What hampers the transition in many cities is that the pioneers (niche innovation actors, grass-root transition initiatives, innovative start-ups) do not effectively cooperate with established actors such as sectoral federations, trade unions, schools, public institutions or large companies. The pioneers of solutions to sustainability challenges are often confined to small niches. This is problematic because their visions and ways of doing things could help steering the economy towards a place- and community-based approach. Indeed, in many cities, we see new forms of sustainable economic activities such as organic food baskets that bring periurban agricultural production to urbanites, often through socially innovative distribution and payment schemes; socially innovative deconstruction-for-reuse operators that reinject building materials by selling them to new projects before a building is destroyed.
The cooperation between niche and regime actors can lead to a better understanding of the scope and feasibility of using pioneering economic strategies outside of their initial niche. Established actors often have a better vision of the wider opportunity landscape of which they are themselves a part. Schools and other public institutions, for example, could be an important venue of increasing the scope of local food systems. One the other hand, the regime actors often have vested interests that work against the pioneers. This means that the cooperation of regime actors is necessary to avoid that they obstruct the social-ecological transition. Local authorities can help providing a framework in which niche actors can engage in meaningful and constructive cooperation with actors of the economic establishment. Pioneers and the establishment have to cooperate at eye level in order to overcome power asymmetries and vested interests and to foster mutual learning about economic possibilities, but also the limits of upscaling and regime change.
The strategy consists of an innovative type of multistakeholder alliance for the transition of specific sectors of the economic activity. It involves a balanced set of participants representing both niche and established actors. An Environment Employment Alliance is coordinated and moderated by the local authority who takes on the role of bridging actors between the diversity of stakeholders of the territory to stimulate the co-construction and the implementation of a local transition strategy based on a logic of shared value creation both for the economic players and for society as a whole.
An interdepartmental group composed at the very least of Environment, Economic, Employment departments and extended to all departments linked to the sectors involved in the process. In one example, the Environment Employment Alliance in the region of Brussels was managed by regional environmental agencies who acted as bridging organisations between pioneers (mostly entrepreneurs or grassroots organisations) and established actors (such as federations or public administrations). The Alliance was divided into different themes, such as waste management, water, the construction sector, among others, and participants met on a regular basis to co-develop a work plan and a series of actions that were carried out with the administrative and financial support from the region.
FACILITATORY (PUBLIC) BODIES:
socio-economic development department; employment department; environmental and sustainability department; strategic planning department
LOCAL TASK FORCE:
entrepreneur; business; local or regional authority; educational organisation; professional expert
urban region; (sub-)urban communities
MAIN NECESSARY RESOURCES ARE:
monetary investments; expert knowledge; political back-up; public institutional set-up
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