Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302DOI 10.1007/s11077-009-9103-5Designing long-term policy: rethinking transitionmanagementJan-Pe...
276                                                                            Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302Keywords Policy...
Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302                                                              277some of the painful lessons f...
278                                                                           Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302    Policy scien...
Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302                                                                            279    Long-term p...
280                                                                           Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302   A central fea...
Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302                                                                              2812007; Meadowc...
282                                                                  Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302Here questions of fit and ...
Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302                                                           283transformation of socio-technica...
284                                                               Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302flexible and adjustable at th...
Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302                                                                           285  Experiments ar...
286                                                               Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302processes that reveal them t...
Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302                                                               287‘were afraid to open their m...
288                                                              Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302embedded in established polic...
Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302                                                                289governments (and scientific ...
290                                                                        Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302and ideational fact...
Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302                                                                             291opens up new m...
292                                                                Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302change over time in co-evol...
Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302                                                                             293practice along...
294                                                              Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302      As with the governance ...
Table 1 Summary of transition management design and re-design issues      Design issue                 Transition manageme...
296                                                               Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302dominant paradigms towards p...
Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302                                                                             297long-term whil...
298                                                                            Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302Dietz, F., Brou...
Designing Long-Term Policy: Rethinking Transition Management
Designing Long-Term Policy: Rethinking Transition Management
Designing Long-Term Policy: Rethinking Transition Management
Designing Long-Term Policy: Rethinking Transition Management
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Designing Long-Term Policy: Rethinking Transition Management

  1. 1. Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302DOI 10.1007/s11077-009-9103-5Designing long-term policy: rethinking transitionmanagementJan-Peter Voß • Adrian Smith • John GrinPublished online: 21 November 2009Ó Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2009Abstract Long-term policy is enjoying something of a come-back in connection withsustainable development. The current revival tries to avoid the pitfalls of an earlier gen-eration of positivistic long-range planning and control approaches. Instead, this newgeneration of policy design emphasises reflexive governance concepts. These aim atinducing and navigating complex processes of socio-technical change by means ofdeliberation, probing and learning. A practical expression of this move that is attractinggrowing international attention amongst researchers and practitioners is the policy of‘Transition Management’ (TM) in the Netherlands. This article takes stock of TMimplementation experience to date and discusses the critical issues it raises for long-termpolicy design. The article provides a framework and synthesis for this Special Issue, whichcomprises articles that address a range of those issues in more depth. We highlight threecritical issues: the politics of societal learning, contextual embedding of policy design anddynamics of the design process itself. This leads us to propose a view on policy design as acontested process of social innovation. Our conclusion considers implications for contin-ued work on designing transition management in practice as well as the reflexive capacitiesof democratic politics.J.-P. Voß (&)Innovation in Governance Research Group, Institute of Sociology/Center for Technology and Society, ¨Technische Universitat Berlin (Secretariat ER 2-2), 10623 Berlin, Germanye-mail: jan-peter.voss@tu-berlin.deURL: Web www.innovation-in-governance.orgA. SmithSPRU (Science and Technology Policy Research), Freeman Centre, Falmer, University of Sussex,Brighton, East Sussex BN1 9QE, UKe-mail: A.G.Smith@sussex.ac.ukJ. GrinFaculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, University of Amsterdam, OZ Achterburgwal 237,1012, DL, Amsterdam, The Netherlandse-mail: J.Grin@uva.nl 123
  2. 2. 276 Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302Keywords Policy design Á Sustainable development Á Reflexive governance ÁTransition management Á Socio-technical change Á Long-term planning ÁDeliberation Á Politics of learning Á Innovation in governanceIntroductionLong-term policy design is politically salient again. Substantive policy goals and policyprocesses are re-emerging that seek to restructure radically key social systems in responseto a variety of social challenges. In the context of debates about sustainable developmentthere is growing policy interest in stepping away from incremental developments along‘business-as-usual’ trajectories. Policy-makers increasingly consider how conventionalmeasures (such as environmental taxes and regulations aimed at reforming collectivebehaviours, economic sectors and technologies) can be overlaid with a more integratedpackage that delivers a ‘sustainability transition’ to radically more sustainable societalsystems over the long-term. Take our energy systems as a case in point. A commitmenttaken by governments of the G8 in 2008 is an indication that a consensus is emerging on aglobal target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050. Current energy systemsbased in fossil fuels are currently responsible for a majority of these emissions. Given thatthese energy systems underpin economic activity in other areas too, then meeting climatechange targets implies transforming our energy systems into radically decarbonised forms. There is a growing body of academic work on the implications of such long-termchallenges for the concepts and practices of governance.1 A notable example of a newgeneration of long-term policy design is the ‘transition management’ approach institutedby the Dutch government since 2001 (see the article by Kemp and Rotmans 2009). Thedevelopment and implementation of this design are the focus of this special issue. This interest contrasts sharply with the disrepute into which long-term policies hadfallen after the 1970s. Modernist conceptions of societal planning had reached a crisispoint. The not unconnected combination of an increasingly tarnished track record, anapparent inability to rise to macro-economic problems and welfare crises, and the rise ofneo-liberal ideology, all contributed to a decline in long-range planning ambitions inOECD governments and elsewhere. The collapse of the planned economies a decade laterconfirmed this newly received wisdom. Long-term policy had become linked with long-range, wide-scale and highly interventionist public planning. And that kind of planning nolonger had a good reputation. This historical context prompts an intriguing question: whether interest in ‘transitionstowards sustainable development’ signals a return to long-range policy design? Does thisopen space for more ambitious initiatives in sustainable development? The collective urge to reflect, anticipate and intervene in societal development is arecurring theme in the policy science literature (e.g. Mill 1862; Dewey 1927; Lindblom1959/1969; Vickers 1965; and more recently, Elmore 1985; Fischer 1995, 2003; Schon and¨Rein 1994; Bobrow and Dryzek 1987). Recent long-range policy ideas try to incorporate1 This special issue is part of a larger cluster of activities in the context of an emerging research programmeon sustainability transitions. All papers have been presented in the context of a workshop series on SystemInnovations for Sustainable Development which has been co-funded through the conCISEnet project by theGerman Federal Minstry of Research and Education’s programme on Social-ecological Research(www.sozial-oekologische-forschung.org) and through the Knowlewdge Network for System Innovationsand Transitions (www.ksinetwork.nl) by the Dutch Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and theEnvironment.123
