Posted by: Briony | July 15, 2013

ISDRC19 Conference

19th annual International Sustainable Development Research Conference on the theme:  Just Transitions: A global perspective. 01 -03 July 2013 The conference took place at the Spier Wine Estate in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Useful conference links:

  • Conference website & programme here.
  • Live Twitter updates: Follow #ISDRC19
  •  photos from the conference i-shack tour provided by Arne Geschke

I gave a presentation –a shortened version is viewable here.

Collage of photos from the ISDRC conference July 2013

Collage of photos from the ISDRC conference July 2013

Below are my notes from a number of the presentations I was able to attend, that I felt might be useful to others.

1st JULY 2013

Jenny Cargill, Western Cape Government.  Green Economy Strategy Framework, Green is Smart, Living Document.

Green Economy Strategy Framework of Western Cape Government

  • GOAL lowest carbon province in SA and the leading green economic hub of the African Continent
  • Green economy is centred on investment in new and expanded market opportunities that support a low carbon, resource efficient and socially just…

Western Cape context –the risks:

  • Unacceptably high employment rate which has to be at core of strategy and potentially face more severe impacts from cc than rest of SA
  • higher temp increases, droughts and fires. Already seeing in rising costs of disaster management.

Strengths are:

  • the natural asset base of the Cape floral Kingdom
  • majority of SA’s blue flag beaches and Table Mountain
  • SA’s major agricultural export region and a growing design economy +knowledge intensive economy

Green is Smart: matric of opportunities

  • Enablers: infrastructure, rules and regulation, knowledge and innovation, capabilities, finances
  • Drivers: smart living and working , smart mobility, smart eco-systems, smart agri-production, smart enterprise.

Game changing priorities (to shift carbon footprint)

  • Natural gas and renewables
  • Financial infrastructure
  • Green jobs
  •  smart living & working

Pioneer –looking at smart settlements (high density, under serviced settlements) via design and development of affordable eco-efficient solutions

  • Regulation impact assessment project initially focused on waste
  • 110% Green  we talk about the need for change but institutions need to change, there is only so much leadership can drive and it needs to be not just innovation but organisational cultural change

Frank Geels Sustainable development through ST transitions and systems innovation


  • New env problems (climate change, biodeiversity, resource problems)

How to enable socio-economic development in developing countries while staying within ‘planetary boundaries’?  4 scenarios (Rockstrom and Sachs 2013 SD and planetary boundaries paper

  • Kicking away the ladder
  • Contract and converge
  • BAU
  • SD trajectory (usd to emphasise change and dynamics) –
    • 6 transitions
      • Energy
      • Food
      • Urban
      • Population
      • Biodiversity
      • Governance

Geels’ thoughts:

  • Agree that SD is technologically possible [ref to Factor Fi e by Ernst Von Wuzucker] But requires large and foundational change (transitions) in concrete systems (food, energy, mobility, cities) but this conceptualisation of transitions remains under-developed
  • Need more contributions from social sciences to analyse changes in ST systems
  • Co-evolution and multi-actor analysis
  • We need a multi-dimensional FW spanning different levels
  • MLP static LP (nested hierarchy)
    • Radical innovation in niches (variation/novelty), Ssruggling against existing regimes, in context of broader ‘landscape trends’
  • Problem: existing regime (meso level) is locked in to path dependency(some incremental change does happen)
    • Economic (vested interests, sunk investments, scale advantages)
    • Social (cognitive routines make people blind, alignment between social groups –social capital, user practices, values and life styles)
    • Politics and power (opposition to change from vested interests and uneven play field +policy networks)

Renewables and green innovations have not yet made  a dent in risking global CO2 emissions but this is the ‘normal’ pattern of transitions

  • Niche-innovations initially rise on growth markets, then enter mainstream
  • No immediate substitution, but later on
  • History also shows that ‘old’ technologies may linger

Dilemma ‘evolutionary’ substitution probably too slow –need accelerated diffusion and managed decline

