ESRC Seminar series “Sustainability Transition”

Booking is now open for the first in a new ESRC-funded seminar series, “Sustainability Transition”, Liverpool Foresight Centre, Thursday 30th June.  Organiser, Peter North, University of Liverpool.

The event is free, and lunch is provided: but a place must be reserved in advance.  Please contact Pete North (

A limited number of travel/accommodation bursaries are available for postgraduate / unwaged participants or people without access to funding for such activity which are available on a first come, first served basis.  To request a bursary please contact Pete North ( specifying your status and (briefly) the reasons for your request.

The Seminar Series

The ESRC is funding a seminar series that explores sustainability transitions (projected processes of social change to sustainable patterns of production and consumption) from explicitly social, political and economic perspectives. It examines the impact of preparing for sustainability transitions on people’s everyday lives and livelihoods and considers the role of grassroots political actors in shaping these transitions. It explores and critiques theories of transition from the specific perspective of the social; aiming to build bridges to relevant social theory and social science disciplines. The series will also explore the interrelationships between theory and practice and how they inform and shape one another.

Seminar One: Capacities for Transition

This seminar serves to scope the key themes and issues that will be addressed throughout the seminar series. The concept of transitioning suggests that ‘something’ is transitioned, and, unless we conceptionalise it as completely technologically-led with no human agency whatsoever, ‘someone’ is the transitioning agent. This seminar brings together questions of scale – from the individual, through businesses, social enterprises and communities, to towns, cities and regions – (it poses the question: what is being transitioned?) and agency (who has the capacity to transition?).

Barriers to transition will not be seen as absolute and determining in the last case, but as barriers to be grappled with by agents who have varying skills, resources, visions and connections that together construct a capacity to transition. Who can transition what, and how? Who stops transitioning, or structures it into what paths? What is the relationship between concepts of transition and political action through policy making, partnership working, the construction of visions of the future and the politics of the prefigurative, and contentious political action?


10-10.10         Introduction: Dr Pete North, University of Liverpool, Dr Gavin Brown, University of Leicester

10.10-11.00     Theorising energy transitions: what we know and what we don’t
Professor John Grin, University of Amsterdam

11.00-11.20     Coffee break

11.20-12.10     Lessons from ESRC seminar series “Geographies of Energy Transition”
Dr Gavin Bridge, University of Manchester

12.20-13.00     Lunch

1.00-2.00                    Politicising Transition
Dr Peter North, University of Liverpool

2.00-3.00            Sustainable Futures: the Geography of Transition
Dr James Evans: University of Manchester

3.00-3.15       tea and coffee

3.15-4.30            Transitions in the emerging economies: Lessons from China and India
Dr David Tyfield, University of Lancaster
Dr Suzannah Fisher, University of Cambridge

4.30-5.00            Taking transition forward?
Discussion and concluding remarks, led by Peter North and Gavin Brown

5pm             Close

There will be a meal available afterwards at your own cost.

Location: The Foresight Centre, University of Liverpool – walking distance from Lime Street.

Accommodation:  we would recommend The Feathers:

or you can find other options here.

(If you unsure about where is and isn’t convenient for the Foresight Centre, contact the organizers.)

Please inform us of any special requirements (eg. dietary, access etc.). We will do our best to address these:

The seminar series has a dedicated website to facilitate as wide and open exchange of ideas and information as possible.

If you would like to join this discussion, tell us a bit about yourself when you book your place and log onto our googlegroup discussion.

We look forward to welcoming you to Liverpool in June!

Peter North
Department of Geography
School for Environmental Sciences
University of Liverpool
0151 794 2849


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