From Niche to Mainstream: Three Dilemmas of Scaling Up Sustainable Alternatives


A more sustainable future requires fundamental societal changes. Real-world laboratories and transition experiments test sustainable alternatives in a protected niche. In order to introduce these alternatives into wider society and make them go mainstream, they need to be scaled up. The term upscaling is used here to indicate a qualitative shift towards a structural transformation of a societal system: new ways of doing, thinking, and organizing emerge in a given system as the new normal – the whole institutional structure changes. However, societal change is based on co-evolutionary processes which makes upscaling highly challenging. Augenstein et al. (2020) present three dilemmas of upscaling that are connected to core aspects of transdisciplinary research on sustainability transitions.

Urban sustainability initiatives, such as Utopiastadt in Wuppertal, Germany, address the dilemmas of upscaling in their efforts to develop sustainable alternatives locally, get involved in transdisciplinary processes and help create spaces for experimentation and reflexive…

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