The strategic dilemma of an open and closed approach of transitional change. Comparing three transition paths to sustainability in the Netherlands

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The paper aims to make two contributions to the literature on planning and transitions. First, it analyses transitional change as an open and closed process. The policy challenges are ‘wicked problems’ with unforeseen uncertainties, multiplicity of political values, and complex institutional systems. Dealing with these kind of challenges requires an open approach. Yet, in spite of the wickedness of the issues at stake, policymakers tend to treat transitional change as a closed process: as a large project with fixed goals, road-maps, timetables, and strategies to reduce uncertainty. The paper argues that this is not a matter of ignorance but the result of institutional mechanisms that push policymakers towards a closed approach. Second, the paper analyses how a closed approach leads to the exclusion of crucial aspects of transitional change, in particular the matter of social justice. It argues that, whereas some transition processes exclude social justice issues, it is better to include them in order to design an open and viable transition strategy. These issues are demonstrated by a comparative analysis of three transition paths to sustainability in the Netherlands: climate and energy, agriculture and food, circular economy.
sustainability, long term planning, the Netherlands, comparative analysis Introduction