Transformative agency in co-producing sustainable development in the urban south

Wikke Novalia, Briony Rogers, Annette Bos, Rebekah R. Brown, Eddy Soedjono, Vanessa Copa Torrez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


The role of transformative agency in facilitating urban transitions has received significant attention in the literature given a growing interest in how cities may provide leaderships for realising sustainable development. Existing debate on the co-productive aspect of transformative agency tends to emphasise the progressive role of non-state actors in mobilising urban reform agendas but has had little focus on the progressive form of agency by local state actors. To advance this debate, our paper draws on existing conceptualisations of transformative capacity in the sustainability literature, which accentuates the plurality of agency. Rather than distinguishing agency narrowly in terms of a particular type of struggle outside the =regime, our paper utilises a practice perspective to examine the mixture of strategies employed by various urban actors. Our paper takes this expanded view of transformative agency to study over three-decade of relatively successful green transformations in Surabaya, Indonesia. This reveals how different actors executed confrontative and co-operative strategies to generate socio-political momentum across the city. We argue that our expanded view of transformative agency can clarify the variation of urban movements in the global south, which co-produces governance innovations and supports long-term societal changes needed to facilitate transitions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102747
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Co-production
  • Developing context
  • Governance
  • Sustainable development
  • Transformative agency
  • Urban transitions

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