Urban Transformative Capacity

The transition to more sustainable cities is likely to be slow and hampered by dependencies on existing technologies, user practices and lifestyles (Ahman and Nilsson, 2008; Safarzynska and van den Bergh, 2010; Unruh, 2000). These dependencies have been entrenched in business models, organisational structures, policy and regulation (Rip and Kemp, 1998)

Transitions will, therefore, require a fundamental shift socioeconomic systems (Geels and Schot, 2010; Kemp, 1994). This change will involve a wide range of role-players and take a considerable period of time (Geels and Schot, 2010). The transition will not include technological and institutional change, but also new values and perceptions (Geels, 2005).

Sustainable transitions can be guided by long term goals (Smith et al., 2005). In cities, planning, policy, regulatory and institutional support developed to support these goals can plan an important role in ensuring that sustainability transitions are efficient, and momentum is maintained (Garud et al., 2010; Smith et al., 2005). City planning and management instruments not only inform the design of more sustainable infrastructure but also enable partnerships with non-government actors to enhance the delivery and management of this infrastructure.

A critical review of city planning and management systems within cities can be carried out to understand existing capacity to achieve sustainable transitions. This analysis identifies opportunities to transform city planning and management systems as a means of achieving sustainability transitions. This analysis can be formulated as a framework which can be applied by cities to enhance their transformative capacity.

This framework for urban transformative capacity provides for an innovative approach to improving capacity for sustainability transitions in cities. Initial application of the framework indicates that there is significant requirement to improve city planning and management in cities as a means of achieving more sustainable cities. Achieving this potential will, however, require city planning and management systems that reflect the complexity and multifaceted nature of urban sustainability transitions.

Ahman, M., Nilsson, L.J., 2008. Path dependency and the future of advanced vehicles and biofuels. Utilities Policy 16, 80–89.

Garud, R., Gehman, J., Karnoe, P., 2010. Categorization by association: nuclear technology and emission-free electricity. In: Sine, W.D., David, R. (Eds.), Research in the Sociology of Work. Emerald Group Publishing Ltd, Bingley, UK, pp. 51–93.

Geels, F.W., 2005a. Co-evolution of technology and society: the transition in water supply and personal hygiene in the Netherlands (1850–1930) – a case study in multi-level perspective. Technology in Society 27, 363–397.

Rip, A., Kemp, R., 1998. Technological change. In: Rayner, S., Malone, E.L. (Eds.), Human Choice and Climate Change – Resources and Technology. Battelle Press, Columbus, pp. 327–399.

Smith, A., Stirling, A., Berkhout, F., 2005. The governance of sustainable sociotechnical transitions. Research Policy 34, 1491–1510.

Smith, A., Voß, J.-P., Grin, J., 2010. Innovation studies and sustainability transitions: the allure of the multi-level perspective and its challenges. Research Policy 39, 435–448.