Systems can experience different types of transitions. The existing literature on transitions distinguishes socio-technological, social-ecological and institutional transitions that each focus on different aspects of real-life systems. For every one of these types of transitions we have identified a common set of forces that co-shape and drive the transition. Building on previous work and based on an in-depth empirical analysis, we investigate the complex dynamics of transitions in terms of how changes in different societal subsystems may unravel and trigger each other. We start with a conceptual scheme that captures the main characteristics of socio-technological, social-ecological and institutional transitions as discussed in the respective literatures. We then employ a case study on the emergence of a transition in the environmental protection regime in Greece (for the period of 1986 until early 2000s) in the face of a river diversion project. Following a socio-ecological transition, the river Acheloos case went through a transition involving five co-evolving and competing regimes: the environmental protection policy regime, the energy policy regime, the water management policy regime, the Acheloos river restoration interest regime, and the Acheloos diversion interest regime. The environmental protection transition in Greece was (and remains) a battlefield for both supporters and opponents of the Acheloos Diversion Project. We analyze how the dynamics of socio-ecological and institutional transitions have affected each other, and we identified three transition drifts that signal how transformation unfolds: change transcends across subsystems and regimes, problem framings shift over time and some driving forces tip multiple subsystems creating spillover effects.

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Technological Forecasting and Social Change
Dutch Research Institute for Transitions (DRIFT)

Frantzeskaki, N, Thissen, W, & Grin, J. (2016). Drifting between transitions. Lessons from the environmental transition around the river Acheloos Diversion project in Greece. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 102, 275–286. doi:10.1016/j.techfore.2015.09.007