  • How is radical policy change possible? Requires back-up from wider public opinion


  • Sustainable development trajectory is possible but requires reorienting research agenda
    • Focus on transitions in concrete systems
    • Better understand social, political, business, technical dynamics
    • Confusing times with positive and negative developments
    • Green innovations ‘waiting int e wings’ but regime actors are resisting and fighting back
    • Social sciences can help analyse economic, tech, political struggles
  • Some specific research topics
    • Radical policy change
    • Accelerated diffusion of green niches
    • Governance of decline of regimes

Gerald Steiner Innovation systems as facilitators of just transition: a global perspective

MLP innovation systems.  Potential traps:

  • Dealing with symptoms rather than problems
  • Unclear and incomplete objectives (e.g. to only consider the vie wof specific groups of stakeholders)
  • Stuck in the past
  • Not accounting for past developments
  • Not making use of the collaborative potential of stakeholder and science
  • Misconception of roles
    • Innovation sytems (such as regions) as closed system
    • Researchers and planners as providers of solutions
    • Unrealistic leadership expectations (politicians do not provide jobs)
  • Lack of competences and attitudes
    • Incongruences between given and needed competences (e.g. miners might lack competences needed for tourism)
  • It is about thinking in different levels:
    • Organisation
    • Sub-natioanl
    • National
    • Sub-continental
    • Continental
    • global
  • Need to be aware of the different dimensions influencing that system
    • political, legal and institution env
    • socio cultural env
    • economic and financial env
    • ecological
    • technological
    • infrastructural & architectural
  • Innovation systems need to be seen as interrelated systems
    • Disciplinary excellence
    • Interdisciplinarity
    • Index 4 Transidciplinarity processes (collaborative process)
    • What is the common language?
    • How can we introduce systems learning and competences:
      • Personal
      • Professional
      • Systemic
      • Creativity
      • Social cultural
      • Problem-solving

Coenen, L.  Scaling-up local niche experiments for transitions to low carbon transport systems

Transition –system innovation in  eco-evolutionary, long-term, disruptive to the regime and uncertain process (we don’t know where they are taking us)

Innodemo Project –the role of trial and demonstration projects for innovation and transition processes in low-carbon transport systems

Niche experiments are often local in character

Unpacking spatial dimensions – Niche experiments –large cognitive distance compensated by:

  • Social proximity
  • Geographical proximity
  • Institutional proximity

Risk from Myopia and lock-in around technology –excluding certain alternatives and also risk of forgetting about diffusion effects if focused on local niches

  • Limitations to diffusion
  • Up-scaling amongst disorder –that a lot of disorder still in regime/pathway but can different forms of proximity compensate for each other.  Can also think in terms of institutional proximity in terms of norms and values

Perhaps strategic niche management has over-emphasised the local dimension of experimentation

  • Acknowledge and incorporate non-local relations in the design of niche experiments
  • Important to tease out the proximity advantages from the proximity disadvantages

2nd July 2013

Thandi van Heyningen Human capabilities, mental health and housing

“health is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” WHO

  • Experience of poverty and experience of mental ill health –social drift

RDP houses and how they affect mental health

  •  Khayelitsha case study –a peri urban settlement outside of Cape Town, focusing on Kuyasa a sub district.  –people had been recently moved into RDP housing
    • Higher levels of HIV incidence nad prevalence (32%)
    • One of the highest incidences of TB in the world
    • Higher levels of depression and post traumatic stress disorder
    • THE RDP homes
      • Addressed the inefficiency of the homes (no insulation so v. cold and draughty in the winter and unbearably hot in the summer) and no access to water or sanitation in some instances
      • Installed solar water geezers, thermal insulation in ceilings and energy efficient lighting and improved electrical wiring (on 2,300 homes)
      • Training and skills development

The study specifically researched what was the impact of improved housing and source of energy on their mental health.

