International Sustainability Transitions Conference 2023

Conference theme

Responsibility and Reflexivity in Transitions

We are excited to launch the call for abstracts for the 14th annual International Sustainability Transitions conference. This year’s conference theme is ‘Responsibility and Reflexivity in Transitions’. As the first in-person conference in 3 years, this gathering constitutes a special and important moment of reflection for our community.  

The multi-faceted challenges facing the global community necessitate a deep reflection on just sustainability transitions. Coming off the heels of the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, energy security and resource scarcity have become extraordinarily intertwined, affecting all aspects of life and all facets of sustainability transitions – from food accessibility to droughts to transportation – and ranging from the world’s wealthiest countries to those hardest hit. However, these challenges may lead to competing priorities. While we see record deployment of solar and wind energy technologies, countries are also reactivating coal and a debate has been reinvigorated about the role of nuclear power in the energy mix. Community-supported agriculture and agroecology continue to grow whilst vast quantities of industrially produced grain are stimulated to supply basic global food needs. In this time of upheaval, we may indeed have an opportunity to make changes that were thus far locked out. Do we now go back to ‘normal’? Do we make room for change? If so, how? How do we encourage and safeguard the time and space to critically reflect on deeply held assumptions about how our societies could or should function while being confronted with a sense of urgency?  

This conference’s theme encourages not just a reflection on such changes and the responsibility we must take to ensure that any transition is a just transition, but also on what the role of reflection actually is and could be in such debates. How can we better understand the responsibility of actor groups in transition processes? Which responsibilities do we ourselves have as a research community? How do we reflect on deeply held societal norms and practices within and outside of academia that stimulate or impede transitions?  

Furthermore, responsibility and reflexivity are not only the purvey of the academic community, preaching from the so-called ivory tower. A responsible and reflexive transition pertains equally to civil society, the government, industry & business actors and many more. Hence, meaningful engagement remains critical. As academics, we see many new formats and techniques emerging to engage with practitioners and civil society, such as action research and knowledge co-production. Innovative approaches to education and interaction have emerged, for example, through the massive upscaling of digital platforms and use of game-based educational programs.  

To reflect on these innovative approaches, there will be many interactive and engaging platforms for discussion in addition to classic full paper, speed-talk, dialog, plenary and poster sessions. First, we are introducing a debate format – led by leading scholars – into the conference to spark a reflection on contentious transitions’ topics. Second, we propose to look into the future at a time of turbulence. What are the emerging trends, who is responsible, what are the built-in corrective mechanisms, what are the key tensions at play, how do we make these transitions a reality? To do so, there will be a variety of workshops designed in collaboration with Utrecht University’s Urban Futures Studio to engage with techniques of imaginaries. Furthermore, we will be engaging with local and regional stakeholders to discuss how transitions are happening on the ground in the city and region of Utrecht.   

HYBRID: We are making provisions to allow for online participation and envision that main events (keynotes, debates, etc.) will be streamed live. Online participants will present their work in dedicated online channels. It is unlikely that there will be full hybrid functionality for all sessions.