  3. 3. Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302 277some of the painful lessons from past planning failures; failures which fed the neo-liberalreaction. The current generation of long-term policy approaches appears more ‘reflexive’,it avoids the notion of planning and is well aware of the limits to full knowledge in advanceand steering the course of history (Meadowcroft 1999). We consider how this reflexiverevival is panning out in the case of TM. Transition management combines an orientation toward a long-term vision of ‘sus-tainable development’ with short-term experimental learning to probe options and findpathways to realise the vision. Its time horizon is 25–50 years. Over the course of theprocess the vision may be adapted as learning about options proceeds. This, in turn, mayshift criteria for designing and evaluating experiments. This recursive cycle for meetingsubstantive goals (e.g. reductions in carbon emissions, increases in resource efficiency,enhancements in biodiversity) is a key characteristic of transition management. Anothercharacteristic is the mobilisation of ‘forerunners’ to become involved in ‘transition arenas’,where visions are formulated and experiments are carried out. The concept envisagesprocedural arrangements that catalyse innovation and societal learning for the sustainabledevelopment of sectors like energy, mobility or agriculture. Whilst substantial goals drivethe process, transition management refrains from fixing specific measures and strategiestoo early and too rigidly. At the core is the idea to modulate co-evolutionary dynamics thatalready drive socio-technical change, and to bend them in ways that facilitate transfor-mative innovation (articulating guiding visions and experimenting with options andpathways). The general approach is one of nurturing and growing rather than planning andcontrolling long-term societal change. ‘Transition management’ emerged from concerns for step-change sustainable devel-opment. It has prompted experiments with policies aimed at transforming ‘socio-technicalsystems’ of energy provision, agriculture, transport, housing and use of materials (Rotmanset al. 2001). Parallel to these policy experiments, further conceptual work has developedthe approach into a general concept of governance (Loorbach 2007). As such it attractsinternational attention amongst scholars concerned with socio-technical change, sustain-able development and governance (Berkhout et al. 2004; Smith et al. 2005; Meadowcroft2005; Shove and Walker 2007; Walker and Shove 2007; Smith and Stirling 2007). It istime to give an account of the practical experiences to date, reflect on implications for thecontinued development of more general governance concepts, and anticipate possiblefuture pathways for long-term policy design. With this in mind, the Special Issue aims tocontribute to continued policy learning in academic debate as well as in political practice. A large part of the transition management literature stays on a conceptual and pro-grammatic level. It tends to overlook the political processes through which transitionmanagement is realised. Some notable exceptions in the literature have drawn attention tothe attenuating dominance of established policy institutions and political players, and haveidentified some technocratic tendencies in the policy process (Hendriks 2008; Smith andKern 2009; Smith and Stirling 2007). We follow-up on these studies, but, unlike them,contextualise transition management as an example of a new generation of long-termpolicy design. This enables us to arrive at insights which may be relevant for other effortsat designing reflexive governance for sustainable development. While acknowledging thecomplexity of societal change processes in their subject domain, many of these concepts,so far, lack an explicit concern for the work involved in realising new governance practicesin a context of prior policy paradigms. Crossing the gap between established policy par-adigms and novel forms of experimental learning presumes radical innovation in gover-nance practices. This difficulty is compounded by the well-known challenge of anticipatingimplementation in policy design (Bardach 1977). 123
  4. 4. 278 Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302 Policy sciences in a Lasswellian spirit approach this challenge by engaging withpolitical processes, finding out about what works by testing it out in vivo, and learningfrom the experience. In this vein, we take early experiences with transition management asan occasion to reflect on some fundamental challenges of long-term policy design. Wedraw lessons from this particular case for questions of more general importance: How dotransition management and other concepts for reflexive governance work in practice? Howis a succession or accommodation between existing and new forms of governance realised?What are particular challenges for transformative long-term policy design? In this introductory article, we first introduce the Special Issue by outlining the tran-sition management concept and situating it in the broader literature on designing long-termpolicy. Second, we discuss the key challenges that transition management meets in prac-tice. Here we build on analyses in the contributing papers. We highlight three criticalissues: (1) the ‘politics of learning’, which may undermine aspirations for open deliber-ation; (2) the ‘contextual embedding’ that is required to turn new governance concepts intopolicy configurations that work; and (3) the dynamics of ‘design as process’, which sug-gests approaching policy design as open ended processes of social innovation, and in whichboth concepts and practices undergo change. In concluding the article, we considerimplications for continued work on designing transition management in practice.Long-term policy design: from planning to reflexive governanceWe understand long-term policy design as the development and implementation of policystrategies that seek to change radically key societal structures.2 In transition managementterms, long-term policies innovate new socio-technical systems of provision, rather thanoptimise and correct existing systems at the margins. The realisation of long-term policygoals extends well beyond electoral cycles and management terms, even beyond a gen-eration of civil servants. Over the course of long-term change processes, policies have tointeract with transformative changes as they unfold. Long-term policy design thus needs tobe flexible and adaptive; it has to cope with the inherent uncertainties of inchoate pathwaysof societal change.3 Long-term policies address problems which require solutions with long gestationperiods. Such policies need to induce and guide social and technological innovationscapable of replacing established ways of doing things, as well as their structural embed-ment. Sustainable development is a challenge that exhibits these characteristics (Grin2006). Solutions require a re-configuring of complex socio-technical systems like energy,agriculture, mobility and health. These systems comprise many interdependent components(a need for ‘system innovation’) and they involve large investments over long periods(often with low initial returns). Transitions to sustainability consequently imply a desta-bilizing of existing socio-technical structures as well as nurturing alternative systems thatcan fill the opportunities created by structural change.2 There is also a literature on long-term policy design in economics. This is not so much about empiricallyobservable dynamics of the policy process, but more about optimality conditions and the modeling ofincentives for long-term investments. Recurrent themes are questions about how to discount (uncertain) payoffs in the future to calculate present investments and questions about overcoming uneven distributions ofcosts and benefits of political measures across generations.3 We are not talking about political decisions with a temporal delay until they become effective (a law thatcomes into force in 5 years time). We also exclude the setting of long-term objectives, if they are put up asguiding posts without an accompanying programme for realisation (e.g. emission reduction targets).123
  5. 5. Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302 279 Long-term policy design has a long intellectual history. Classical approaches addressthe challenge as ‘planning’. A first generation of planning approaches was concerned withbuilding up infrastructures, administrative capacity and the welfare state, and was based ona belief in the possibility of progress by use of forecasting, analysis and bureaucracy. Thereis not space to recount this (well known and chequered) history (see Friedmann 1987;Hillier and Healey 2008). A neo-liberal market orientation succeeded this first generationinto policy practice.4 Meanwhile, a second generation of (now marginalized) planners tookstock of their demise, revised ideas based in critical reflection, and suggested lessons for asecond generation of long-range planning.5 Second generation planning theory is concerned with precaution towards the unintendedside-effects of development plans, and is based on co-evolutionary understanding, par-ticipation and learning (see, e.g. Beck 1994; Norgaard 1994). The linear, unilateral modelof rational planning has been reformulated into ‘forward and backward mapping’ between ¨problem definitions and assessments of policy solutions (Fischer 1980; Schon 1983; El-more 1985; Hoppe et al. 1987; Bobrow and Dryzek 1987; Forester 1984, 1999). Planninghas been renamed as long-term policy design, with policy design conceived as an inter-active process of constructing and shaping political reality (Stone 1988; Schneider andIngram 1990, 1993, 1997). Long-term policy design tries to turn the messiness of bottom-up implementation into aproductive dynamic (Wildavsky 1988). Instead of imposing theoretically defined optima itorganizes processes of interactive learning (Bobrow and Dryzek 1987; Schneider andIngram 1997), or seeks to induce such processes by a mix of policy instruments thatpromote learning between societal actors and policy actors (Van de Graaf and Grin 1999).Explorative scenarios, experimentation and learning gain prominence. The underlyingunderstanding is that policy making is deeply embedded in broader dynamics and takesshape in non-linear, open-ended processes. Policy must engage effectively with long-termsocietal change, introduce new practices, redirect trajectories of societal development anduntie existing socio-technical systems. This requires policies to build upon and employ theexisting dynamics of change. The orientation is one of ‘modulating’ ongoing co-evolu-tionary processes, rather suppressing complex dynamics of change with linear analysis andmechanical steering arrangements (Hillier and Healey 2008).64 This arose out of an ideological clash, theoretical contestation, plus evidence from implementationresearch. While planning theory originally developed in context of the New Deal as ‘‘fourth power ofgovernment’’ (Rexford Tugwell) and a necessary basis of open and free societies (Karl Mannheim), it wassoon contested as the arch-enemy of a free society (Hayek). Arguably of more importance than ideologicalclashes, especially for the policy studies community, were detailed empirical analyses of policy imple-mentation difficulties which challenged the feasibility of political planning in the sense of societal blue-printing (Murphy 1971; Derthick 1972; Pressman and Wildavsky 1973; Mayntz 1977; Mazmanian andSabatier 1989/1983; Hofferbert 1986). The primacy of planning suffered in the wake of the economicturbulence, welfare state crises and apparent failure of planning in the 1970s, and compounded by glob-alisation of the economy.5 Prominent examples are Lasswell’s policy sciences (Lasswell 1951), Lindbloms’s incrementalism(Lindblom 1969/1959, 1979), and Wildavsky’s ‘bottom-up politics’ (Pressman and Wildavsky 1973;Majone and Wildavsky 1978).6 Long-term policy design in the tradition of a revised planning theory has great relevance and affinity withenvironmental and technology policy. There it goes under different labels such as ‘foresight’ (Renn 2002;Weber 2006; Voß et al. 2006a), ‘adaptive management’ (Johnson et al., 1993; Lee 1994; Holling et al. 1995;Gunderson and Holling 2002; Sendzimir et al. 2006), ‘learning’ (Grin and Van de Graaf 1996; Wals and vander Ley 2007) or ‘directed incrementalism’ (Grunwald 2000). By the beginning of the 1990s sustainabledevelopment supported these developments as a new political ‘Leitbild’and brings with it a re-legitimization 123
