In Research


Year: 2020
Published in: Research Policy
Cited as: Strambach, S. and G. Pflitsch (2020). “Transition topology: Capturing institutional dynamics in regional development paths to sustainability.” Research Policy 49(7): 104006.


A key challenge in sustainability transitions research is to better understand the huge variety and spatial unevenness of transitions paths. Institutions and institutional change have been identified as critical issues, as regional institutional settings significantly influence the pace and scope of sustainability transitions. However, the complex institutional dynamics underpinning ‘Regional Transition Paths to Sustainability’ (RTPS) are not well understood. Underexplored is in particular the link between short time gradual changes on the micro-level and long-term transformative change on the system level. In order to add to a more profound understanding of these processes, a focus on organizational change is valuable. The basic argument made in this article is that the emergence of new temporary and more permanent forms of organization has the potential to enable de-institutionalization and new institutionalization processes simultaneously. As we will show, new organizational forms also serve as a means to make institutional dynamics visible. The contribution of this paper is thus twofold: By combining insights from sustainability transition theory, evolutionary economic geography and neoinstitutional organization theory, we develop an original conceptual framework. By developing and applying the methodological approach of a ‘transition topology’, the potential of this framework for comparative research on actors and processes in different regional transition path to sustainability is revealed.


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