Governance & Politics
While outsiders, frontrunners and change agents develop critical alternatives that challenge the status quo, incumbent forms of agency optimize existing regimes. At DRIFT, we study and teach to influence and contribute to sustainability transitions – in an equilibrium where every actor matters.
Sustainability transitions are inherently contested, political, and ultimately the outcome of interacting forms of agency. In a dynamic equilibrium, incumbent forms of agency, often including government policies, incrementally optimize existing regimes, while outsider, front runners and change agents explore radical alternatives that challenge the status quo. These forms of agency are often not included in regular policy and governance, but critical in developing counter movements, niches and transformative power. Over time, as regimes destabilize, more hybrid networks between change inclined regime actors and maturing niche actors develop, that evolve towards a new dynamic equilibrium.
At DRIFT we seek to understand how the dynamics, speed and direction of transitions can be influenced by conducting fundamental research into the politics of transitions. Central to our approach is the assumption that all actors in essence influence the course and speed of transitions – but none of the actors decides. We study how different actors behave in different phases of transitions and how they do or do not contribute to smoother transition patterns towards sustainability. We look at how dominant policy regimes are themselves subject to transition in a society, and focus on transformative networks that develop in between government, civil society and markets.
Transition Management is our most important pin to link theory to practice. This ‘meta-governance’ approach aims to guide and accelerate agency contributing to desired transitions through the development of shared guiding narratives, structures, agendas and experiments. We support many different actors at all geographic and governance scales, from neighborhood to global governance, in developing approaches to transitions in their domain. This can be as simple as co-designing and moderating an afternoon ‘pressure cooker’ and as complex as setting up and managing long term, industry-wide change programs oriented at combining visioning, experimenting and institutional change.
Policy- and change-makers are offered a learning space in our courses, where we not only teach principles and methods of transition studies and transition management, but work together actively to develop policy cases that evoke and encourage personal involvement and reflection. As such, our work on governance and politics in sustainability transitions is also a quest for studying, advising, and teaching new ways in which society can be governed in a more inclusive, democratic, just and in the end sustainable manner.