A multi-stakeholder approach to the socio-technical transition to a low-carbon society

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Boyle, Evan
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University College Cork
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In order to respond to the range of environmental challenges faced in contemporary society, new collaborative governance relationships between state, community, civil society and third sector organisations must be developed. This thesis investigates the merging of top-down and bottom-up approaches to sustainability transitions taking a transdisciplinary, action-orientated approach through partnership with an active regional sustainability transition project (Dingle Peninsula 2030). The research involves both a regional case study and the national institutional context, supported by an analysis of research practice. It is grounded primarily in the discipline of sociology, but also involves a novel collaboration with energy engineering and draws upon the analytical tool of the MLP to highlight the importance of participatory collaboration in meeting the societal challenges posed by climate change. The thesis title, “A multi-stakeholder approach to the socio-technical transition to a low-carbon society”, emphasises the collaborative nature of the regional project. There are three core research questions guiding this research project. Firstly, how can a mixed-method approach support an action research investigation of sustainability transitions? On from this, how can we understand the diffusion of sustainability in an ongoing regional transition project using the multi-level perspective? Finally, how can transdisciplinary research and community engagement assist in merging top-down and bottom-up approaches to transitions? The thesis develops five key research aspects to address these questions. The first uses a participatory mapping exercise to undertake qualitative social network analysis at the grassroots level, to interpret the regional project from a bottom-up perspective in its infancy. The second focuses specifically on the collaborative governance structure, involving the four transition project partners. Thirdly, the thesis traces and explores the diffusion of sustainability across the peninsula and further afield considering the emergence of Dingle Peninsula 2030. The penultimate research aspect moves to the national level, investigating community engagement practices within public bodies in Ireland for the delivery of climate infrastructure. Finally, the thesis analyses the experience of transdisciplinary research approaches, working with community and civil society stakeholders. The thesis concludes with a series of recommendations for further research, for action research practice and for policy. In this body of work, several key findings are developed. A mixed-method approach to action research has been highlighted as a means through which optimum participation can be developed. The need for a structured approach to community engagement in public bodies, and an academic context to support transdisciplinarity, have been outlined as ways to facilitate the merging of top-down and bottom-up approaches to socio-technical transitions. Finally, the role of collaborative, multi-stakeholder transition projects in bringing about the diffusion of sustainability has been illustrated as a means through which to enable societal action on climate change.
Sociology , Sustainability , Action research , Transdisciplinarity , Community , Diffusion
Boyle, E. 2021. A multi-stakeholder approach to the socio-technical transition to a low-carbon society. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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