Accelerating Transition Dynamics in City Regions: A Qualitative Modeling Perspective

Of the four phases of sustainability transitions (predevelopment, takeoff, acceleration and stabilization) identified in the transition literature, predevelopment and takeoff phases have received the most interest. Relatively little is known about how to accelerate transition dynamics, in particular with respect to the potential role of local transition initiatives as drivers of transformative change. 
The EU FP7 project ARTS (Accelerating and Rescaling Transitions to Sustainability) aimed to address this knowledge and practice gap. ARTS analyzed the role of local transition initiatives in driving acceleration dynamics in a number of European city regions, situated within their national and wider European contexts. Through a transdisciplinary approach, the project aimed to identify conditions, mechanisms and strategies through which transition initiatives may contribute to an accelerated transition.
In this article, we take stock of the findings from conceptual and empirical work on the role of transition initiatives for accelerating transitions as input for modeling acceleration dynamics.
We applied the qualitative modeling approach of causal loop diagrams to capture the dynamics of a single transition initiative evolving within its regional context. In doing so, we aim to address two key challenges in transition modeling, namely conceptualization, and the framing of empirical insights obtained for various case study regions in a consistent modeling framework. Our results show that through this systematic approach one can translate conceptual and qualitative empirical work into a transition model design. Moreover, the causal loop diagrams can be used as discussion tools to support dialogue among researchers and stakeholders, and may support a comparison of transition dynamics across case-study regions. We reflect on main limitations related to empirical model validation (lack of data) and to model structure (high level of aggregation), and describe next steps for moving from a qualitative single transition initiative to a quantitative multiple transition initiatives model.
Valkering, P., Yucel, G., Gebetsroither-Geringer, E., Markvica, K., Meynaerts, E., and Frantzeskaki, N., (2017).
Accelerating transition dynamics in city-regions: a qualitative modeling perspective, Sustainability 2017, 9(7), 1254; doi:10.3390/su9071254
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July 24, 2017