  6. 6. 280 Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302 A central feature in contemporary long-term policy design is awareness of the future asfundamentally uncertain. This acknowledges arguments about the inherent uncertainty ofplanning due to changing circumstances and the unanticipated effects of policies in realworld contexts, in the vein of authors like Vickers (1965), Lindblom (1959/1969, 1990),and Wildavsky (1979).7 Since inherent uncertainties will be interpreted through pluralperspectives there is an additional acknowledgement in second generation planning aboutthe likeliness and implications of certain developmental pathways remaining contested.The appraisal of specific risks and merits of long-term policy becomes a political process(and not solely a technical calculation) and needs to be treated as such (Stirling 2003,2006). An important consideration is that long-term policy is not only linked to positiveexpectations of development and progress (planning to realise), but also to negativeexpectations about unintended consequences and possible damage (planning to avoid).This feature structures the politics involved in designing long-term policy for sustain-ability. While long-term policy design for progress (first generation planning) is a gamewhere the fight is about the distribution of benefits, long-term policy design to avoidenvironmental deterioration or technological hazards is a game where some may win andothers loose. Certain trajectories may not be continued and investments may becomestranded. While the first is a (prospective) distributive policy, the second is a (prospective)re-distributive policy that, through inducing structural change, may change actors’ ‘dis-positional power’ (Arts and Van Tatenhove 2005). The mobilization of interests and powerbecomes characteristic (Lowi 1972).8 Long-term policy design is a highly politicalendeavour. This reflection speaks to the argumentative turn in policy analysis (Fischer andForester 1993) and in the development of several approaches for participatory planning(e.g. Dienel and Renn 1995; Joss and Durant 1995; Grin and van de Graaf 1996; Healey1997; Forester 1999). Recent long-term policy concepts have been grouped under the label of ‘reflexivegovernance’. In a reflexive perspective, governing processes as well as policy analysisare seen as shaping, interlinked with and open to feedback from broader social, tech-nological and ecological changes, both in terms of innovative action and structuralchange (Grin 2006; Grin and van Staveren 2007; Voß and Kemp 2006; Smith andStirling 2007). As such governance is a messy and controversial process of multi-levelinstitutional transformation. Each of the actors involved has only a limited view of thewhole—which may be incommensurable with constructions of others—and restrictedcapacities to influence outcomes (Smith and Stirling 2007). Discussion of the implica-tions of such an orientation of reflexive governance is picked up in the literature ongovernance for sustainable development (Rip 2006; Voß et al. 2007; Hendriks and GrinFootnote 6 continuedand re-vitalization of long-term transformative policy and new ideas about planning (Kenny and Mead-owcroft 1999).7 This literature was inspired by a recognition of the combined implications of the limits of central planning(Hayek 1960; Lindblom 1965) and the limits of classical understandings of knowledge as were articulated ¨through notions as the ‘crisis of expertise’ (Schon 1983), the ‘politics of expertise’ (Fischer 1990), thedecreasing trust in modern ‘abstract systems’ of expertise (Giddens 1991) and critiques of instrumentalrationality (Horkheimer and Adorno 1988/1969).8 The other way around, structural changes may also help to overcome conflicts of interests. For instance,the 2008 financial crisis may prompt a reconsideration of the role of government regulations in relation tobusiness interests, and thereby make issues like planning for sustainable development more palatable. It isnot simply a re-positioning of actors’ relative interests that can be prompted by wider change, but a re-conceptualisation of what those interests are, and how they are best met.123
  7. 7. Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302 2812007; Meadowcroft 2007).9 Reflexive governance strategies recognise the inherentambivalence of policy goals, irreducible uncertainty about effects of alternative options,distributed agency and power shaping the process of implementation, a dialectic relationbetween policy design and societal context and the duality of structure and agency inprocesses of long-term change (Voß and Kemp 2006; Meadowcroft 2009). All reflexive planning approaches unavoidably face a dilemma. On the one hand, therequirement is not to suppress diversity, but to nurture bottom-up spontaneous develop-ments that are open to ambivalence and contestation, and to retain adaptability towards thecomplex dynamics of change. On the other hand, there remains a requirement to achievecoordination, to take a synoptic view on broader developments, to close down contingency,to fix long-term goals for orientation and mobilization.10 In order to constructively dealwith this dilemma of long-term guidance and short-term contextuality, most approaches toreflexive planning pragmatically combine top-down and bottom-up elements into more orless sophisticated procedural designs for social learning. The focus of policy is towardscreating options and exploring paths of societal development, social innovation, as it were,rather than planning and then implementation. At the same time it is acknowledged thatthere must be closing down around options, and commitments to long-lived (infra-)structures, that necessarily reduce flexibility owing to the path-dependencies they institute. The discussion so far reveals a series of challenges in long-term policy design. Someissues are practical. Key here is how concepts for dealing with uncertainty that are based inadaptability and reflection, can be designed into concrete measures for appraising optionsand making commitments. Some of the uncertainty derives from the sheer complexitiesand contingencies of diverse real world contexts. A related practical issue is therefore howto ensure adaptable long-term policy designs remain open to these contexts, and allow thedesigns to stay true to the original policy goals in adapted ways, rather than buffeted anddistracted by events. Another practical challenge is presented by the desire to work withthe messiness of bottom-up implementation. Distributed agents may well be required todeliver the strategic line, and the agency of each cannot do so alone. Yet, a few powerfulactors who are not in line with long-term policy goals may apply their agency to redirect ordisrupt the envisioned change process. Given the high-stakes, re-distributional qualities ofradical sustainable development, the interests of some actors to disrupt efforts are likely tobe considerable. A deep theoretical issue is the extent to which long-range policy is fundamentallycharacterised by problem-framing procedures, and the extent to which this demandsconsensual social learning processes for any chance of success. If social learning is theprinciple driver of reflexive long-term policy, then who is involved in that learningbecomes paramount; as does questions about whose voice and which lessons count. Whatare appropriate institutional arrangements to make societal learning possible in practice?9 To be sure, part of the response to the challenge of sustainable development have been planningapproaches which simply try to get back to first generation planning ideas as they try to overcome shortterminism by increasing planning capacities to force societal trajectories into a sustainable corridor. Onekind of such approaches focuses on the fixation of durable policy frameworks and on achieving politicalcommitment beyond the horizon of rationality that is in current institutions of political systems (Hovi et al.2007). Another approach, partly inspired by new public management, calls for a clear definition of sus-tainable development as a policy goal and articulation of indicators, monitoring and control (Steurer 2004; ¨ ¨Janicke and Jorgens 2005).10 Aspects of this dilemma have been articulated in many shades, e.g. as exploration and exploitation(March 1991), as a conflict between engineering and ecological resilience (Holling 1996), as requirements oflong-term planning and short-term acceptance (Grunwald 2000), or as the efficacy paradox of governanceunder conditions of complexity (Voß et al. 2006b). 123
  8. 8. 282 Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302Here questions of fit and adaptation between new long-term initiatives and institutionsbecome important. There is also an issue about just how adaptable it is possible for thesenovel arrangements to become in practice. The challenge to learning is not simply institutional rigidities and priorities. As theintroduction to the reflexive governance literature mentioned above, knowledge politicsmay well constrain aspirations for developing a shared problem framing. Consent mayderive instead from the way plural values are accommodated in the diverse commitmentsbeing made by that process. This brings in issues of legitimacy and democracy in long-range policy design processes. It also asks questions of whether the fluid networks char-acteristic of reflexive governance can create direct democratic forms, and the ways theymay need reinforcing with links to more conventional institutions of representativedemocracy. The quality of debate and commitment to sustainable development in thosebroader political institutions becomes essential to more designed initiatives in reflexivelong-term policy for sustainable development. Arguably, it is the absence of strong supportfor transition management amongst the broader polity that has left it incapable of reallygetting to grips with these critical issues. An emerging ‘transition management’ literature provides some imaginative ideas forcombining guidance with uncertainty, the long term with the short term, concern for thewhole and for the particulars, efficiency and resilience, closure and opening, top-down andbottom-up, outside and inside, design and dynamics, structure and agency, private interestsand the common good. And yet, some of these are fundamental tensions which mayundermine confidence in the possibility of success. It is these tensions which we explore inthis Special Issue. ‘Transition management: an exemplary case?’ section describes how transition man-agement seeks qualities of reflexive governance. ‘Critical design issues ‘section is morecritical about how they are working. Picking up on the theoretical issues mentioned above,it raises three issues: politics, context and design as process. Politics refers to the challengeof securing democratic legitimacy for the process and ensuring that learning-orientedgovernance arrangements are not captured and attenuated by powerful interests. Contextrefers to policy histories, institutional dynamics and the challenge of translating andinstituting designs into new configurations that work in practice. The third group, design asprocess, refers to the societal interaction within the dynamics of the policy design processitself. While politics issues are somewhat specific for long-term policy design (of thesecond generation), issues under context and design as process are classic challenges forpolicy design more generally, but become especially pronounced when the goal is thetransition to radically more sustainable socio-technical systems over the long term. Whilstthe contributions to this Special Issue shed light on those issues, they also raise new ones,such as the way the language of long-range policy designs can alienate the very people theyseek to empower.Transition management: an exemplary case?In the following, we introduce specific tenets of ‘transition management’ as a recent long-term policy design that contains the features and tensions noted for reflexive governanceabove. Transition management builds on an analytical understanding of long-term societalchange from integrated assessment (Rotmans and van Vries 1997), complexity theory (inways explained in Rotmans 2005), evolutionary economics (Kemp 1994; Mulder et al.1999) and the theory of socio-technical transitions (Kemp 1994; Geels 2001). The radical123
