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Governance for Transition: Florian Kern Presents European Research in Canada

Complex transition processes require the design and implementation of effective governance models. Governments alone are not enough, since many different actors make relevant decisions. Therefore, both state and private actors should be involved in problem-solving. In June 2019, IÖW researcher Florian Kern contributed to several international conferences in Canada by addressing potential conceptions regarding the governance and management of sustainability transitions: the International Sustainability Transitions Conference (IST 2019) at Carleton University in Ottawa, the 4th International Conference on Public Policy at Concordia University in Montreal and a workshop for policy makers from various Canadian ministries. Kern heads the Research Field Environmental Economics and Environmental Policy at the IÖW.

Consider a variety of actors

In his research, Florian Kern focuses in particular on how social-ecological transition can succeed. He is convinced: For sustainability transitions to be successful, a governance perspective is needed that takes into account a large number of actors. Since 2016, Kern has been a member of the steering group of the Sustainability Transitions Research Network, an international network of more than 1,500 researchers who conduct research on sustainability and transition. The network aims to improve scientific understanding of transitions. To this end, it organizes a series of events to promote scientific exchange and to coordinate research work. It further collects the research results and translates them into educational offerings.

The network also sees itself as a forum for exchange with actors from politics, civil society and business who actively support sustainability transition. The network organizes the annual International Sustainability Transitions Conference (IST), which took place in Ottawa from June 23rd to 26th 2019 – this year being the first time that the Network is gathering outside of Europe. As part of the IST Conference, Florian Kern participated in a panel discussion in which two local sustainability organizations presented and discussed their work with the participants. In addition, the Steering Group met during the conference

The Role of International Organizations in Transitions


At IST 2019, and three days later at the International Conference on Public Policy, Florian Kern presented the results of the IÖW-project "International Organisations and the Governance of Deep Transitions". In this case study, co-authored by Helen Sharp and Samyra Hachmann, he examined the EU’s role in the international diffusion of the concept of a circular economy. In order to raise attention, the EU successfully used bilateral programs and shared its experience with multilateral organizations. The study highlights how the idea was disseminated by using a multitude of forums and platforms, some of which were based on one another. The presentation can be found here.

Recommendations for policy makers: experiments, visions, concrete instruments


As part of a workshop organized by Prof. Meadowcroft (Carleton University) on behalf of Natural Resources Canada, Florian Kern called on policy makers from various ministries to promote experiments with sustainability innovations. According to Kern, it is important to support not only companies but a broader mix of actors such as cities or civil society, thus enabling broad coalitions for transition. Long-term goals and visions are also important to influence the direction of development towards greater sustainability. At the same time, however, these comprehensive goals must be broken down into concrete sector strategies, medium-term goals and concrete instruments to promote a transition.

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Presentation: International Organisations and the Governance of Deep Transitions: The case of a transition towards a circular economy (PDF; 515 KB)

Presentation: Policy mixes for sustainability transitions: New insights through bridging innovation and policy studies (PDF; 747 KB)