Sustainability transitions in developing countries: major insights and their implications for research and policy

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Sustainability transitions literature is a rapidly growing and influential field of research. It argues for a radical change of systems providing human needs. Being triggered by the negative implications of the Western post-war model of development, major transition frameworks such as multilevel perspective, strategic niche management or transition management have been widely used to clarify and motivate socio-technical transformations in mainly more economically developed world. Because of their sustainability appeal, however, transition perspectives began to be applied in developing countries. This paper takes stock of and systematises the theoretical insights from this application. Using systematic review method of 115 publications released in the last decade, the paper discusses novel methodological and conceptual lessons around: experimentation and upscaling; stability, change and power; regime uniformity; contextual forces; path-dependence; transnational linkages; normative orientation and other aspects. Although the identified insights confirm the middle range character of the transition theory, they force some reflexivity and raise new research questions for both contexts. The paper also identifies a few policy implication for international organisations, donors, governments and civil society organisations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)204-216
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • Developing countries
  • Multilevel perspective on system innovation
  • Socio-technical system
  • Strategic niche management
  • Sustainability transition
  • Transition management


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