1.1 Literature review

The following paragraph contains a critical analysis by all team members of the required readings (Borrás&Edler, 2014; Pesch, 2015) on socio-technical systems and sustainability. Several ideas and concepts were introduced and discussed in order to be applied in our team’s vision for a sustainable accommodation system in Texel.

The notion “socio-technical and innovation system” refers to “articulated ensembles of social and technical elements which interact with each other in distinct ways, are distinguishable from their environment, have developed specific forms of collective knowledge production, knowledge utilization and innovation, and which are oriented towards specific purposes in society and economy” (Borrás&Edler, 2014). Texel’s socio-technical system though presents a distinctive feature: because of the island’s isolated position the interaction and connection with other systems or elements is almost insignificant. The natural barrier of the sea cut off the island from the mainland and led to the development of particular characteristics in all aspects of life.

According to Borrás&Edler different kinds of agents (mostly social and state organizations) are constantly trying to take advantage of an existing ST&I system’s features, by either changing it and/or by preventing change from happening. What seems more important for us is that during this process of governance of change the public sector and the private sector in conjunction are capable of providing direction and control to the society and the economy. Moreover, when a coevolution of economic, cultural, technological, ecological, and institutional developments leads to a radical, structural change of the society, we are talking about “sustainability transition”, which is the main goal of this research.

While developing the strategic plan towards changing the accommodation system In Texel towards sustainability, specific restrictions and limitations have to be taken into account. First of all, different agents (hotel or camping owners and anyone involved in the construction sector, tourist agents, permanent or seasonal inhabitants etc.) have different intentions and considerations according to what they see as desirable or non-desirable ‘change’. Finding a solution that satisfies all, may not be possible though. Moreover, governance of change, as the intentional interaction (and coordination) towards some end, should make a difference; in the end there should be some sort of transformation in a given subsystem. In addition, we have to keep in mind that this transformation will be judged by all these different actor groups and it should contribute more or less to define and solve societal problems associated with sustainability issues. Last but not least, this whole process may produce tensions between those actors; may ultimately be related to the exercise of certain forms of political power and economic dominance, reflecting actors’ differences in their ability to mobilize resources and support when influencing change (or preventing it).

For a successful proposal, we, as researchers, have to first answer the following questions:

Who and what drives the change?

How this change is influenced and by whom?

Why and how it is going to be accepted by the different agents?

The first and second questions focus on the actual action of the governance of change; specific ways and mechanisms by which agents involved in the accommodation sector will induce change in the socio-technical system of accommodate community. As Pesch states, according to the type of actors involved though, different plans of action or policy should be designed to achieve the overall aim of a sustainable accommodation system. Consequently, in those situations in which state actors are driving forces fostering change in a socio-technical system, its intentionality will be expressed in terms of political and bureaucratic strategies and public statements. Then, the local government will be our best ally.  Whereas, in situations in which societal actors drive change, that intentionality might be much more diffused and difficult to grasp. We better avoid this type of situations.  

Moreover, knowing the tools that can be used in order to change our subsystem, is of a major importance. During the literature review, specific ideas were analyzed and discussed. So, we concluded that the state-led policy is based on three basic tools: 1. correcting market failure, 2. correcting systems failure and 3. achieving certain missions/goals. The societal-led social agents’ instruments are more about the ways social agents shape and change. They include stakeholder participation, longer term developments and alternative futures, specific technological trajectories and their opportunities and risks and non-binding, voluntary arrangements such as voluntary reporting schemes or stewardship programs, voluntary self-commitments codified in professional ethics and technology specific codes of conduct.

The third questions that needs to be answered in order to proceed to a successful proposal has to do with the reasons why our system will (or will not) be accepted, and why the process of governing change will (or will not) be accepted by the Texalers. Legitimacy, at a broader point of view, has to be taken into account, because, even if outputs are supported by the majority of people on the island, the ability of the minority to accept that output still rests on the perception that the processes that defined the outcome were participative, open and transparent. Not to mention that the most effective solutions are often those that have been based on a participatory/representative process of decision-making.

From the knowledge gained by our literature review we already know that Inside a socio-technological system, technology users, producers and other stakeholders can learn about a new technology so that the process of societal uptake is smoothened. However, the process that leads from a niche to a societally implemented technology needs to be further explored during our research. A management paradigm that will aim at influencing these transitions into a sustainable direction is more than needed. Additionally, these transitions must be seen as the result of the interplay of developments in a multilevel perspective; from the place of radical inventions to the socio-technical status quo and the external factors that influence them. Last but not least, funding from external actors, guidance to the innovative activities, building of social networks by enrolling different actors and the overall planning parameters (technical design, market demand and user preferences, infrastructure requirements, organizational issues and business models, policy instruments and symbolic meanings) can contribute to the holistic approach of a sustainable solution.