Who learns what in sustainability transitions?

Nihit Goyal, Michael Howlett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Although learning in networks is key to transitions, the literature has juxtaposed the different actors involved. Based on a conceptual review, we posit that four distinct collective actors engage in learning in transitions: technology constituencies, epistemic communities, instrument constituencies, and advocacy coalitions. Technology constituencies promote the adoption of specific socio-technical alternatives by citizens, businesses, or governments. Epistemic communities shed light on sustainability issues at the science-policy interface. Instrument constituencies promote the creation and diffusion of specific governance arrangements. Advocacy coalitions compete politically to implement their policy preferences. These collective actors are responsible for facilitating technological learning, sustainability problem learning, policy instrumental learning, and political learning, respectively, which are in turn necessary for niche development, regime destabilization, overcoming path dependence, and political change. Consequently, the alignment of these distinct, albeit potentially overlapping, collective actors can have a profound impact on learning in transitions and the emergence of transition pathways.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-321
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Innovation and Societal Transitions
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Instrument constituency
  • Learning in transitions
  • Policy learning
  • Sociotechnical change
  • Technological learning
  • Technology constituency


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