Call for papers: Leverage points for sustainability transformation – Re-structuring institutions

Leuphana University will host the Leverage Points 2019 international conference on sustainability research and transformation, 6-8 February 2019.

Inspired by the work of Donella Meadows’ “Leverage Points: Places to intervene in a system”, this conference will explore the deep leverage points that can lead to sustainability transformations, asking: how do we transform ourselves, our science, our institutions, our interventions and our societies for a better future?

One conference theme will be on Re-structuring institutions for sustainability transformation.

Institutional arrangements are deeply rooted structures that shape the rules of a system and, thus, have the power to advance systems change. Social structures, embedded in formal institutions (rules, regulations, and policies) enable, constrain, and guide human action, and thus shape sustainability transformations.

In this theme, we will explore the potentials of systemic, institutional change as a leverage point for sustainability transformation. Existing research often lacks a systems-oriented view, and pays only scare attention to processes of institutional failure and decline, and even less to potentially productive functions of such phenomena.

In particular, we invite contributions that address this gap and that (1) employ a perspective that goes beyond single institutions but take a complex-systems oriented lens; and (2) that pay close attention to phenomena of failure and decline of institutions and the extent to which these can serve as leverage points for sustainability.

This includes, but may not be limited to, issues and topics, such as

  • The role of institutions for sustainability transformations from various theoretical perspectives;
  • Crises as triggers for adaptation towards sustainability;
  • Deliberate dismantling of unsustainable institutions;
  • The active management of declining institutions;
  • The identification and unlocking of path-dependency and system traps;
  • Analysis of institutional coherence, redundancies, and lacunae;
  • Perspectives on the interplay and integration between different institutions;
  • Democratic implications of transformation processes;
  • Methodological challenges in analyzing and understanding institutional change.

The conference is premised on three principles: 1) The importance of searching for places where interventions can lead to transformative change; 2) Open inquiry, exchange and co-learning across multiple theoretical, methodological and empirical research approaches; and 3) The need for reflection on modes of research and processes in sustainability research.

Abstracts with a maximum of 300 words should be submitted by 30 June 2018 via the conference website: http://leveragepoints2019.leuphana.de/call-for-abstracts/.

For more information please visit: http://leveragepoints2019.leuphana.de

For any specific enquiries about abstract submission please contact: Leveragepoints2019@leuphana.de

LP2019_Conference_flyer

Job opening: Fully-funded PhD position on governance and policy analysis in globally telecoupled systems

We are now seeking to fill a fully-funded PhD position on “Governance institutions for sustainability in globally telecoupled systems” within the Marie-Skłodowska-Curie ETN Graduate School ‘COUPLED’, starting 1 July 2018 for a duration of 36 months.

Topic: Globally telecoupled systems such as commodity chains, long-range pollution or distant policy-driven effects present complex new challenges for sustainability governance. These are often beyond the capabilities of individual states and even multilateral institutions to regulate. At the same time, the policy and governance interventions of governments and other actors themselves often have a range of unforeseen consequences and knock-on effects. Taking European Union (EU) environmental policy as its primary vantage point, this research will: (1) identify key institutions, networks of actors and instruments deployed to govern for sustainability in specific case studies of telecoupled systems (e.g. global trade and supply chains and networks), and (2) assess their impacts with particular attention to so-called ‘policy-driven displacement’ effects, policy spillovers and feed-backs (e.g. increased deforestation resulting from EU biofuels policy). On the basis of this analysis, the research will (3) identify governance levers for effective intervention at multiple levels (from multilateral to local) and among different actors (e.g. governmental, private sector, civil society) to address policy-driven displacement effects.

In carrying out this work, the ESR will: (1) Conduct interviews and documentary research to chart networks and key actors and structures associated with EU efforts to govern for sustainability in telecoupled systems (focusing on certain specific cases such as agricultural commodity chains or raw resource flows); (2) analyse and assess the effectiveness (success factors and barriers, social and environmental impacts) of different governance arrangements and their unintended policy-driven displacement effects; and (3) propose potential policy and governance interventions for increased sustainability in telecoupled systems. The ESR will be jointly supervised by Prof. Jens Newig, Dr. Edward Challies and Prof. Patrick Meyfroidt (Earth and Life Institute, Catholic University of Leuven). Potential secondment placements include the German Federal Environmental Ministry in Berlin (Germany) and the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium).

