Reinterpreting urban institutions for sustainability: How epistemic networks shape knowledge and logics

DOBSON, Julian (2018). Reinterpreting urban institutions for sustainability: How epistemic networks shape knowledge and logics. Environmental Science & Policy, 92, 133-140.

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Long term urban resilience demands a transition to a low-carbon society but poses a dilemma: the institutions that stabilise and perpetuate sociotechnical systems must become agents of radical change. The possibility of alternative futures challenges the logics and values central to institutional identity. 'sustainability transitions’ thus raise questions of institutional reinterpretation. The extent of such reinterpretation hinges on the everyday ‘institutional work’ of actors who bring diverse understandings to bear on their roles and responsibilities. These understandings derive not only from actors’ professional roles but also from their engagement in wider epistemic networks. Based on case studies of three urban organisations in northern England, this paper examines the impact and influence of epistemic networks in validating or challenging approaches to sustainability transitions. The research found such networking a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for institutional reinterpretation. Epistemic networks serve five functions: they inspire, legitimise and facilitate potential transitions, and challenge slow progress - but they can also limit transitions. From these findings, it is argued that epistemic networks are central to the identification and development of nascent ‘transition arenas’ (Loorbach, 2010) where more sustainable, and ultimately more resilient, futures may be tested and trialled.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Sociotechnical transitions; Knowledge transfer; Institutions; Sustainability; Urban resilience; Environmental Sciences; 05 Environmental Sciences; 07 Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences; 16 Studies in Human Society
Identification Number:
Page Range: 133-140
SWORD Depositor: Symplectic Elements
Depositing User: Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited: 12 May 2021 14:45
Last Modified: 12 May 2021 15:16

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