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

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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