TURAS expert contact:
Eva-Maria Stumpp
Leader of Work Package 7 "I...



The transition challenge

There is little controversy about the need to make cities more sustainable and resilient. However, depending on the actors and stakeholders involved, transition approaches and the resulting trajectories of change vary considerably. In particular, the interface between descriptive analytical approaches tending to rely on expertise in specialist fields and normative aproaches acknowledging the need to negotiate conflicting goals and interests is still underdeveloped. A focus on specialist expertise tends to undermine comprehensive analysis, promotes single-issue solutions and results in the development of unilateral transition strategies that fail to achieve a balance between the different dimensions of sustainabilty.

The TURAS integrated approach

The starting point for addressing urban sustainability challenges is a comprehensive systemic analysis of the local urban situation. Local authorities play a key role in bridging the gaps between specialist expertise, different geographical scales and local knowledge and experience. While acknowledging the conflicting needs and objectives of different stakeholders, they can integrate multiple types of knowledge, reduce the complexity of issues at hand and facilitate the negotiation of shared values and the collaborative formulation of visions. Inclusive, shared visions form the basis for meaningful transition approaches and result in the development of integrated, constructive transition strategies that acknowledge existing conflicting dynamics. Successful strategies align diverse transitional activities and aim to build strategic alliances between frontrunners, local authorities and other relevant stakeholders. As a crucial initial step, they enable the realisation of pilot activities that demonstrate and test solutions and measures that serve to induce change towards sustainable urban futures.


inclusive communities adaptive governance structures

Creating systemic Knowledge

The aim of systemic analyis is the identification of relevant pressures and challenges as well as resources, opportunities, and possible areas of intervention. Apart from collecting relevant data, this also means integrating local knowledge and expertise, taking account of existing initiatives and strategies and acknowledging that some groups are affected differently than others. A comprehensive understanding of local dynamics and systemic interdependencies also allows for continous adaptation of transitioning actvities through monitoring of cross-scale impacts.

  • ...generating a collective (qualitative and quantitative) database of history, identity and assets as a shared local platform and source of knowledge

  • ...facilitating collective systems-thinking by connecting diverse knowledge on complex issues into meaningful narratives

  • ...facilitating system-thinking and knowledge-brokering between established actors in business or public agencies and pioneers of sustainable and socially innovative economic activities

  • ...supporting comprehensive system analysis by providing an overview of concrete steps to generate, collect and integrate different types of knowledge

Developing shared visions

Visioning aims to develop a holistic image of a future situation while focussing on the areas of intervention identified through systermic analysis. Visioning activities require an awareness of local cultural and power dynamics and include a discussion about common values. Activities thus need to include a broad range of actors and stakeholders, with a particular focus on groups whose rights and interests might be underrepresented from a sustainability perspective.

  • ...promoting shared values across the community and allowing new synergies and social networks to emerge
    ...building shared visions by drawing on a collective history of place

  • information at the micro-level of how innovative business models can be tailored to meet the needs of communities and places

  • ...offering a road map that facilitates visioning activities for communities

  • …supporting inclusive vision building processes by providing a detailed roadmap for stakeholder involvement

  • ...providing a framework in which niche actors can engage in meaningful and constructive cooperation with actors of the economic establishment

  • ...creating a database hat helps understanding needs of communities so that decisions can be more relevant to them. Community groups can share solutions and visions with other groups

  • …enabling multiple stakeholders to formulate a vision for planning or development activities by going through several iterations between specific themes and the overall system

Developing integrated strategies

Strategy development aims to identify transition pathways and translates the vision into realistic goals and objectives. It also defines areas for potential pilot activities and builds networks for pilot implementation. As such, strategy development is a process that involves tackling institutional silo thinking and dealing with conflicting objectives of different stakeholders. Driven by the values identified during vision building, the outcome is a compromise that aims to achieve a balance between the different dimensions of sustainability.

  • ...guiding community actors through steps that support a reflective process before, during and after a project at different scales

  • …facilitating strategy development by providing a basis for negotiating the conflicting dimensions of sustainability from a normative perspective

  • ...making groups in the city visible and have the opportunity to connect and learn from each other

  • ...facilitating problem-solving when working with multi-disciplinary expert groups by breaking down complex issues into subthemes.
    ...uncovering certain specific aspects of a challenge and summarizing key components into limited but workable blocks of key words.

  • ...setting up an innovative multi-stakeholder alliance coordinated and moderated by the local authority with the aim of fostering sustainability transition of key local economic sectors

  • … analysing a mix of stakeholders including their motivations, objectives and relationships
    …providing the basis for exploring possible relevant alliances and relationships.

  • ...providing a framework connecting local authorities, entrepreneurs and representative members of the community and pre-testing possible business opportunities formulated around strategic urban sustainability challenges

Implementing transition activities

Pilot activities serve as protected space for practices of collaboration and provide materialized artefacts of change. As such, they create a window towards the achievement of sustainability visions and serve to catalyse existing transitioning processes. By providing opportunities for monitoring and assessing change, pilots also provide feedback for systemic analysis and play an important role for reviewing and adapting strategic agendas and future transition activities.

  • ...providing a road map for implementation through stories on how other communities did it

  • ...testing the feasibility of business opportunities in participatory workshops. Methods include partial simulations, run-throughs of service process and self assessment surveys

  • …demonstrating crucial issues and setting out key steps for implementing pilot activities for sustainability transition initiatives

  • ...providing high level information on practical solutions and case studies for overcoming resource barriers to realise project ideas

  • …supporting implementation by showing potential economic, institutional and creative leverage and how they could be used for realisation


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