  9. 9. Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302 283transformation of socio-technical systems in energy, mobility, housing, food, etc. is con-sidered necessary for dealing with persistent sustainability problems: problems which aresymptomatic of existing systems. These problems will only be resolved through a transi-tion to new systems in which sustainability is centrally embedded.The transition management frameworkA key organising input for transition management comes from research on historical socio-technical transitions, and in which a ‘multilevel perspective’ on the requisite transitionprocesses has developed (Rip and Kemp 1998; Geels 2001; Berkhout et al. 2004; Geelsand Schot 2007). Its claims may be summarized as follows (see the review in Grin 2008,pp. 49–55):1. The dynamics of sustainability transitions build up in interactions across different, co-evolving levels: niches, regimes and landscapes.2. Niches nurture novel socio-technical configurations for doing energy, housing, transport, agriculture and so on in a new way.3. Regimes constitute the dominant interplay of research, development, production, use and regulation for the more established and mainstream socio-technical set-up.4. Landscapes consist of broader societal patterns and developments that provide structural gradients of possibility for socio-technical change.5. Regime transitions occur through linkages and interaction between multiple devel- opments on the three levels.6. Strategic action plays a role for creating linkages between niches and between niche and regimes, thereby helping induce a transition (Kemp and Loorbach 2006, p. 109).This multi-level perspective on socio-technical change can be illustrated with recentdynamics in electricity systems. Here, we see established regimes of centralised powergeneration from fossil and nuclear sources being disputed by renewable energy sourcesand decentralised power and load management in ‘intelligent’ distribution networks, andwhich are becoming established in niches within the regime. At the same time, the regimeof power generation is coming under pressure as climate change and energy security gainsupport on a broader socio-political landscape and shift the performance requirements forsocial legitimacy. Challenge from within and pressure from above, however, do not leadinto an immediate and smooth transition. Due to the interconnectedness and comple-mentarity of various elements of this complex technological system—such as theinstitutional set-up of the industry, user routines and behaviour, economic productionchains, and the patterns of governance and political regulation—a new system ofelectricity provision takes shape through a range of distributed innovation processes. Suchprocesses of ‘system innovation’ are not straightforward, but entail extended processes ofbricolage and probing. Transition management builds on these findings by taking an ideal typical ‘purposive’transition pattern consisting of four phases: a pre-development phase, a take-off phase, anacceleration phase and a stabilization phase (Rotmans et al. 2001; Rotmans 2005). Tran-sition management addresses both actors at the regime level and those involved in nicheexperiments. A key feature and characteristic of transition management is its orientationtowards harnessing ongoing dynamics or ‘goal oriented modulation of co-evolutionaryprocesses’ (Kemp et al. 2007a). It seeks to provide an open framework for searchingsustainable development pathways in various sectors of society. Objectives should be 123
  10. 10. 284 Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302flexible and adjustable at the system level. The complexity of the system is at odds with theformulation of specific, quantitative objectives. Insight into the dynamics of the system is essential to identify effective modes ofintervention. A core idea is to rely on evolutionary mechanisms to ‘breed’ and ‘grow’sustainable systems from niches where alternative practices are nurtured and start to sprout.In order to bring about sustainable development, ‘frontrunners’ are brought together todevelop a vision of sustainable future systems. The vision informs the choice of promisingniche developments and forms of support. In effect, the vision provides an alternativeselection environment compared to established socio-technical paradigms.Policy design in transition managementCrucially, transition management departs from the definition of a set of persistent problemsthat appear not to be resolvable through conventional policy approaches in the context ofincumbent structure. The particular approach to policy design in transition managementcomprises five main components: (1) Establishing a transition arena, (2) developing avision, (3) pathway development through back-casting techniques, (4) experimenting withpathway options and (5) monitoring, evaluation and revisions (Loorbach 2007). For each ofthese components of the transition management process, a variety of societal actors aresupposed to participate and provide knowledge, competences, material resources andviewpoints.• Establishing a transition arena: The transition arena is a platform for transition- oriented interactions amongst societal actors, related to the persistent problems. Arenas facilitate creative interaction, knowledge exchange, learning and discussion among ‘frontrunners’—‘innovators and strategic thinkers from different backgrounds’ (Kemp and Loorbach 2006, p. 113). The goal is that ‘those actors involved will adjust their own problem definitions and perceptions because of a better understanding of the nature of the problem and the perspectives held by other actors and accordingly their behaviour (that is second-order learning)’ (Kemp and Loorbach 2006, p. 113).• Developing visions: Within the transition arena general policy goals are translated into specific visions that serve to guide the formulation of particular measures to overcome the persistence of the problems and to mobilize public support. Visions are to be fleshed out in the form of socio-technical scenarios (e.g. what a sustainable housing system will look like in the future). They need to be ‘appealing and imaginative’ in order to be supported by a wide range of different actors. They are ‘integral target images, which evolve over time and are dependent on the required insights and learning effects’ (Kemp and Loorbach 2006, p. 113).• Backcasting of transition pathways: Strategies for realising the vision are identified through backcasting techniques. Back-casting from the vision generates alternative transition paths that link the future with the present (Quist 2007). ‘Transition paths (…) reflect the necessary trend breaks and behavioural and institutional changes, the uncertainties associated with the pathway and the barriers and chances for implemen- tation’ (Kemp and Loorbach 2006, p. 114). The multi-level heuristic framework for transitions, based on niche-regime-landscape interactions, provides transition manage- ment with a heuristic for organising the conceptualisation, organisation and commit- ments between actors to some of these pathways.• Experimenting with options: Practical experiments, which go well beyond established socio-technical patterns and practices, serve to explore particular transition paths.123
  11. 11. Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302 285 Experiments are expected to inform visions and pathways, as well as wider policies which may help to create the structural conditions for transitions. They should be designed for learning purposes and not in an ad hoc manner, fostering ‘real use of new technologies in society to learn from practice and facilitate processes of mutual adaptation and institution building’.• Monitoring, evaluation and revisions: The overall processes as well as specific experiments are continuously monitored. Evaluation takes place within ‘development rounds’ and may lead into revisions of the guiding visions. They are the starting point for programming a next round of experiments. Also the transition management process itself (participation, quality of process, conflict, etc.) is an object of evaluation and revision.Since adopting this approach in its Fourth National Environmental Policy Plan in 2001, theDutch government has facilitated a range of ‘transition projects’ in sectors like energy,agriculture, water management, mobility and biodiversity. These aim to shape Dutch socio-technical trajectories over a period of 25–40 years.11 Recent studies show how transitionmanagement policy design is changing in interaction with implementation (Kemp et al.2007b). Analysts suggest the energy transition has become captured by incumbent energypolicy networks (Kern 2006; Smith and Kern 2009; Kern and Smith 2008), and suffersfrom a democratic deficit (Hendriks 2008). Further pitfalls and difficulties may be expected in the light of the lessons identifiedabove from the long-term policy literature. Indeed, the contributions to this Special Issuedo identify a number of challenges, as well as opportunities, for TM. In the followingsection, we discuss these issues under the headings of politics, context and design asprocess. They echo some of the earlier debate about planning, but now on a level ofdesigning procedural arrangements for societal learning. While substantial decisions andstrategies are left to be worked out and revised throughout the process, the transitionmanagement experience underscores that there is a challenge not to fall back on techno-cratic policy approaches when it comes to the design and implementation of the newarrangements for reflexive governance. Here, as with the substantial issues of socio-technical development, a self-reflective and learning-oriented approach is required todevelop new forms of governance that actually work into desired directions of societalchange, and within specific contexts of established political practices.Critical design issuesTaking a close look at transition management practice, as the articles in this Special Issuedo, reveals critical issues with respect to designing long-term policy. We discuss theseissues under three headings: politics, context and design as process and pay particularattention to the contribution by each of the articles in this Special Issue.PoliticsNew forms of long-term policy design aim at inducing and instituting societal learning.Design efforts do not assume particular goals and means, but focus instead on interactive11 ‘Away from fossil-fuels towards renewable sources’ in the energy sector, ‘away from exploitation anddegradation towards recycling and protection’ in the use of natural resources, ‘away from intensive farmingtowards precision farming’ in the agricultural sector and ‘away from car-based transport towards customisedservices’ in the mobility sector. 123
