Participation in transition(s): Reconceiving public engagements in energy transitions as co-produced, emergent and diverse

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This paper brings the transitions literature into conversation with constructivist Science and Technology Studies (STS) perspectives on participation for the first time. In doing so we put forward a conception of public and civil society engagement in sustainability transitions as co-produced, relational, and emergent. Through paying close attention to the ways in which the subjects, objects, and procedural formats of public engagement are constructed through the performance of participatory collectives, our approach offers a framework to open up to and symmetrically compare diverse and interconnected forms of participation that make up wider socio-technical systems. We apply this framework in a comparative analysis of four diverse cases of civil society involvement in UK low carbon energy transitions. This highlights similarities and differences in how these distinct participatory collectives are orchestrated, mediated, and subject to exclusions, as well as their effects in producing particular visions of the issue at stake and implicit models of participation and ‘the public’. In conclusion we reflect on the value of this approach for opening up the politics of societal engagement in transitions, building systemic perspectives of interconnected ‘ecologies of participation’, and better accounting for the emergence, inherent uncertainties, and indeterminacies of all forms of participation in transitions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)585-607
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Environmental Policy & Planning
Issue number5
Early online date29 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Sustainability transitions
  • energy
  • public participation
  • relational
  • coproduction
  • STS

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