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Against a common failure of environmental policy to effectively transform large technological systems, the concept of transition management has been developed in the Netherlands. The concept focuses on “system innovations,” which are defined as fundamental changes of technical, social, regulatory and cultural regimes, which, in their interactions, fulfill specific societal needs, such as transport, food, housing, water and energy. A system change requires co-evolution of technologies, infrastructure, regulations, symbols, knowledge and industrial structure. Historical examples of system innovations are the transition from wind-powered to steam-powered ships or from wood-based energy to coal-based energy. Such system changes typically require a time frame of 30–40 years.
Transition management is proposed to provide advanced performance in steering system innovations. However, transition management includes no claim to actually plan transitions, but instead aims to influence the direction and speed of transition processes. The process can be divided into four distinct phases:
- Creation of an innovation network (transition arena) for a defined transition problem that includes representatives from government, science, business and non-governmental organizations (NGOs);
- Development of integrated visions and images about possible transition paths that span 25–50 years, and, based on these visions, derivation of intermediate objectives;
- The execution of experiments and concerted actions according to the transition agenda (experiments may refer to technologies, regulations or modes of financing); and
- Monitoring and evaluation of the process, and implementation of the results of the learning processes.
United Nations Environment Programme (Lead Author); Cutler Cleveland (Topic Editor) "Global Environment Outlook (GEO-4): Chapter 10". In: Encyclopedia of Earth. Eds. Cutler J. Cleveland (Washington, D.C.: Environmental Information Coalition, National Council for Science and the
Environment). [First published in the Encyclopedia of Earth September 14, 2008; Last revised Date September 14, 2008; Retrieved November 16, 2010 http://www.eoearth.org/article/Global_Environment_Outlook_(GEO4):_Chapter_10