Prospects of modelling societal transitions: Position paper of an emerging community

Georg Holtz, Floortje Alkemade, Fjalar Johannes de Haan, Jonathan Kohler, Evelina Trutnevyte, Tobias Luthe, Johannes Halbe, Georgios Papachristos, Emile Chappin, Jan Kwakkel, Sampsa Ruutu

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Societal transitions involve multiple actors, changes in institutions,values and technologies, and interactions across multiple sectors and scales. Given this complexity, this paper takes on the view that the societal transitions research field would benefit from the further maturation and broader uptake of modelling approaches.This paper shows how modelling can enhance the understandingof and support stakeholders to steer societal transitions. It discusses the benefits modelling provides for studying large societal systems and elaborates on different ways models can be used for transitions studies. Two model applications are presented in some detail to illustrate the benefits. Then, limitations of modelling societal transitions are discussed, which leads to an agenda for future activities: (1) better cooperation in the development of dynamic models,(2) stronger interaction with other transition scholars and stake-holders, and (3) use of additional modelling approaches that we think are relevant to and largely unexplored in transitions studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41 - 58
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironmental Innovation and Societal Transitions
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Complex system
  • Formal model
  • Simulation
  • Societal transition
  • Socio-technical

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