Linking the levels: Actors, strategies and alliances for postgrowth transitions
While postgrowth approaches are gaining discursive momentum, the development of encompassing strategies for a degrowth transformation has only started. Particularly, there appears to be a strong divide between bottom-up and top-down approaches (D’Alisa & Kallis, 2020). We argue that it is necessary to integrate a variety of approaches at different institutional levels based on an expanded science-based understanding of transformation. Such ‘multi-level’ transition strategies, including new alliances, policies, and governance arrangements, are needed to unlock deep path dependencies, promote alternative pathways, and facilitate societal negotiation processes in the light of conflicting interests.
Some conceptual considerations on transition theory and examples from practice-oriented sustainability research in Germany serve as starting points for the interactive 90-minutes session. We view postgrowth transition pathways through the lens of the Multi-Level Perspective, which aims to understand change processes through the interaction between niche innovations (e.g., degrowth practices), changing landscape factors (e.g., cultural and narrative trends) and the dominant socio-technical regime(s) (Geels, 2019), and suggests transformative policy mixes (Kivima & Kern, 2016). Combining this with Wright's transformation strategies (Wright 2010), we aim to develop diverse intervention points and tools to think about their dynamic interaction for systemic change.
Spotlight 1 explores the role of niche actors in postgrowth transformations based on a comparative case study of an energy cooperative, a community-supported agriculture project and a socio-ecological telecommunications business in Freiburg, Germany. The analysis finds that despite contextual differences, all three initiatives engage similar principles and strategies of institutional work to promote an emerging socio-ecological paradigm of economic organization, but face structural barriers that require political intervention. Spotlight 2 focuses on the potential of transformative bridging concepts, like the precautionary postgrowth approach (Petschow et al 2018), to engage mainstream actors. Insights from dialog project with German ministries highlights the importance of linking postgrowth ideas to concrete and familiar policy debates. Finally, Spotlight 3 addresses one possibility for linking the different institutional levels. It traces the emergence of new alliances between social and environmental civil society organizations for a Just Transition in Germany, and discusses impact and challenges associated with these new forms of institutional collaborations.
In the subsequent synthesis and open discussion, we want to reflect together how to involve different stakeholder in postgrowth transformations, what concrete strategies are needed to link the levels, and which alliances can promote these. We invite perspectives from labour unions, environmental and social associations and other fields of research. In doing so, the session seeks to foster a vibrant, dynamic exchange of experiences, shaping a way forward for a sustainable postgrowth future.