  12. 12. 286 Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302processes that reveal them through the articulation of visions and construction of experi-ments, and thereby find pathways towards those visions. A main point in the papers of thisspecial issue (especially Meadowcroft 2009; Avelino 2009; Hendriks 2009) and of someearlier studies (Kern and Smith 2008; Smith and Kern 2009) is that asymmetries in thepolitical power of transition actors is not accounted for; and that this plays out detri-mentally in the societal learning arrangements and legitimacy of transition management toshape the future. The open-endedness of TM and lack of specific procedural provisionsactually makes this policy design vulnerable towards capture by powerful incumbents ofthe status quo. This may well be a ‘reverse salient’ for the development of reflexivegovernance forms more generally. It requires further elaboration of procedural designs toincrease their political robustness.Evolution cannot substitute for politicsA critical issue is how the transition management concept implies evolution to be analternative to making difficult political decisions. James Meadowcroft (2009) elaborates ondifferent ways in which politics creep back into the allegedly neutral ‘evolutionary pro-cess’ that is installed to shape socio-technical development. With the example of CarbonCapture and Sequestration technologies he shows how actors engaged in transitionactivities are bound to be concerned with their own place in future arrangements, and whointervene strategically to settle questions of competing socio-technical pathways as well aschanging dispositional power. Selection, implementation and evaluation of experimentswith a view to explore pathways of a sustainable future thus remain political processes.With her empirical analysis of two transition management projects in the area of sus-tainable mobility, Avelino shows how these struggles are fought at the micro-level—and ineffect block the smooth working of transition projects (2009). She also finds that theabstract technical language of transition management scares off practitioners who areexpected to adopt the concept and work with it. Following Grin (2008, p. 68) and Smithand Stirling (2007), Meadowcroft (2009) criticizes abstract notions of ‘systems’ and‘evolution’ for diverting attention from concrete problems of sustainable development andthe interests that are at stake. The establishment of priorities for socio-technical optionsremains a matter of political struggle. It cannot be concealed by concepts which promiseopen evolutionary processes that are politically neutral in determining superior paths ofsocietal development (see also Scrase and Smith 2009).Democratic legitimacy of societal learningLinked to this inevitable politics are concerns for the democratic legitimacy of learning-oriented policy design. Policy design that seeks to institute societal envisioning andexperimenting has to be explicit about how decisions of collective concern are to be taken.Early experience with arenas for societal learning as part of the transition managementprocess in the Netherlands suggests little formal reflection on its democratic content.Science and big business are strongly overrepresented in the stakeholder networks thatconstitute the process (Kern and Smith 2008; Hendriks 2008, 2009). The Chief ExecutiveOfficer of Shell Oil Company has taken over the lead for the ‘energy transition’ project onbehalf of the Dutch government (Kemp and Rotmans 2009). An in-depth study of a transition management project in the domain of transport showsthat weak stakeholders are not involved (Avelino 2009). The same study shows thatinteractions within the arena are shaped by asymmetric power relations and weaker actors123
  13. 13. Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302 287‘were afraid to open their mouth’. It appears that ‘transition arenas’ are captured bypowerful incumbents. TM as a concept for policy lacks effective provisions for inclusiveparticipation and fair deliberation within ‘transition arenas’. Picking up on this, Hendriks’ (2008, 2009) analysis reveals the inadequacy of thedemocratic self-understanding of actors involved in transition management. None of the‘democratic storylines’ by which transition actors legitimise their activity (when asked)comes close to new theory in democratic network governance that the TM approach mightbenefit from (Sorensen and Torfing 2007). Hendriks links this kind of disorientation up to abroader debate about ‘democracy in flux’ and the need for combining new forms oflegitimisation beyond traditional reliance upon liberal democratic representation. Transi-tion management could potentially open up democratic opportunities by fostering moreparticipatory, deliberative and plural forms of policy making, but ‘‘democratic attributes donot surface on their own, particularly for highly complex, technical issues. Instead pro-cedural matters need to be ‘designed in’’’ (Hendriks 2009). One way to tackle the democratic deficit of transition management would be to con-centrate on innovative ways to encourage participation and establish closer linkages withinstitutions of representative democracy for deciding about what constitutes the publicinterest, for enforcing rules and resolving distributional conflicts (Meadowcroft 2009). Anearlier case study indicates that it is often at the interfaces between transition projects andother—formal and informal—spheres that legitimization struggles arise (Hendriks andGrin 2007). Transition management as an example of recent developments in long-term policydesign evokes more general reflection on deliberative arrangements. The difficulty to help‘rational discourse’ to unfold and prevent it from corruption is of general interest when itcomes to enriching representative democracy; especially with a view to mitigate myopiaand sectoralization. Finding adequate ways to embed long-term policy design in a(changing) framework of democratic institutions is an important area for future conceptualand practical thinking.ContextA second critical issue for long-term policy design is the problem of moving away fromexisting governance patterns and working towards new reflexive policy practices. In astudy of two cases in which transition management became translated to Finnish policycontexts, Heiskanen et al. (2009) note a ‘huge distance between the capacities for reflexivegovernance (…) and the prevailing policy realities’. New governance structures are nevercreated in a void, nor can it be presumed that the required governance capacities will beattained easily. Making new arrangements work presumes the reform and, in parts, the‘creative destruction’ of established practices of socio-political governance (Meadowcroft2009).Interaction with policy histories and institutional dynamicsThe ‘fit’ of new policy designs with existing governance patterns is a critical issue fortransition management and other long-term policy designs, especially in prevailing con-texts of positivist policy-making, new public management or market-liberalism. Thoseparadigms are deeply ingrained in policy discourse, institutions and practices includingtools like forecasting models, cost-benefit analysis, budgeting and controlling proceduresor project evaluation manuals. Avelino (2009) observes that traffic models which were 123
  14. 14. 288 Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302embedded in established policy practice did not allow for radically alternative visions forthe future as promoted by the transition management policy. Avelino points out that this dissonance may go all the way down to the capacity andmotivation of individual actors to engage in interactive learning. This may be due to arestrictive professional environment and superiors or colleagues who require ‘concreteresults’ (2009). On the policy level, new designs co-exist, interact and sometimes competewith both established approaches and parallel developments in policy: ‘(T)ransitions arenot the only game in town’ (Hendriks 2009). Transition management adds another layeronto an already highly complex and dynamic institutional and political landscape; tran-sitions must, as it were, be fleshed out amidst a heterogeneous set of structural changes(Grin 2008). This is explicitly acknowledged in some policy practices in The Netherlands.Provision is made for the ‘transitioning’ of existing policy programmes as a bridgebetween old and new policy practice. Analysis of the actual processes pushed forwardunder this strategy, however, shows that transitioning is not a one-way street. Imposing anew conceptual framework and enforcing a change of course on existing policy processescan just as easily prompt rejection, and may eventually undermine the transition initiative(Avelino 2009). Kern and Howlett (2009) present an analysis of the ‘problem of fit’ in form of a schemewhich distinguishes various pathologies of policy design. For the implementation oftransition management in Dutch energy policy they diagnose the way the existing policyparadigm is deforming the original TM concept. The market liberalization paradigm,anchored in the broader context of European Commission directives (see also Knill 1998;Smith 2000), forces a short-termism that undermines the longer-term goals of TM. Yet, incertain other respects, TM fits the Dutch policy context quite well. This is how transitionmanagement builds on consensus-oriented negotiation as a policy practice which is typicalfor Dutch political culture. After all, this is the context from which the design emerged.Referring to the stereotypical characterization of the Dutch style of policy-making as the‘polder-model’ (communal self-organization in the polder landscape) two of the key actorsinvolved in the design of transition management refer to it as a ‘super-polder-model’(Kemp and Rotmans 2009). A greater distance between design and reality is found in cases where the transitionmanagement concepts travel beyond Dutch political culture and become part of policyprocesses elsewhere in the world. A study of the transfer process to Finland, by Heiskanenet al. (2009), elaborates the conflicts between transition management as a new managementmodel and dominant institutional logics which are the historical legacy of political inter-actions within two different policy fields. Against the background of certain policy his-tories, transition management appears to some as a model for the planned economy(Gosplan) or as too demanding in terms of a cultural disposition for consensus orienteddeliberation, and which is absent in more oppositional political cultures. Other misfits areof a more mundane nature and refer to the redistribution of institutional competences thatare anticipated to follow from the implementation of the new transition management policydesign. Heiskanen et al.’s case studies show how the transition management model either‘bounced off’ or became hybridised with indigenous policy concepts and basicallyre-invented through mutual adaptation.‘Bottom-up’ dynamics and the irony of designWell-known issues in the policy studies literature are the unforeseen dynamics andunintended consequences that arise when policy designs developed in the heights of123
