Systemic Transition to Global Dematerialisation Drivers and Challenges: Case from Seoul, Korea

Event: Global Research Forum on Sustainable Consumption and Production Conference
Conference Paper

In recent years, people from diverse backgrounds have realized that consumption patterns need to undergo a radical transformation to avoid a socio-ecological crisis. Academics have also synthesized an equally diverse literature to illuminate the multi-stage, multi-level process required to transition to more sustainable consumption patterns. At the risk of oversimplification, work on ‘sustainability transitions’ suggests that the critical first step in this transition involves creating a ‘niche’ or space where new technologies emerge, paving the way for broader landscape and regime changes. Work on sustainability transitions have nonetheless focused chiefly on cases in Europe at the national level. Furthermore, most featured transitions have a decidedly technological bent with less attention to social dimensions that are critical to the formation and expansion of niche.
This article will integrate core insights of ‘governance’, ‘networking’, and ‘social learning’ from sustainability transitions research to understand the drivers and enablers of the social space in Seoul, Republic of Korea. Current Seoul Metropolitan Governance and Soil and the City Forum trace the creation of niches not to technological innovation but the progressive idea aimed at changing social practices and mind-set for human prospering, for organic relations between consumption and production, human and nature. The case further illustrates how governance works to augment the impacts of innovative ideas through active citizen engagement and collective participation strategically facilitated to create communities of practice where action-reflection approach and user-driven innovation enable experiential learning as a precursor to transformative social change. It demonstrates a platform where diverse discussion and negotiations take place implementing practical governance composed of bottom-up multi-stage multi-level with actors’ full participation from citizens of various backgrounds. In sum, it suggests that governance, networking, and social learning are critical drivers of sustainability transitions, especially in rapidly urbanizing contexts. It also raises questions about the possible refinements to work on sustainability transitions at the city level.