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Making sense of power through transdisciplinary sustainability research Insights from a Transformative Power Lab

If transdisciplinary sustainability research is to contribute to sustainability transitions, issues of power dynamics need to be understood and accounted for. However, examples of concrete methods that put this into practice are sparse. This paper presents a conceptual and methodological framework that develops a better understanding of the power phenomenon, while providing actionable knowledge. By focussing on the context of social innovation in energy transitions, we demonstrate how different theoretical conceptualisations of power can be translated into a collaborative, transdisciplinary research design.

In a facilitated process, researchers, policy workers and practitioners from diverse social innovation fields developed and tested the Transformative Power Lab approach and co-wrote a ‘Power Guide’ as a strategic exploration of power dynamics in sustainability transitions, specifically regarding social innovation in energy transitions. Based on the insights that emerged during this process, we discuss how transdisciplinary and action-oriented approaches in sustainability transition studies might benefit from this approach and, potentially, develop it further.