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Sustainability Transitions of Sanitation Regimes in Urban Africa (SuSARA): Assessing the prospects for disruptive innovations

English title Sustainability Transitions of Sanitation Regimes in Urban Africa (SuSARA): Assessing the prospects for disruptive innovations
Applicant Truffer Bernhard
Number 159300
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Eawag
Institution of higher education Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology - EAWAG
Main discipline Social geography and ecology
Start/End 01.09.2015 - 31.12.2018
Approved amount 200'357.00
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Keywords (3)

Sustainable Urban Water Management; Geography of Transitions; Innovation Systems

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
In vielen Entwicklungsländern fehlt eine zuverlässige Abwasserversorgung in weiten Teilen städtischer Gebiete. Dies führt zu grossen gesundheitlichen und ökologischen Problemen für breite Teile der Bevölkerung. Das Projekt verfolgt einen innovationstheoretischen Ansatz, um die Entwicklungs- und Verbreitungsprozesse neuer Dienstleistungskonzepte besser zu verstehen und ihre Durchsetzung zu befördern. Empirisch werden städtische Versorgungsstrukturen in Slums in Nairobi, Kenia untersucht.
Lay summary

Inhalt und Ziel des Forschungsprojektes

Das Projekt untersucht unterschiedliche Entwicklungs- und Diffusionspfade für neue Ansätze im Bereich der Grundversorgung in Städten des globalen Südens.  Bisherige Ansätze haben sich vorwiegend auf die Verfügbarkeit von angepassten Technologien konzentriert und dabei die lokalen institutionellen Vorbedingungen für einen längerfristig erfolgreichen Betrieb und Unterhalt oft übersehen (Kompetenzstrukturen in den Versorgungsunternehmen oder Zuliefererindustrien, kulturelle Rahmenbedingungen, etc.).  Das Projekt schlägt eine integrierte soziale und technologische Analyse der Erfolgsbedingungen für neue Ansätze vor.  Als konkretes Untersuchungsgebiet dienen die Slums von Nairobi, Kenia mit einem besonderen Augenmerk auf das Abwassermanagement und die Hygiene.  Hier wird untersucht, wie neue Angebote mit vorhandenen institutionellen Strukturen in Übereinstimmung gebracht werden.  Dabei interessiert das Zusammenspiel von drei Bereichen:  i) Kompetenzen von Anbietern von neuen Systemen zur Durchführung von radikalen Innovationen; ii) Identifizierung von zentralen institutionellen Strukturen über die alltäglichen Praktiken von Anbietern und Kunden; und iii) Legitimierungs- und Vertrauensbildungsprozesse als Vorbedingung für die Nachhaltigkeit des Erfolgs von neuen Angeboten.  Die Untersuchung dieser drei Dimensionen soll es erlauben, Erfolgsbedingungen und Hinderungsgründe für die erfolgreiche Durchsetzung von Lösungen zu identifizieren.

Wissenschaftlicher und gesellschaftlicher Kontext

Die Lösung der weltweiten Abwasserproblematik ist eines der global drängendsten Probleme.  Die sichere und zuverlässige Versorgung mit Abwasserdienstleistungen hat grosse Auswirkungen auf die gesundheitliche Situation von Bewohnern in Slums und ist eine der wichtigsten Vorbedingungen für eine nachhaltige Entwicklung städtischer Gebiete.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 16.07.2015

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Long term transformations of industries and infrastructure systems towards sustainability (so called sustainability transitions) have gained increasing attention in innovation studies, and in human geography and regional studies. Early iterations of this literature focused on a few industrialized countries but more recently transition research has identified emerging economies and developing countries as major places where transition challenges are to be met.
Lay summary
 

Transitions towards more sustainable sector structures will depend on successful generation of new service-delivery options and on their large-scale implementation within local contexts.  Regarding the development of these offerings, the actors, networks and institutions, which form around new socio-technical configurations have been conceptualized as Technological Innovation Systems (TIS).  Successful implementation depends on whether and how these configurations fit into local institutional and infrastructural contexts or “socio-technical regimes” that govern public services in developing regions.  As such, there is a fundamental scholarly challenge at work here, how to conceptualize, operationalize, and manage the diffusion or integration of TIS innovations into geographically distinct regimes such that they disrupt “business-as-usual” service provisioning and consumption systems and practices in ways that foster transitions toward sustainability.

