Common to many cases of social-ecological transformations is the shift from management of single resources to broader integrated approaches with humans as an integrated part. In Australia, change agents used a national election as a political window of opportunity for implementing a new zoning legislation for the Great Barrier Reef. Photo: A. Maslennikov/Azote

Insight #1 Transformations

Resilience thinking can help us understand how to initiate and navigate large-scale transformations in social-ecological systems.

Despite pleas for major change, there is still a lack of understanding of the mechanisms and patterns involved, and of the conditions under which critical transformations can emerge.

This lack of understanding greatly decreases the chances for successfully navigating transformation and embarking upon sustainable trajectories. Research at Stockholm Resilience Centre focuses on bridging this gap.

Key findings
1. Transformations involve incremental as well as abrupt change at many different scales.

2. There are at least three recognizable phases of transformation in social-ecological systems.

3. Institutional entrepreneurship and transformational leadership play an important role in moving through these multiple phases.

4. There is a clear link between crisis and opportunity for creating radical shifts and transformations.

5. "Shadow networks" play an important role in experimenting and finding new solutions to global environmental problems.

6. Innovations can break self-reinforcing feedback loops that keep social-ecological systems on an undesired trajectory or in a lock-in trap.

7. Resilience thinking adds the social-ecological system perspective to transitions toward global sustainability.

Phase 1: In the preparation phase, institutional entrepreneurs and their networks may work simultaneously at different scales of the social-ecological system.
By intervening at broader institutional levels, they can open up new trajectories of development.

Phase 2: In the navigation phase, crossscale brokers can provide bridging functions that connect different actors operating at different scales and launch new initiatives and scale up innovations.

Phase 3: In the building resilience phase bridging organisations can create incentives and foster values for stewardship in the new context.

Source; Olsson et al. 2004, Folke et al. 2009


Stockholm Resilience Centre is a collaboration between Stockholm University and the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

Stockholm Resilience Centre
Stockholm University, Kräftriket 2B
Phone: +46 8 674 70 70

Organisation number: 202100-3062
VAT No: SE202100306201