transition to sustainbility

timer Asked: Sep 11th, 2015

Question description

geels - evolutionary reconfiguration.pdf Geels - institutional theory and change.pdf Geels - typology of transition pathways.pdf transition studies (1).pptx 

please answer these discussion questions  


Something that I found immediately interesting in the “From sectoral systems…” article was Geels’ assertion that existing innovation system approaches focus mainly on the production side, and have much less to say in terms of the diffusion and use of a technology. This brings to mind two things.

First, I remember reading an article awhile back on sustainability and marketing. I can’t remember who wrote it, but the author’s main point was that sustainability is currently a field dominated by academic theorists and scientists - two groups of people that have a “one and done” approach to information distribution. From this perspective, once a study has been done and/or an argument has been made, it is unnecessary to repeat the results of the study, or reiterate the argument. That piece is more or less finished, and it’s time to move on.

A marketer, on the other hand, emphasizes the need to repeat, repeat, repeat. The driving assumption behind marketing is that it isn’t until a message is familiar to the point of tedium that people even really begin to notice.

Second, production side focus reminds me of U.S. policy regarding the integration of renewable energy sources, and specifically the Department of Energy Loan Guarantee Program, famous for funding both Tesla and Solyndra. The idea behind the DEP program was to ensure loans to energy innovation ventures that might otherwise have difficulty obtaining funding. This, the argument went, would help firms cross the “innovation valley of death” which represents the difficulty of taking an R&D product and bringing it to full commercialization. However, the program in practice tended to have a difficult time really pushing innovation.

How much of this can be attributed to a “if you build it, they will come” mentality? It seems as though the assumption behind both these examples is that all that needs to be done is that a productive machine be built, and once the product is being cranked out, the rest of the pieces will just fall into place.

However, any marketer will tell you - people tend to not just buy a product because it’s the best product, or most rational, or whatever. There is a gigantic industry completely focused on the social diffusion on products. Why should we assume that that adoption of innovation from innovative systems would be any different?

All this being said, I think that Geels’ focus on user side integration, adoption, and appropriation is really important. And, as he notes, adoption is not a passive act, but requires its own adaptations and innovations. I know that as the readings continue, Geels focuses a lot on rules and regimes, and eventually the transition from system to system takes center stage, but I wanted to take a minute to appreciate how profound Geels’ early suggestion is in the context of current assumptions about adoption.


In thinking more about Danielle's discussion thread, I am still trying to clarify the rules section of the reading.

At one point in the readings/powerpoint it is indicated that regimes are collections of the three inter-related rules... if niches make up regimes and when combined change the landscape, does that mean that all aspects are constrained by the same three types of rules that are initially dictated through the regimes? Or can rules exist separate in niches, regimes, and landscapes?

Another question I have is in regards to the transition pathways. If reproduction, realignment, substitution, and reconfiguration all lead to change, is one better than the other? If I am understanding correctly it seems that transitions that allow niches to break through and/or combine with regimes make the biggest impact however it seems that a larger issue must occur in order for the niches and regimes to move forward.


The first piece by Geels we read was slightly overwhelming and technical for me, but it did help me understand the different levels of systems that were referenced in the lecture, especially regimes, which Geels essentially says (in socio-technical systems) are systems of various kinds of rules that may be interdependent. Geels states, “I understand regimes as semi-coherent sets of rules, which are linked together. It is difficult to change one rule, without altering others. The alignment between rules gives a regime stability, and “strength” to coordinate activities.” Because the readings have been largely theoretical up to this point, I tried to come up with an example of a regime (a system of linked rules), such as Geels gives on P. 906, that I could use to help myself better understand the rules within regimes, how they are linked together.

I came up with the act of attending elementary school in the United States.

  • Regulative rules in this case might be federal or state laws about education, about truancy, what must be taught, attendance policies, test procedures, dress codes, etc—all of the federal, state, and local regulations within the education system.
  • Normative rules might be things like how it is appropriate to act in school, rules about how to complete homework, how to behave, how to dress, how to interact with teachers and other students.
  • Cognitive rules might be patterns and pedagogies of teaching, how and how quickly student should advance in different subjects, the use of different methods/schema of education, and ideas about the importance of education.

I tried to see how these types rules might be interdependent: If regulative rules divide students into grades with certain academic standards, for example, it follows that teachers who teach different grades might have different ideas about what methods of teaching are best (cognitive rules). And if the regulative rules change (the school dress code changes to allow jeans, for example), it is easy to see how normative rules might change (it becomes cool to wear acid wash jeans to class). Interconnectedness could play out here too. In this case, the regime of elementary education might be interconnected with the regime of the standard workweek and office employment, as far as normative rules are concerned. The system of the school day reinforces the workweek schedule for working parents—you try to work M-F 8am-4pm, when your kids are at school, right?

My discussion question is: do I have the right interpretation of this, or am I thinking about it wrong? What changes would you make? Or, if you want, come up with your own example of a “regime” and the regulative, normative, and cognitive rules that might be linked together within that system of rules. What might these rules be? What other regimes might your regime be dependent on or linked with?


As I read Geels' article's, I found it really it hard to follow. But with reading his article and the power point from the first week. What I make of the articles is to go from a niche to a regime, you have to understand the purpose and function of what your creating. In order to do that you have to use actors (humans), knowledge, technology, rules and guidelines in order for it to be at lease stable enough for the landscape.

The best example I can come up with is how we went from house and buggy (niche) to motor car (regime).  Now we are developing new ways to get from point a to point b with out the use of motors and oils but with using the recourses (landscape) we have around us. I do believe they plan on using the magnetic plates in the ground to help car hover. Reducing the air population making the planet more sustainable for our future generation.

Do I have the right idea of this concept? 


Hi Group,

One topic that Geels’ white paper addresses is “windows of opportunity” for the breakthrough of new ideas and technologies. Geels’ explains that these windows of opportunity present themselves when “tensions and mismatches occur” (p. 914). This concept is a bit hard for me to grasp in terms of changing landscapes. Geels’ describes landscapes as “beyond the direct influence of actors, and cannot be changed at will. Material environments, shared cultural beliefs, symbols and values are hard to deviate from. They form ‘gradients’ for action” (p. 913).  If landscapes are “beyond the direct influence of actors”, how exactly do they change?

I suppose this means actors have indirect influence on the landscape, and there must also be an unstable environment that will allow change. Can anyone think of a concrete example of landscape change that is “beyond the direct influence of actors”? Do I have Geels' interpretation of "beyond the direct influence of actors" correct, or is there anything you would add?

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