The proposal analyzes possible transition pathways in basic services, focusing specifically on the case of Nairobi, Kenya.  It will examine how new socio-technical configurations interact with prevailing regime structures of these sectors.  Three conceptual building blocks are proposed to analyze these interactions: i) system failures for assessing the capacity of the TISs to develop disruptive innovations; ii) user and service provider practices as core elements of regime structures; and iii) legitimization and trust formation as core processes in the embedding of new service options into existing socio-technical regimes.  By analyzing these dimensions and their interaction, we aim at better identifying challenges and prospects for more or less “disruptive” innovations.   In broader terms, this research shall contribute to a more reflexive and institutionally sensitive approach for designing new utility services both by local actors and by international development agencies. 

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 16.07.2015

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Name Institute

Publications

Publication
Innovation system formation in international development cooperation: The role of intermediaries in urban sanitation
van Welie Mara J, Boon Wouter P C, Truffer Bernhard (2020), Innovation system formation in international development cooperation: The role of intermediaries in urban sanitation, in Science and Public Policy, 47(3), 333-347.
Innovation challenges of utilities in informal settlements: Combining a capabilities and regime perspective
van Welie Mara J., Truffer Bernhard, Gebauer Heiko (2019), Innovation challenges of utilities in informal settlements: Combining a capabilities and regime perspective, in Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, 33, 84-101.
Towards sustainable urban basic services in low-income countries: A Technological Innovation System analysis of sanitation value chains in Nairobi
van Welie Mara J., Truffer Bernhard, Yap Xiao-Shan (2019), Towards sustainable urban basic services in low-income countries: A Technological Innovation System analysis of sanitation value chains in Nairobi, in Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, 33, 196-214.
Analysing transition pathways in developing cities: The case of Nairobi's splintered sanitation regime
Van Welie Mara, Cherunya Pauline, Truffer Bernhard, Murphy James T. (2018), Analysing transition pathways in developing cities: The case of Nairobi's splintered sanitation regime, in Technological forecasting and social change, 137, 259-271.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Prof. James T. Murphy, Clark Unviversity, Worcester (MA) United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Exchange of personnel
Helene Ahlborg, Chalmers Sweden (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Exchange of personnel

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
RES Nexus Conference Talk given at a conference Challenges of utilities’ pro-poor innovation strategies in informal settlements: implications for sustainability transitions in the water and sanitation sector 07.11.2018 Wageningen, Netherlands van Welie Mara;
41st WEDC Conference at Egerton University Poster Utilities serving the urban poor in informal settlements: a socio-technical perspective on the urban sanitation challenge 09.07.2018 Nakuru, Kenya van Welie Mara;
9th International Sustainability Transitions Conference Talk given at a conference Identifying potential future structures of a technological innovation system using a value chain perspective 11.06.2018 Manchester, Great Britain and Northern Ireland van Welie Mara;
Drift seminar Individual talk Analyzing transition pathways in developing citie 18.03.2018 Rotterdam, Netherlands van Welie Mara;
3rd NEST Conference Talk given at a conference Technological innovation system analysis of a value chain: Identifying synergies among urban on-site sanitation innovations 15.03.2018 Utrecht, Netherlands van Welie Mara;
International Conference on Research for Development Talk given at a conference Envisioning the future pathways of splintered regimes: the case of sanitation in Nairobi 05.09.2017 Bern, Switzerland van Welie Mara;
International Sustainability Transitions Conference Talk given at a conference Viewpoint on the conceptualization of regimes of basic service sectors in urban Africa 06.09.2016 Wuppertal, Germany van Welie Mara;
8th International Sustainability Transitions Conference Talk given at a conference Transition pathways in developing cities: the case of Nairobi`s splintered sanitation regime 12.06.2016 Gothenburg, Sweden van Welie Mara;
Seminar of the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development Individual talk Sustainability Transitions of Sanitation Regimes in Urban Africa 19.05.2016 Utrecht, Netherlands van Welie Mara;
1st PhDs in Transitions Conference Talk given at a conference Sanitation regimes in urban Africa: identifying the regime structures in the informal settlements of Nairobi 28.04.2016 Greenwich, Great Britain and Northern Ireland van Welie Mara;