Found that

  • poor housing and general conditions of poverty are lined to experience of deprivation of capabilities and impaired functioning and contribute to experiences of illness.
  • Drivers of mental health are despondency and helplessness associated with material deprivation and physical illness affects mental health
  • Moving destroyed the social fabric, contributing to feelings of stress and despair.

Used human capabilities approach –looked at deprivations caused by mental health problem and then by a home/living circumstances that were less sub-optimal

Lorena Pasquini The ties that bind: the role of social networks in ‘green’ governance at the municipal level

Trying to develop a programme of change that will enable local gvt to transform into effective sties for managing the diversity of challenges imposed by global env change, with a specific focus on cca.

  • Gives example of Cape Town coastal storm event 31 August 2008
  • SNT views social relationship in terms of nodes (individual actors –can be individual/grp/firm/inanimate object) and ties (relationships between the actors)
    • Strong ties show frequent interaction, an extended history, intimacy and sharing and reciprocity in exchanges.  They facilitate the flow of richer, detailed and redundant information and knowledge resources between individuals and groups
    • Weak ties –encourage the exchange of wider variety of potentially new info

At the moment doesn’t really relate to agency although something she’d like to change in future.  Using it to build a simple conceptual fw of the role social networks play with municipalities are implementing institutional change with regard to cca and mitigation

Lauren Tavener-Smith Rethinking incremental urbanism : co-production of informal settlement upgrading strategies

Research based in Enkanini, 2500 households, unelectrified settlement, residents share 70 toilets, 28 taps, 7 skips. 1 toile for every 35 households.  Steep topography

  • Solar DC  Microgrid Intervention experiment
  • i-shack project and
  • Process/progress indicators to evaluate effectiveness of intervention experiments to measure how much they trigger demand and build capacity –these were developed to a large extent by the residents who reported to the researchers the impacts of having the toilets and solar power
    • Group formation
    • Shared rules
    • Payments for services
    • Emerging demand
    • Municipal indigent policy
    • Municipal technical specification

She talked about how the global north idea would be to get everyone around the table but in this circumstance if they did that then it would probably be token participation. They actually acted as the go-betweens to get the community members to a point where they would be happy to work with the researchers to co-design the solutions.

Link here to photos from the conference i-shack tour provided by Arne Geschke

3rd July

Saul Roux Regulation and sociotechnical systems the city of Cape Town as a case study

Analysed a range of options for improving the sustainability of the electricity system.  Analysis of regulation, participant observation (knowledge co-production), interviews meetings and documentary evidence and basic modelling to understand the implications of an intervention on sub-systems.

Points made:

  • Urban energy systems are regimes comprising of a range of sub systems
  • Top down regulation (even if enabling) of ten fails to consider impacts on wider energy system/subsystems
  • Implementing agents are best situated to frame and devised solutions
  • Detailed investigation included the Smart Meter option.

Graeme Gotz Governing resource flows in the Gauteng City-Region

Individual agents fear lock in to proprietorial technologies

  • 10% live in informal dwellings, 8% have no access to piped water in dwelling/yard
  • Infrastructure deficits in terms of access but also where there is provision it often can’t meet demand.
  • There is an urgent need to extend the infrastructure networks as well as rehabilitate them alongside an unsustainable growth in demand for raw materials as well as supporting habitation infrastructure.

Metabolic Flows and Infrastructure Transitions project.  Basically premise that GCR would be better equipped ot deal with challenges if data on the flows of resources and material can be collated and modelled ot determine future input requirements and waste outputs resulting from the city-level processes.

  • Urban metabolism methodology (Kennedy and Hoornweg, 2012)
  • Metabolic flow analysis, transitions analysis  (see Hodson et al, 2012) and informed by political ecology analysis (Lawhon and Murphy 2012 criticised MLP).

Data challenges: There is good data but can’t see the interaction between the natural and economic systems –the governance of flows problem that needs to be solved.

Collecting data centrally –message sent out that it is not a good thing to do as might indicate evidence of cartel activity


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