  15. 15. Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302 289governments (and scientific advisors) start interacting with processes ‘on the ground’ (e.g.Pressman and Wildavsky 1973; Yanow 1993). The ‘ground’ (or street-level; Lipsky 1980)is where certain tasks that play a role for a new policy design are carried out as part of dailypractices, embedded in a web of complex connections with other practices. These highlycontextual and specific patterns are difficult to anticipate in general scientific theories andmodels. It is impossible to predict precisely what will become of even the most neatlydesigned policy artefact out in the ‘field’. The ‘irony of design’ is that even well-intendedand sophisticated policy designs can never be made fail-safe against the perverse effects ofimplementation (Rip 2006). In interaction with specific policy contexts and their ongoingdynamics they can take on a life of their own (Voß 2007b). The ‘empowerment’ component of the transition management design, for example, isactually found to lead to the disempowerment of some actors on the operational level ofproject management. The imposition of alien transition management concepts that wereintended to empower, actually resulted in participants becoming dependent upon transitionexperts to explain how to do it. Avelino considers this to be a ‘paradox of imposedempowerment’ (2009). Hendriks shows how the orientation towards deliberation andcollective learning is undermined by the technocratic and elitist self-understandingamongst leading actors in the transition process. The capture of transition arenas byincumbent players with an interest in the status quo, or an unreflective assumption of whatis best for everyone, is quite a substantive example of the irony of a design that wasintended to strengthen outsiders and newcomers (Kemp and Rotmans 2009; Hendriks2009; Avelino 2009; Kern and Howlett 2009). To this belongs the diminution of radical,systems-wide sustainable development as a goal of transition management policies, and itsexchange for technology development, global competitiveness and economic growth onthe way to implementation (Kern and Howlett 2009; Avelino 2009; Heiskanen et al. 2009;Meadowcroft 2009). What does this mean in terms of policy design? Why are transition management pro-cedures so easily decoupled from the original goal of systems-wide sustainable develop-ment? Is this a consequence of it being a conceptually driven policy design; and anexpression of the fact that it has often been taken up as a new, primarily procedural,governance concept? Has there been too much ‘technological’ fascination with policydesigns rather than a political analysis of the concrete problems of sustainability (Mead-owcroft 2009)?Design as processA third critical issue emerging from the studies in this Special Issue is that the process ofdesigning long-term policies needs itself to be considered as a long-term process. Policydesign is an interactive endeavour and is itself part of and embedded in the political contextwhich it seeks to reconfigure. Policy design gives rise to processes with a life of their own.The studies in the Special Issue all confirm two points that are central to the policy studiesliterature. First, policy design is not a technical or scientific exercise that is detached frompolitics. Second, policy design is not a one-off event that is completed and then followedby policy implementation. Analysis and model-building are intertwined with policyimplementation and evaluation. Contextual dynamics feed back into the design process.The establishment of novel policy arrangements that work in practice involves learning andcontinued re-design in interaction with politics. This makes policy design part of thepolitical process. And it underlines requirements to consciously link up with institutional 123
  16. 16. 290 Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302and ideational factors that influence how problems are handled in a particular policy field(Meadowcroft 2009).Distributed agency and politics of designOne aspect clearly appears from a close look at the transition management process: thedesign as it became part of public policy is the result of distributed agency. There is nosingle inventor, nor a single event of invention. The design took shape in an extendedinteraction process which involved scientists and consultants, officials from publicadministration and a broad range of stakeholders. In the course of this process sharedframeworks were worked out by going from abstract theoretical notions (e.g. niches,regimes, transitions) to concrete constellations in policy fields and backwards again; all thetime trying out concepts that could accommodate the views of actors whose support wasneeded to make the policy work (Kemp and Rotmans 2009; Smith and Kern 2009). Aconcern to overcome persistent problems on the way to sustainable development was notthe only guiding orientation in this process, but also a struggle for dispositional poweramongst the actors involved. In the Netherlands, transition management served the ministry of the environment to getinvolved with the energy domain (traditionally a domain of the ministry of economicaffairs); and it served the ministry of economic affairs to become an active partner ofbusiness and play a visible role in promoting innovation in sustainable energy. Gaining theassent of the economics ministry meant a new emphasis in transition management fosteringinternational competitiveness in the Dutch economy (Smith and Kern 2009; Kemp andRotmans 2009). In studies of policy transfer to Finland, institutional politics played out as a‘not invented here’ syndrome, and which made some policy actors reluctant to adoptconcepts for which they cannot pride themselves as creators (Heiskanen et al. 2009). Inboth these cases, the original transition management concept got lost. This affected theproposal to elaborate transition goals and visions by means of participatory processes anddefine a transition pathway (e.g. for CO2-emissions) within which the transition processcould unfold (Kemp and Rotmans 2009). As a result, transition-management-in-practicelooks a bit more like policy-as-usual than would be recommended by transition-manage-ment-in-theory. Nevertheless, transition management has succeeded in introducingexplicitly a discourse of system change into official policy circles, and that provides anopening for more vigorous transition politics in the future (Smith and Kern 2009; Mead-owcroft 2009).Interpretive flexibilityOne key mechanism that enables the alignment of diverse actors under certain policydesigns is their ‘interpretive flexibility’ (Pinch and Bijker 1987). Concepts such as tran-sition management are able to accommodate a range of different interpretations as regardsmeaning and effect of the respective policies. Various actors may each see their differingperspectives reflected in the design. The word ‘transition’ (in Dutch: transitie) lends itselfto multiple interpretations; it evokes a sense of transformation without specifying what willchange or how (Kemp and Rotmans 2009).12 For business players, the energy transition12 Kemp and Rotmans (2009) propose to understand the interpretive flexibility of transition management byframing the notion of ‘transition’ as a ‘boundary object’ which is a common reference point for differingperspectives and thus is able to bundle and align actor strategies (Star and Griesemer 1989).123
  17. 17. Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302 291opens up new markets; for technology developers it stimulates innovation and releasesfunds; for the Dutch government it creates a clean, independent, and competitive energysector; for the various ministries it is a way to strengthen their institutional position; forenvironmental groups it fosters sustainable energy; for policy scientists it is an interestingexperiment in reflexive governance; and for consultants it is a new business field (Hendriks2009; Kemp and Rotmans 2009). While this ambiguity has aided the popularity of tran-sition management as a policy design, it has also rendered it susceptible to capture (He-iskanen et al. 2009; Smith and Kern 2009).Towards reflexive designWe conclude this section with an outlook to reflexive design as an orientation for thedevelopment of transformative long-term policy. From the analysis of transition man-agement in practice, we see basic insights of policy studies confirmed. Long-term policy design is not located outside target ‘systems’, but embedded in thesocial and political processes it seeks to influence (Stone 1988). It concerns world viewsand has distributive effects (Lowi 1972); and it is immediately related to questions of whogets what, when and how from government (Schneider and Ingram 2005). As such itinvolves ‘powering’ and ‘puzzling’ (Heclo 1974). Moreover, the design of long-termpolicy is not separated from the implementation process, but is deeply intertwined with it;it anticipates, frames, and structures activities of political actors (Bardach 1977; Kingdon2003/1995), while it relies on testing designs in practice, it is forced to continuously reflecton implementation experience, and undertake re-designs to respond to it (Majone andWildavsky 1978; Pierson 1993). It requires ‘inquiry’ in the sense Lindblom suggested:probing as a mode of knowledge generation which does not aim at objective, universaltruth, but is action-oriented and, therefore, contextual in nature (Lindblom 1990). Whilethese are general points that are well understood and confirmed by studying transitionmanagement, what is revealed in novel ways by transition management, and what does itteach us for doing long-term policy design in the future?Policy design as an innovation processWe propose that long-term policy design in context be understood as a process of inno-vation. The notion of innovation overcomes the distinction between policy design andimplementation. Long-term policy design is about the purposive negotiation and reconfiguration ofexisting governing practices. It involves learning by and between policy makers, policy co-producers and stakeholders (Grin and van de Graaf 1996) throughout the mutual adaptationof plan (model design) and practice (real world dynamics) in a co-evolutionary process(Voß 2007b, pp. 54–63).13 As such policy design is both shaped by, and co-shaping,ongoing policy processes and broader structural change. This is what we know fromempirical studies of the long-term historical evolution of policy designs (Voß 2007b) andliterature on policy learning (Grin and Loeber 2007). Dynamics and results of the designprocess itself are indeterminate. From this stems a concern for how designs develop and13 This notion is in line with the reflective practice paradigm in general design theory (Kroes 2002, p. 289).In this view of the design process ‘the problem space and the solution space co-evolve together, withinterchange of information between the two spaces’ (Dorst and Cross 2001, p. 434). 123
