Policy Sciences

, Volume 42, Issue 4, pp 275–302 | Cite as

Designing long-term policy: rethinking transition management



Long-term policy is enjoying something of a come-back in connection with sustainable development. The current revival tries to avoid the pitfalls of an earlier generation of positivistic long-range planning and control approaches. Instead, this new generation of policy design emphasises reflexive governance concepts. These aim at inducing and navigating complex processes of socio-technical change by means of deliberation, probing and learning. A practical expression of this move that is attracting growing international attention amongst researchers and practitioners is the policy of ‘Transition Management’ (TM) in the Netherlands. This article takes stock of TM implementation experience to date and discusses the critical issues it raises for long-term policy design. The article provides a framework and synthesis for this Special Issue, which comprises articles that address a range of those issues in more depth. We highlight three critical issues: the politics of societal learning, contextual embedding of policy design and dynamics of the design process itself. This leads us to propose a view on policy design as a contested process of social innovation. Our conclusion considers implications for continued work on designing transition management in practice as well as the reflexive capacities of democratic politics.


Policy design Sustainable development Reflexive governance Transition management Socio-technical change Long-term planning Deliberation Politics of learning Innovation in governance 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Innovation in Governance Research Group, Institute of Sociology/Center for Technology and SocietyTechnische Universität Berlin (Secretariat ER 2-2)BerlinGermany
  2. 2.SPRU (Science and Technology Policy Research), Freeman Centre, FalmerUniversity of SussexBrightonUK
  3. 3.Faculty of Social and Behavioural SciencesUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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