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Co-producing urban sustainability transitions knowledge with community, policy and science

Reflection upon the experiences in multiple, diverse multi-stakeholder engagement spaces deserves attention. This viewpoint presents insights on designing, engaging with and researching these spaces, based on the experience of the ARTS project.

Sustainability transitions are multi-actor processes, requiring collaborative efforts across sectors to shift to and establish new ways of doing, thinking and organizing that aim to achieve sustainability. Having a closer look in examining the benefits and limitations of multi-actor engagement processes and designs of these for facilitating urban sustainability transitions is important for progressing research and practice for the governance of transitions.

At the same time, examining how sustainable solutions emerge in cities, we evinced that local transition initiatives play a role in the way sustainable solutions are tested, advanced and institutionalized. Local transition initiatives are actor collectives led by civil society, business entrepreneurs and partnerships of those that actively work on sustainability solutions in their local context and contribute in accelerating urban sustainability transitions. Local transition initiatives are thus actors of urban change worth engaging in transdisciplinary research to understand how their actions and interactions with other urban agents of change play out in urban sustainability transitions.

Transdisciplinary research involves a wide variety of engagement means and settings. This viewpoint makes the case that a reflection upon the experiences in multiple, diverse multi-stakeholder engagement spaces deserves attention. The authors believe that the lessons we draw from the multi-actor engagement spaces are relevant for designing, organizing and institutionalizing interactions and co-production processes amongst all new actors that play, or can potentially play a role in accelerating sustainability transitions.

This viewpoint presents insights on designing, engaging with and researching multi-stakeholder engagement spaces based on the experience of the ARTS project, active in five European cities also relevant for a broader European scale. We argue that those spaces represent an important new instrument of participatory governance that can elucidate the way different actors like community initiatives relate to and employ planning and policy contexts for working towards sustainable urban futures. The multi-stakeholder engagement spaces are analyzed regarding three functions they fulfill: co-creating new knowledge for action, making sense of contemporary transitions, and, exploring how sustainable solutions impact transitions. The lessons learned focus on the roles of different actors within those spaces as well as the link between the multi-stakeholder engagement spaces and a broader local context. We name three caveats including deeply entrenched mistrust between local transition initiatives and local government representatives, existing power imbalances and inclusivity.

Citation
Frantzeskaki, N. & Rok. A. (2018). Co-producing urban sustainability transitions knowledge with community, policy and science. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eist.2018.08.001

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Date
August 20, 2018