Location: Leuphana University Lüneburg, just outside of Hamburg, is a young university, focusing on sustainability, cultural and political science, education, and management and entrepreneurship, and has repeatedly been awarded for innovation. The Research Group on Governance, Participation and Sustainability, led by Prof. Newig, is affiliated both with Leuphana’s Faculty of Sustainability and with its Centre for the Study of Democracy. A multidisciplinary group of senior and early-career social scientists, it focuses on addressing the big challenges of governance in the context of environmental and sustainability politics.

We seek: a candidate with an above-average MSc (or equivalent degree) in Political Science, Human Geography, Sustainability Science or cognate discipline. We expect a strong interest in environmental policy and governance. Excellent written and spoken English is essential. Experience with both qualitative and quantitative methods (e.g. Social Network Analysis) would be advantageous.

Mobility Rule: Please note that at the time of recruitment, candidates must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Germany for more than 12 months in the last 3 years (in accordance to the funding programme of the ETN). Leuphana University Lüneburg is an equal opportunity employer committed to fostering heterogeneity among its staff. Applications by qualified individuals are strongly encouraged. Disabled applicants with equal qualifications will be given priority consideration.

Contact: Prof. Dr Jens Newig; e-mail: newig@uni.leuphana.de.

Applications including a letter of motivation, full CV, a draft proposal, relevant certificates/transcripts, and contact details for two references shall be submitted via the project website http://coupled-itn.eu/recruitment/.

Application deadline: 15 May 2018.

Call for papers: Leverage points for sustainability transformation – Re-structuring institutions

Leuphana University will host the Leverage Points 2019 international conference on sustainability research and transformation, 6-8 February 2019.

One conference theme will be on Re-structuring institutions for sustainability transformation.

Institutional arrangements are deeply rooted structures that shape the rules of a system and, thus, have the power to advance systems change. Social structures, embedded in formal institutions (rules, regulations, and policies) enable, constrain, and guide human action, and thus shape sustainability transformations.

In this theme, we will explore the potentials of systemic, institutional change as a leverage point for sustainability transformation. Existing research often lacks a systems-oriented view, and pays only scare attention to processes of institutional failure and decline, and even less to potentially productive functions of such phenomena.

In particular, we invite contributions that address this gap and that (1) employ a perspective that goes beyond single institutions but take a complex-systems oriented lens; and (2) that pay close attention to phenomena of failure and decline of institutions and the extent to which these can serve as leverage points for sustainability.

This includes, but may not be limited to, issues and topics, such as

  • The role of institutions for sustainability transformations from various theoretical perspectives;
  • Crises as triggers for adaptation towards sustainability;
  • Deliberate dismantling of unsustainable institutions;
  • The active management of declining institutions;
  • The identification and unlocking of path-dependency and system traps;
  • Analysis of institutional coherence, redundancies, and lacunae;
  • Perspectives on the interplay and integration between different institutions;
  • Democratic implications of transformation processes;
  • Methodological challenges in analyzing and understanding institutional change.

Abstracts with a maximum of 300 words should be submitted by 30 June 2018 via the conference website: http://leveragepoints2019.leuphana.de/call-for-abstracts/.

 

The Opening and Closing of a Policy Window for a Coal Phase-Out (Kohlenausstieg) in Germany in 2017 and Beyond

Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformation

by Pim Derwort

The start of a new year is often accompanied by looking back at what happened in the past and looking forward to the year ahead. While it will take a while for the final numbers to be released, in Germany the Energiewende appears to have come along strongly in 2017. Initial estimates show that the share of renewable energies in gross energy consumption grew to more than 36 per cent, up considerably from the 31.6 per cent in the previous year. Early in the morning of New Year’s Day, for a brief period, Germany was even powered entirely by renewable energy, the first time in modern history.

However, despite the growing share of renewables, coal remained the most important energy source for German electricity production, with around 37 per cent of gross electricity generation coming from coal (with lignite and hard coal accounting for 22.6% and 14.4%…

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The beginning of a new food movement in Essen

Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformation

By Annelie Sieveking

From the 10th to the 12th of November 2017, over 100 people from more than 40 cities came together in Essen, Germany to exchange ideas and experiences about food policy councils (FPCs, in German: Ernährungsräte). This was the first networking congress of recently created food policy councils and initiatives planning to do so in the near future in German-speaking countries and regions (Austria, Germany, South Tirol and Switzerland).

