IHS Course Urban Sustainability Transitions: putting theory into practice

12 February, 2019

How do cities transform – and how do you use sustainability transitions approaches to tap into urban transition processes? Giorgia Silvestri and Katharina Hölscher will explain urban sustainability transitions theory and practice in an elective course for IHS on March 4-8.
The Urban Sustainability Transitions course will make students familiar with sustainability transitions’ theory and approaches in urban contexts. Transition theory provides a set of complexity-based concepts and frameworks to approach sustainability challenges in cities as persistent problems that threaten to induce disastrous change. Rather than viewing sustainability challenges in cities as isolated problems, the transitions’ perspective draws attention to the interrelated root causes and drivers. From there, it provides a frame for both exploring and supporting radical change towards sustainable urban development.
The governance of urban sustainability transitions requires new forms of strategic urban planning and decision-making processes that integrate diverse sources of knowledge and perspectives. Transition management is a practical tool for influencing sustainability transitions in practice. In addition, the multi-actor nature of urban sustainability transitions challenges existing social fabrics and local governance settings. This raises questions about who are actors involved in transition processes and what are the implications for (changing) roles, responsibilities and relations of actors and networks.
The goal of the course is to ignite learning on examining and understanding how cities transform as well as to provide transition management as a hands-on process method to tap into such transition processes. The course will therefore combine theoretical session with exercises and interactive workshops to familiarise participants with sustainability transitions frameworks and the transition management approach and to put theory into practice. Multiple cases of urban transformations are going to be shared during the course, such as the role of grassroots innovations in improving the livelihood in informal settlements and in transforming the local governance. The course will also support participants to reflect on the multiple roles of actors in urban sustainability transitions processes to analyse actors and (changing) roles, support the actor selection and enhance reflexivity in transition management processes.