Governing sustainability: a dialogue between Local Agenda 21 and transition management

J. M. Wittmayer*, F. van Steenbergen, A. Rok, C. Roorda

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


Since the 1990s, the local level of governance has become increasingly important in addressing the challenge of sustainable development. In this article, we compare two approaches that seek to address sustainability locally, namely Local Agenda 21 and transition management. Discussing both approaches along six dimensions (history, aim, kind of change, governance understanding, process methodologies, and actors), we formulate general insights into the governance of sustainability in cities, towns, and neighbourhoods. This dialogue illustrates two related modes of thinking about sustainability governance. We touch upon the importance of an integrated perspective on sustainability transitions through which sustainability is made meaningful locally in collaborative processes. We suggest that the explicit orientation towards radical change is a precondition for governing sustainability in a way that addresses the root causes of societal challenges. Governing sustainability should address the tensions between aiming for radical change and working with status quo-oriented actors and governing settings. We conclude that governing sustainability should be about finding creative ways for opening spaces for participation, change, and experimentation, that is, for creating alternative ideas, practices, and social relations. These spaces for innovation encourage a reflexive stance on ways of working and one's own roles and attitudes, thereby preparing a fertile terrain for actors to engage in change from different perspectives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)939-955
Number of pages17
JournalLocal Environment
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Taylor & Francis.


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