Evaluating sustainability transitions pathways: Bridging analytical approaches to address governance challenges

Bruno Turnheim, Frans Berkhout, Frank W. Geels, Andries Hof, Andy McMeekin, Bjorn Nykvist, Detlef P. van Vuuren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

342 Citations (Scopus)
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The paper sets out a proposal for bridging and linking three approaches to the analysis of transitions to sustainable and low-carbon societies: quantitative systems modelling; socio-technical transition analysis; and initiative-based learning. We argue that each of these approaches presents a partial and incomplete picture, which has implications for the quality and usefulness of the insights they can deliver for policy and practice. A framework for bridging these different approaches promises to enrich each of the approaches, while providing the basis for a more robust and complete analysis of sustainable transitions pathways that serves better to address questions and dilemmas faced by decision-makers and practitioners. We elaborate five key challenges for the analysis and governance of transitions pathways, and compare the three approaches in relation to each of these. We suggest an integration strategy based on alignment, bridging, and iteration, arguing that a structured dialogue between practitioners of different approaches is needed. In practical terms, such a dialogue would be organised around three areas of joint knowledge production: defining common analytical or governance problems to be tackled
through integration; establishing shared concepts (boundary objects); and establishing operational bridging devices (data and metrics, pathways evaluation and their delivery). Such processes could include experts and societal partners. We draw conclusions about future research perspectives and the role of analysis in transitions governance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-253
Number of pages14
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015


  • Sustainability transitions
  • Transition pathways
  • Governance
  • Modelling
  • Socio-technical


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