FPCs bring together diverse actors within the food system; they are often initiated by civil society and they try to shape food policies at different levels. As FPCs have been in existence in other countries for several decades, the congress organizers invited international guests from the United States, Canada, Brazil and the United Kingdom to learn from their experiences. In Germany, FPCs are a fairly new phenomenon with the first ones founded in Cologne and Berlin…

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New book: Evidence for causal mechanisms linking participation with environmental governance outcomes

By Jens Newig

In the EDGE project, we have been researching intensively the link between participation in decision-making and environmental governance outcomes. Our new book, lead-edited by Elisa Kochskämper, examines these links through eight qualitative case studies. We employ a causal-mechanism approach, which helps us identify the precise mechanisms through which participatory governance forms lead (or don’t lead) to improved environmental governance outcomes. So although our approach is highly qualitative in nature, we use it to rigorously trace causal hypotheses.

Our empirical field of study is participatory processes that were set up to implement the European Water Framework Directive in Germany, Spain, and the UK. The Directive mandates participatory river basin management planning across the European Union, with the expectation (among European policymakers and the European Commission) that participation will deliver better policy outputs and implementation.

Here are two examples of how our approach works.

The first shows how broad participation in Cantabria (Spain) does generate social learning, empowerment and acceptance by participants – even though the results of the participatory process were ultimately ignored by the authorities and not taken up in further planning (see figure below). However, the fact that the collected measures were not actually incorporated into the river basin management plan, and had not been implemented, did not diminish participants’ satisfaction with the process. The environmental NGO representative put it as follows (page 77 in the book):

Although I don’t know whether they recognised our proposals for the final measures, I think the participatory process was very good per se. […] I think this was an activity that left everyone very satisfied for the mere fact of participating […]. That we were sitting face-to-face with different officials and that we could give our opinion in public, and being taken seriously from the beginning (MC:ENGO).

Cantabria
Participatory planning process in the Miera and Campiazo basins. Dashed lines indicate no clear connection. Crossed out lines indicate a disconnect

The second example is a local participatory forum in Schleswig-Holstein (Germany). This case is revealing regarding the hypothesized mechanism that increased representation of environmental concerns in a decision-making process either: (a) fosters environmental advocacy, impacting positively on the environmental quality of the output; or – quite the contrary – (b) weakens the position of environmental groups vis-à-vis other actors, impacting negatively on the environmental quality of the output. The case shows how both sub-mechanisms can be found within one single case: On the one hand, environmental NGOs were particularly active in addressing river connectivity, and this was clearly reflected in the agreed list of actions, thus supporting (a). On the other hand, the pressing issue of nutrient pollution from agriculture was left out of discussions and therefore not addressed in the output. A likely explanation lies in the trustful setting that developed over several years of on-going interaction in the working group. In this setting, environmental interests, too, went along in the general spirit of proposing feasible and readily implementable measures, leaving aside the more conflictive – but nonetheless highly pressing – issue of agricultural nutrient pollution. We conclude, therefore, that ENGOs have been co-opted to a certain degree, which supports (b).

The comprehensive structured comparative approach has produced new insights into the link between participation and environmental outputs and impacts. The overall picture is telling: we observed increasing quality of policy outputs with increasing ‘intensity’ of participation. However, the details are more nuanced, as the two above examples may suggest. Ultimately, we observed a trade-off between ambitious environmental planning and actual implementability of measures. Our analysis revealed that processes either produced measures of a high environmental standard, addressing the main water problems, but that were overly ambitious and not implementable, or they produced feasible measures that were subsequently implemented, but were generally of a lower environmental standard. This hints to important questions of environmental policy implementation that go beyond claims of participation.

Reference

Kochskämper, Elisa; Challies, Edward; Jager, Nicolas W.; Newig, Jens (eds.) (2018): Participation for Effective Environmental Governance: Evidence from European Water Framework Directive Implementation. Earthscan Studies in Water Resource Management series. London: Earthscan / Routledge.

 

Causal mechanisms analysis – a potential way to bridge the divide between systemic and place-based research

Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformation

By Nicolas W. Jager

In the Leverage Points project, as is often the case in empirical research and especially in sustainability sciences, we are caught between a focus on place-based research and the aspiration to generate insights which may be valid and relevant for a wider scope. One way to moderate this tension and to arrive at valid, context-related findings that may also have a wider scope is through utilizing causal mechanisms as focal points for analysis.

Discussions about the role and possibilities of a causal mechanisms perspective are prominent in social science research, and there exist numerous definitions (see e.g. Hedström and Ylikoski 2010 for an overview). A causal mechanism can be understood as “a continuous and contiguous chain of causal or intentional links between the explanans and the explanandum” (Elster 1989). As such, a close look at the processes at work in a given (place-based) case may be…

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