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June 27, 2016

Reflections on the SUSTAIN e-learning Course on Transition Management In and for Cities

The SUSTAIN e-learning course on transition management in and for cities, which was organized by the Dutch Research Institute for Transitions (DRIFT), took place from March until June 2016. The objective of the course was to convey a comprehensive understanding about complex urban sustainability challenges and the perspective of urban transitions thinking as well as practical guidelines and tools – including critical perspectives about the process and outcomes – to enable the participants to apply transition management in and for cities.
The course consisted of two webinars and four lectures that presented and discussed the theoretical backbone, practical applications and critical reflections of transition management in and for cities. This included urban sustainability transitions thinking, the principles of transition management and its building blocks, two case studies (Aberdeen, Honduras) and a critical perspective on roles, actors and (dis-)empowerment in transition management and urban sustainability transitions.
About 15 participants regularly attended the course. These were mainly students but also some practitioners from all over the world: including participants from Bangladesh, the Netherlands, Italy, Egypt, Brazil, Paraguay, Georgia, Germany, India, The Philippines, South Africa, Greece, Natuna Islands and the United Arab Emirates. Many were very enthusiastic about and engaged in the course and interested in applying transition management (thinking).

In the assignment they had the opportunity to apply transition management to a case study, reflect on how they would adapt the methodology to fit their particular case and critically evaluate the limitations of transition management. The case studies were as diverse as the participants: local contexts were situated in the Netherlands, Colombia, Nigeria, Greece, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Italy and Georgia.

Topics included waste management, mobility, urban planning, governance capacity building and empowerment and water management. During one lecture and in the final webinar the participants were given the opportunity to pitch their case studies and receive direct feedback. This was very much appreciated and fostered the understanding about what transition management can contribute to and what are challenges of the approach. Transition management was found to boost innovation, broaden and deepen problem perceptions, reflecting on roles and responsibilities and creating contexts for coordination and collaboration.
The course was very much appreciated by the participants, they were engaged throughout the course and motivated to put their gained knowledge into practice. Despite the course being online they had the opportunity to eagerly ask questions and live-reflect on what was said during the lectures. During the first webinar they were asked to voice their expectations about the course so the content could be tailored to their wishes. In the final webinar they shared their take-home messages, emphasising how they valued the empirical case examples and the critical perspective on actors.
Course coordinators and lecturers:
Dr. Niki Frantzeskaki
Giorgia Silvestri
Katharina Hölscher