  18. 18. 292 Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302change over time in co-evolution with broader political dynamics and how the promise ofdesigns can be fulfilled in practice (Voß 2007b, pp. 68–87). A reflexive view on policy design as an innovation process entails systematic experi-mentation with preliminary designs and evaluation of how they work out in practice—in ¨order to re-design with respect to the ‘backtalk’ of the context (Schon and Rein 1994). Thisassigns a key role for tinkering, probing and re-adjusting—anticipation of implementationin action (Rip 2006). In dealing with transition management, we need to understand designas a process of moving back and forth between conceptual analysis and practical experi-mentation. Transition management is itself an experiment (Meadowcroft 2009). In terms of innovation strategy, long-term policy design entails the requirement torespond to changing context conditions, to anticipate and prepare for counter runningdynamics, look out for opportunities. It involves ‘smart manoeuvring’ (Kemp and Rotmans2009) for ‘surfing’ political dynamics. In this respect, Heiskanen et al. (2009) in their studyof re-designing transition management in Finnish policy contexts, highlight the importanceof, timing’’, i.e. finding the right moment to use openings or link-up to ongoing devel-opments in the broader policy context. Interacting with societal change in the course oflong-term policies requires learning within the design process itself (not only designs forsocietal learning). This was partly reflected in the design process when general ideas anddesign options were probed among a wider policy audience (Kemp and Rotmans 2009).The experience of transition management revealed in this Special Issue suggests long-termpolicy design has to be open for continued re-design, for adaptation and learning in thecourse of implementation. Ideas are initially tried out in a confined space, in policy niches,from where they can gradually broaden out (Kemp and Rotmans 2009; Loorbach 2007).This is especially relevant for designs that represent radical innovation with respect toestablished governance patterns.(Re-)designing transition management?So far, the (still relatively scarce) results of studies into transition management’s sub-stantive policy outcomes remain ambiguous. Yet, we may be at a critical juncture wherethe future development of this particular design for the reflexive governance of long-termsocio-technical change will be decided upon. The critical design issues appearing from thepapers in this special issue are reason enough to halt for reflection and take stock of whathas been achieved. What can be witnessed is the slow emergence of new institutions and procedures forproducing and implementing long-term policies, like inter-departmental directorates, newcollaborative arrangements and concrete innovation projects (Dietz et al. 2008; Hendriks2009). So far, however, these policy reforms take the form of ‘layering’ on top of earlierparadigms, policy programmes and institutions, many of which appear to still be dominant(Kern and Howlett 2009). Early lessons relate to incumbent actors and institutions learningto live with transition management more than learning how to do transitions. More criti-cally, transition management processes have been captured by incumbent policy andbusiness interests, and have a weak and unclear political standing. This indicates a need tocontinue learning how reflexive governance can actually work out in practice and generateactions that result in the kinds of radical structural change that diagnosis and prognosis ofsustainable development demands. Viewing long-term policy design as an innovation process opens opportunities to buildon experiences and continue working towards envisioned changes in policy practice andtheir promised results. It is necessary to take account of the fact that innovating policy123
  19. 19. Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302 293practice along the lines of the transition management concept will remain embedded inbroader institutional and discursive contexts. These will continue to function as a specificselection environment for new varieties of long-term policy-design. It is thus important tostrategically engage with these broader contexts of governance, either by shaping them, orby anticipating ongoing changes with a view to seizing future opportunities. An informedlearning by doing should be the focus of effort, rather than deliberations on idealisedtheoretical constructions.14 With this end in view we highlight key lessons for the future(re-)design of transition management, and for reflexive modes of governance, moregenerally.• Politics of learning: take care of democratic legitimacy! Include those actors who will be affected by decisions, especially the marginalized (Hendriks 2008). Pluralize elite institutions, empowering public debate and citizen engagement (Hendriks 2008). Connect the public to issues (Latour 2005; Marres 2005; Warren 2001). Encourage open public deliberation on all relevant issues (Hendriks 2009).15 Designs for democratic participation meet their own particular difficulties, however. It may be difficult to shift public attention away from immediate political concerns towards longer term issues, particularly if they appear dry and technical matters, such as energy (Hendriks 2009). Horizontal coordination is beset by the challenge of asymmetric bargaining in which those without resources to offer in exchange loose out, and of resulting in compromise solutions at the level of the lowest common denominator. One solution could be to convene different transition arenas for dissenting voices, rather than get everyone around the same table. Let the dissenting arenas propose their own experiments, and fund some of them. Thereby opening out the diversity of options for governments, businesses and citizens to consider and learn from.• With all the necessary optimism there must be about sustainable development, sober consideration of the limits to control of even procedural innovations in governance must be borne in mind when looking for new approaches to the design of long-term policy. Policy designs will take on momentum and undergo change which is beyond the control of the originating actors. This has happened with transition management, which has became more technology oriented over time and developed a somewhat impervious conceptual language (Hendriks 2009; Meadowcroft 2009; Avelino 2009; Heiskanen et al. 2009). More specifically, reflexive planning processes, being embedded in traditional governance patterns, may easily fall back into more traditional, linear planning practices and their orientation towards sustainable development may become superseded by dominant discourses about economic growth and competitiveness (Scrase and Smith 2009).16 It therefore seems central to strengthen and clarify sustainable development as a policy problem that transition management is addressing.14 However, there is a political dilemma here. Fictional certainties have their political uses (Rip 2006). Innot presenting transition management as a theory of governance that has all the answers, but as somethingmore modest, might it lack an ability to galvanize and mobilize support?15 ` Consider transition management more as a process of phronesis than techne, i.e. a process of prag-matically synthesizing the resolution of situated and contextualised problems, with considerations pertainingto the feasibility and acceptability of visions (Grin 2000; Flyvbjerg 2001).16 While transition management discourse started from persistent problems, it has developed into a verybroad and general framework of evolutionary political steering. The precise character of transitions movesinto the background and with it the substantive challenges which it sought to deal with in the first place(Meadowcroft 2009; Heiskanen et al. 2009). This makes the governance approach susceptible to abuse, aswell as difficult to keep on course at the same time as allowing for probing and adaptation in the designprocess. 123
  20. 20. 294 Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302 As with the governance of socio-technical change, policy design for transition management has to be clear about the vision and the goals for which experiments with policy options are carried out. Otherwise policy innovation becomes all too easily incorporated by the incumbent regime and instrumentalized for its purposes.Table 1 provides a summary of these discussions. The recommendations of transitionmanagement advocates are contrasted with the experience of practising transitionmanagement as revealed in this Special Issue. In a third column we make somerecommendations of our own, drawing on the lessons from the Special Issue, and suggesthow some of the promise of transition insights might be made to work more fruitfully inthe future.ConclusionsIn conclusion, we come back to our question of how transition management as a design forreflexive governance works in practice and how it crosses the gap between envisaged long-term policy practices and existing governance patterns. We believe that transition man-agement, both as a conceptual framework and a range of concrete policy experiments, doesopen new avenues for long-term policy design. These could lead us out of some of theconceptual dilemmas of planning and offer a real alternative to short-term oriented market-liberalism. Our synopsis of the analyses of transition management experience in thisSpecial Issue has shown, however, that long-term policy design is an ongoing process,embedded in broader political contexts, and with dynamics of its own. Transition man-agement in its current form is not there, yet. Indeed, recent developments are disap-pointing. They show a susceptibility of the transition management concept to the moretechnocratic aspirations of policy makers and policy advisors, as well the possibility tobecome instrumentalized for the goals and interests of particular powerful actors. Suchdevelopments may pervert the original promise of the concept. Specifically, the probing oftransition management designs cautions against blind reliance in mechanisms of co-evo-lutionary change and societal learning to bring about sustainable development. This shouldbe noted by advocates of reflexive governance more generally. Transition management in practice is currently right in the middle of the trying toextricate its envisaged design from established governance patterns. The coming years willbe crucial for shaping the pathway of transition management as an innovation in gover-nance. The process may be drawn back into the power games, paradigms and institutions of‘politics as usual’; or it may overcome teething problems and give shape to new actornetworks and reflexive governance practices that develop some robustness and promise. Alot depends on how the design of transition management itself becomes adapted andreinforced with a view to anchoring new governance practices in the context of establisheddemocratic politics, whilst at the same time facilitating the transformative potential of anew democratic politics. A broader network of scholars and interested policy makers has emerged and engageswith the basic ideas of transition management. Within this broader constituency, theshortcomings of transition management are being articulated and constructive work isundertaken to overcome them. This Special Issue is itself part of this process. Thedevelopment of transition management will continue. Other, now dominant policy designs,like ‘emissions trading’, for example, took more than 20 years to become stabilized andmore than 30 years to spread across the world. A change in broader policy discourse and123
