Course Metropolitan Innovators

Activity: Other


Contemporary metropolitan regions face a variety of complex challenges that concern large numbers of stakeholders with often competing claims, originating from different world views. Metropolitan regions like the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area (AMA) are grappling with the challenge how to manage transitions towards sustainability that are simultaneously effective, inclusive and fair, while facing high costs to break free from path dependency lock-ins. This transition towards sustainability may seem like a relatively new aim, but is something the Dutch government has been pursuing since its first Environmental Action Plan (1989), which focused on closing production and consumption loops, preventing degradation and exhaustion of resources and harmful emissions. The plan also emphasized the responsibility of different groups in society (public, private, and civic), to meet environmental targets. The envisioned transition is characterised by a systems-change, which means that whole chains of production, consumption and behaviour must change comprehensively, thus involving a large number of stakeholders with a multitude of worldviews and competing claims over those systems. On top of this, successive shocks have demonstrated that the burdens and benefits of transitions are ill distributed, with disproportionate negative impacts on vulnerable groups, people of colour, the poor and people with a migration background. This course enables Metropolitan Innovators to identify and evaluate these claims from three main perspectives: socio-technical, (eco)systems and spatial justice. The course thereby offers the theoretical and conceptual tools to analyse and discuss metropolitan challenges and the possible implications of proposed solutions.
When we are seeking to innovate to attain the desired technological and societal transition, a number of questions arise that are both theoretical and at the same time deeply practical: How do we optimize environmental impacts when promoting systems transitions? How do we understand knowledge in processes of transformation, where transdisciplinarity is necessary? How can we understand the ways technological solutions relate to political questions of justice and democracy? These questions become particularly urgent in view of new approaches developed to promote innovation: using big data, developing smart cities, where experimentation occurs in living labs and space is created for entrepreneurial interventions. How do we face the ethical, political, cultural, economic and environmental challenges related to these processes?
Period1 Oct 20171 Oct 2022
Degree of RecognitionNational


  • metropolitan innovators
  • socio-technical transitions
  • just transition
  • spatial justice
  • ecosystems approach