Knowledge transfer events



Self-organised

Title Date Place
Susara Workshop Nairobi 06.07.2018 Kenyatta University Nairobi, Kenya

Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Print (books, brochures, leaflets) Research update - “Nairobi`s splintered sanitation sector”. International 2017

Awards

Title Year
Best paper Award Sustainability Transitions Research Conference, Ottawa 2019

Abstract

Long term transformations of industries and infrastructure systems towards sustainability (so called sustainability transitions) have gained increasing attention in innovation studies (see Markard et al. 2012), and in human geography and regional studies (e.g. Patchell and Hayter 2013; Truffer and Coenen 2012). Early iterations of this literature focused on a few industrialized countries (Coenen et al. 2012) but more recently transition research has identified emerging economies and developing countries as major places where transition challenges are to be met. More specifically, scholars of the “geography of sustainability transitions” research strand (Truffer and Coenen 2012; Raven et al. 2012) recently provided conceptual guidance and empirical applications demonstrating how research in this field can be carried out (cf. a forthcoming special issue edited by Truffer, Murphy and Raven). The present proposal aims at contributing to this emerging field of scholarship through the advancement of a geographically sensitive framework to study transition dynamics and an empirical focus on the provision of basic/utility services (esp. sanitation) in cities of the Global South. Transitions towards more sustainable sector structures will depend on successful generation of new service-delivery options and on their large-scale implementation within local contexts. Regarding the development of these offerings, the actors, networks and institutions, which form around new socio-technical configurations have been conceptualized as Technological Innovation Systems (TIS, see Bergek et al. 2008). Successful implementation depends on whether and how these configurations fit into local institutional and infrastructural contexts or “socio-technical regimes” that govern public services in developing regions (Geels 2002). As such, there is a fundamental scholarly challenge at work here, how to conceptualize, operationalize, and manage the diffusion or integration of TIS innovations into geographically distinct regimes such that they disrupt “business-as-usual” service provisioning and consumption systems and practices in ways that foster transitions toward sustainability. The proposal analyzes possible transition pathways in basic services, focusing specifically on the case of Nairobi, Kenya. It will examine how new socio-technical configurations (conceptualized as specific TISs) interact with prevailing regime structures of these sectors. Three conceptual building blocks are proposed to analyze these interactions: i) system failures for assessing the capacity of the TISs to develop disruptive innovations; ii) user and service provider practices as core elements of regime structures; and iii) legitimization and trust formation as core processes in the embedding of new service options into existing socio-technical regimes. By analyzing these dimensions and their interaction, we aim at better identifying challenges and prospects for more or less “disruptive” innovations to emerge out of and be diffused from different TISs. Utility services in developing countries are the target of many international aid organizations and actors forming different globalized TIS. Hence, we will also analyze the role that multi-scalar actor networks play in disruptive innovation. Conceptually, this research aims at contributing to the elaboration of a systemic understanding of innovation processes that contribute to sustainability transitions and therefore at providing an early reference case for “geography of sustainability transitions” research in contexts of the Global South. In broader terms, this research shall contribute to a more reflexive and institutionally sensitive approach for designing new utility services both by local actors and by international development agencies.
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