts (also boroughs or in Germany Kommune) as well as towns as actors and places for sustainability transitions by critically analysing the potential and limits of such a focus.

It is in districts and local communities where decisive actions for transitions are implemented – but when it concerns fundamental changes in structures, cultures and practices, the question arises whether all these can be addressed in small configurations, such as the neighbourhood level or which interactions and networks are needed. However, especially related to the energy transition we also do see the importance of small-scale infrastructure configurations increasing, e.g. mini-grids and ‘local energy communities’ as part of smart grid developments as well as accompanying regulatory structures allowing such neighbourhood grid configurations.

At the same time, while the local level is crucial for the development of niches and the early diffusion of (sustainability) innovations it is also important to consider the limitations of the local level. The focus on ‘locality’ has at times replaced a wider analysis or triggered invalid conclusions.

Aim of the Special Issue
With this Special Issue, the editors encourage critical engagement with the potential and limitations of these small configurations for sustainability transitions. The editors aim to enrich the literature on (sustainability) transitions and (socio-technical) innovations with a deeper understanding of the role of communities and local governance institutions (such as district councils in the UK, area teams in the Netherlands (‘gebiedsteams’), or municipalities (‘Kommunen’ in Germany and ‘communes’ in France) as well as their interaction with other governance levels.

Papers submitted to this Special issue should address one or more of the following topics:

Local governance and network of actors

  • Which concepts and theoretical frameworks are helpful to analyse transition governance at the local community level? What new approaches are needed? In how far is there a particular form of governance on these levels?
  • What roles do state, market and civil society actors have and how do they interact? What coalitions and networks are formed for which purposes? Do they develop networks with other local actors or across governance levels?

Dynamics of transitions

  • What are opportunities and constraints for sustainability transitions in these configurations? Are there characteristic local dynamics? What is characteristic for these small configurations and how does this influence transition governance on a higher level such as regional, national or international?
  • What structures and framework conditions are supportive in triggering local niches and diffusion beyond the local level? What factors are relevant in determining whether certain communities take a leading role while others are hesitant to move forward?

Impact and limitations

  • How do (social) innovations and local niches develop? How do they upscale, diffuse or institutionalize ?
  • What is their potential contribution towards sustainability transitions? What are the limitations to the changes that can emerge from the local level?

We would like to encourage the submission of conceptual as well as of empirical qualitative and quantitative papers – also methodological contributions are welcome. Conceptual work contributing to a more general understanding of the issues proposed as well as cross-case studies are strongly preferred over single case studies.

Authors should state in the submission that the article is for the VSI: Local trans Governance.


  • 300 Word Abstract : 15th September 2018
  • Confirmation from Guest editors that the paper will be considered for publication : 15th October 2018
  • Selected papers to be submitted until: 15th January 2019

Editorial group

Dr. Elisabeth Dütschke – Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovations Reseach ISI Karlsruhe

Dr. Jonathan Köhler – Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovations Reseach ISI Karlsruhe

Dr. Norman Laws – Leuphana University Lüneburg

Dr. Julia M. Wittmayer – DRIFT