  21. 21. Table 1 Summary of transition management design and re-design issues Design issue Transition management concept Transition management in practice Re-designing transition management Goals Overcoming ‘persistent problems’ of The promotion of technological niches with Nurture broader societal discourse on environmental policy, achieving transition commercial potential for the world market sustainable development, objectives of in pervasive socio-technical systems transitions, and challenge the legitimacy of towards sustainable patterns of production existing socio-technical systems and consumption Organisation of transition Visionary regime actors and innovative Dominance by regime incumbents with Establish principles and guidelines for Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302 arena newcomers vested interests selection of participants and moderation of interaction processes to ensure broad participation of actors who co-produce new system and those who are affected Role of visions Construction of visions by frontrunners Visions are constructed by incumbents and Construction of visions by participants to informs and precedes strategy lack concreteness to inform strategies or make tension between normative desires development and design of experiments select experiments and feasibility considerations productive and generate creativity Experimentation Real world experiments with portfolio of Evasion of political choices with respect to Procedures to select, design experiments to options for alternative socio-technical public support for technological options secure linkage with public debate about systems sustainability Evaluation and learning Evolutionary selection process, options Evaluation by insiders according to narrow Evaluation criteria negotiated widely for the prove their feasibility in real world techno-economic criteria broad societal implications of alternative context, evaluation with respect to pathways to sustainable development, potential to contribute to the vision learning from experiments and overall process embedded in democratic institutions Sources of legitimacy The goal of sustainable development Economic and technological position and Inclusive participation, transparency and expertise of participants publicity of choices, coupling with established institutions of representative democracy Embedding in political Transition management is being Transition management is held up as an ideal Policy design as innovation process, work context implemented by choice of government, concept while established institutions and towards realisation of objectives by transition arenas recommend successive power constellations constrain continually designing in context changes to political institutions implementation 295123
  22. 22. 296 Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302dominant paradigms towards privatisation and market liberalisation was supportive of this‘innovation’ in environmental governance (Voß 2007a). The future pathways for transitionmanagement will depend on a similar magnitude of contextual change. Whilst this involvesprocesses beyond advocates’ control, they can nevertheless develop political strategies tograsp the opportunities presented by those processes. With studying transition management in practice, we set out to learn for the future, howto make reflexive governance work in the context of real world politics. There are someparticular challenges for transformative long-term policy design which could be identifiedin studying this case. The most outstanding issues are linked to power, politics anddemocratic legitimacy in societal learning. Against this background, important issues forfurther research involve the interaction between transition management efforts and theirwider institutional context. To mention one crucial issue, the notion of reflexivity should berefined so as to comprise attempts to anticipate and mitigate the capture of transitions inthat context. And it is crucial to understand that transition management processes cannotand need not resolve these problems by itself: legitimization processes, for instance, seemto take place especially at the interfaces between transition management arrangements anda variety of other institutional practices (cf. Hendriks and Grin 2007, pp. 342–346). Future efforts to develop transition management and related governance concepts needto concentrate on the design of procedures for the selection of participants in visiondevelopment and experimentation. Of equal importance is a procedural framework forbalancing asymmetrical power relations within those collaborative processes. These twopoints can help to create democratic legitimacy of societal learning arenas by inclusivenessand fairness of the process. They cannot completely substitute for the legitimacy ofinstitutions of liberal democracy when it comes to difficult decisions about trade-offs, e.g.between competing socio-technological options that shall become part of portfolio ofexperiments. An important area for future design work thus comprises linkage betweenreflexive arenas and established institutions such as parliaments and public debate. Our analysis also confirms that long-term policy design is an open-ended process andthat irony of design is endemic. There is no guarantee of success. With the articulation ofchallenges, however, we seek to contribute to the possibility of developing new reflexiveforms of governance that help shape sustainable development. With framing policy designas a challenge of innovating governance we suggest that contingencies can be taken up in areflexive manner while working towards envisaged changes in governance patterns.Conceptual frameworks and model designs can play a role as guiding frames, not as masterplans, which means that they must co-evolve with implementation experience from con-crete application contexts. An important insight from studying transition management in practice is that substan-tive policy goals can easily get out of sight when the concern for complex dynamics pairswith the fascination for new technologies of governance. Policy analysts and designersmay be drawn into ‘tilting with systems’ (Meadowcroft 2009) instead of working towardsthe solution or transformation of concrete policy problems. This may be a point of moregeneral relevance with respect to reflexive governance approaches that put procedure upfront and refrain from fixing detailed targets and measures at the outset of the process. Inorder not to loose direction transition management needs to keep ‘sustainable develop-ment’ in view, also in practice, and let the search for solutions be guided by reflection onhow they contribute to cope with this policy challenge (Meadowcroft 2009). This mayrequire activities to stimulate public debate about the goal of ‘sustainable development’ aspart of the design process. Only by keeping radical goals clearly in view can transitionmanagement overcome incrementalist shortcomings; envisioning radical changes in the123
  23. 23. Policy Sci (2009) 42:275–302 297long-term whilst recognizing that current structures and dynamics will influence the abilityto get to that future. Broad and open discussion of issues and procedures of socio-technical change that arepart of transition management may, in the end, stimulate debate about concepts of dem-ocratic legitimacy. New reflexive forms of governance which seek to involve a diversity ofsocietal actors in interactive learning processes still require further development of ourunderstanding of democracy (Hendriks 2009). Such broader debate initiated throughengagement with new designs for ‘reflexive governance’ may remind us of the originalideas and principal virtues of the basic institutions of democracy. One may even note thatdemocratic politics actually is a form of reflexive governance already taken up in theconstitution of modern nation states: Democratic polities provoke the articulation of futurevisions, allow for novel socio-technical practices to prosper, grant space for a plurality ofconstituencies to advocate diverse solutions, and provide for their contestation in publiccontroversy to sort out differences, construct compromises, build coalitions and finallymake decisions about trade-offs. Democracy as we know it may thus be recognized as analready well established design for the governance of complex change. One may argue,that it struggles to keep pace with rapid changes such as technological change, demo-graphic transformations, knowledge society, globalising markets, etc. And it shows someweaknesses to deal with the requirement for re-distributive transformative changes likesustainable development. Building on the potential of existing institutions with a view torevive and where necessary rethink democracy on a broader level of political systems maystill be a complementary way to engage with long-term development: improve existingpractices of democratic governance with a view to enhance the articulation of alternativelong-term pathways of societal development, strengthen capacities of diverse groups toengage with these future images, and support marginal groups as challengers to establishedsystems in order to increase political diversity. Reflexivity in governance for sustainabledevelopment could then be understood primarily as a property of the governance system asa whole, not as something that can just be added by specifical social designs.Acknowledgements We would like to thank Carolyn Hendriks, Toddi Steelman and the two anonymousreferees for helpful comments on an earlier version of this article.ReferencesArts, B., & van Tatenhove, J. (2005). Policy and power: A conceptual framework between the ‘‘old’’ and ‘‘new’’ policy idioms. Policy Sciences, 37(3–4), 339–356.Avelino, F. (2009). Empowerment and the challenge of applying transition management to ongoing projects. Policy Sciences, 42(4), 369–390.Bardach, E. (1977). The implementation game: What happens after a bill becomes a law. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Beck, U. (1994). The reinvention of politics: Towards a theory of reflexive modernization. In U. Beck, A. Giddens, & S. Lash (Eds.), Reflexive modernization (pp. 1–55). Cambridge: Polity Press.Berkhout, F., Smith, A., & Stirling, A. (2004). Socio-technical regimes and transition contexts. In B. Elzen, F. W. Geels, & K. Green (Eds.), System innovation the transition to sustainability. Theory, evidence, and policy (pp. 48–75). Edward Elgar: Cheltenham.Bobrow, D., & Dryzek, J. S. (1987). Policy analysis by design. Pittsburg, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.Derthick, M. (1972). New towns in-town. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute.Dewey, J. (1927). The public and its problems. New York: Holt.Dienel, P., & Renn, O. (1995). Planning cells: A gate to ‘fractal’ mediation. In O. Renn, T. Webler, & P. Wiedemann (Eds.), Fairness and competence in citizen participation (pp. 117–140). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. 123
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