Publication series on Just Sustainability Transitions

A demonstration in a city center

Researchers across the Erasmus University are starting a collaboration to deepen, translate and connect knowledge and practice on just sustainability transitions. In this publication series, we explore the intersections of justice, sustainability and transformative change. Want to stay up to date about new publications? Sign up for our mailing list and/or follow us on Twitter or Instagram

Just sustainability transitions are processes of change that aim to improve the quality of life – of present and future generations, of all humans and other living beings – and enabling them not only to survive but also to thrive and flourish. As many living beings survive and thrive at the cost of other living beings, the systems that we are part of inevitably become a stage for fierce and deeply political power struggles over life and death.

Justice and sustainability are deeply contested ideas and cause for much academic debate. At the same time, there are countless initiatives that are implementing and experimenting with just sustainability in practice in their direct environment. From the right to housing movement to urban farming initiatives, basic income experiments and participatory budgeting, energy cooperatives and car-free streets, from local initiatives to global movements and networks, citizens across the world are searching for ways to make systems, cities and communities both more just and more sustainable. 

Purpose and form beyond academic publications 

This publication series aims to deepen, translate and connect knowledge and practice on just sustainability transitions. We strive to contribute to informed academic and public debates on (in)justice and (un)sustainability, by gathering, highlighting and celebrating the work of students, thinkers and doers across the world that strive to understand and facilitate just sustainability transitions. We aim to experiment with different forms of writing and sharing that move beyond academic journal publications, so as to make the writing more quickly accessible to a wider and more diverse audience. The formats we include are:

  • Mini-essays: short pieces (3-5 pages) that explore specific concepts, phenomena and perspectives related to just sustainability transitions and sustainable just cities. 
  • Summaries (3-6 pages) of theses, articles, reports and books: we invite researchers, practitioners and especially students to share summaries of their theses, articles, reports and/or books on issues that are relevant to just sustainability transitions 
  • Cases and databases of initiatives that are working towards just sustainability transitions and sustainable just cities. 
  • Event reports: short reports of events we organized related to just sustainability transitions and sustainable just cities.
  • Blogs and interviews: we experiment with a variety of formats, from expert interviews and mini-guides, to opinion pieces and literature reviews.

Five pressing questions on the agenda 

The publication series is fuelled by the following questions for action and action research:

  1. How do just sustainability transitions manifest in practice in cities, towns and communities across the world? 
  2. What are synergies and tensions between ecological sustainability and social justice in specific domains like energy, food, mobility and housing?
  3. How do grassroots organisations, governments and enterprises strive for just sustainability through technological and social innovation? 
  4. How do initiatives for just sustainability collaborate locally and globally in translocal networks and social movements? 
  5. How are power relations challenged and/or reproduced in just sustainability transitions?  

An international and diverse audience 

We target a wide and international audience, including researchers, students, activists, entrepreneurs, policy-makers, otherwise critical thinkers and engaged citizens who are interested in the intersections between justice, sustainability and transformative change. You can follow the publication series by signing up for our mailing list and/or follow us on Twitter or Instagram


To be announced

Down below, you can find an overview of summaries of theses, articles, reports and books related to this research

“Where do I belong?” Labour market practices of foreign-born women in the Netherlands and Sweden

Vaishali Joshi, MSc

Foreign-born women (refugee and family reunification migrants of non-EU origin) face high rates of unemployment and underemployment in the Netherlands and Sweden. In her master’s thesis, Vaishali Joshi uses concepts of ‘field’ and ‘capital’ from Bourdieu’s practice theory to understand labour market practices of foreign-born women. She shares her most important findings in this summary.

From “they don’t take me seriously” to “we like to shake things up”

Towards a Bourdieusian understanding of (non-)participation in citizens’ initiatives among less-educated citizens

Vivian Visser, Phd candidate

Citizens with less educational credentials are underrepresented in citizens’ initiatives. This essay summarizes the study that aims to understand this underrepresentation, drawing inspiration from the sociologist Bourdieu. The research shows the relevance of the concepts ‘feelings of entitlement’ and a ‘taste for politics’ for understanding different forms of (non-)participation among less-educated citizens. These insights may inspire governments and other actors on how to enhance the democratic potential of citizens’ initiatives.

Click here to download the full article

Three recommendations for translating Living Streets to your city

Isa Laurent, MSc

What if citizens, civil servants, and entrepreneurs in your city would temporarily transform their street into the social and sustainable street of their dreams? What if their Living Street would contribute to sustainable mobility, energy, or livability? The Living Street experiments originated from the city of Ghent, but have been translated into various cities across Europe. This blog aims at providing further insight into what Living Streets are, and at sharing three recommendations on how to successfully translate them to your urban context.

Click here to download the full article

Local money, local food

How community currencies can contribute to more just and sustainable food systems

Magdalena Pitzer, MSc student

It is a wild idea - and an even wilder fact - that communities can make their own money: so called community currencies. Their social and economic impacts have already been widely researched, but some questions remain. Like, how are they connecting to local food systems? And what role does their design play in this?

Click here to download the full article

Fighting from within—nudging the corporate to get things done

Franco Crudi, MSc

What if large corporations, in collaboration with other actors, could challenge the current unjust and unsustainable energy systems? In order to achieve such radical changes, technological innovations are not enough, we also need new ways of doing, thinking, and organizing, or put it simply, social innovations. 

Click here to download the full article.

Globally connected, locally embedded: translocal networks and just and sustainable transitions in mobility

Clara Glachant, PhD candidate

How does one limit car-use in cities and enable more just and sustainable forms of transportation? Governments are attempting to enforce new rules to limit the access of petrol vehicles to city centers and promote the use of electric scooters for short distances. At the same time, other initiatives facilitate new ways of thinking, doing and organizing mobility through translocal connections. This blog synthesizes some main insights of a study on the (intended) contributions of two translocal networks—The Mobility Factory and Carfree Cities Alliance— to just sustainability transitions in mobility.

Click here to download the full article.

Narratives as social innovations: how new ways of thinking can contribute to a just and sustainable energy transition

Naomi Schrandt, MSc.

It is becoming an increasingly pressing issue: where does our energy come from, what about our energy (in)security this winter, and how can we minimize climate change? It is now more important than ever to move from a fossil fuel-based energy system to a low-carbon energy system. But how do we approach this, and why is this transition so difficult? In her master's thesis, Naomi Schrandt combines transition theory and political discourse theory to understand how narratives can help break through the fossil fuel ways that complicate the transition. She shares her key findings in
this summary.

Click here to download the full article.

Transnational municipal networks and their contributions to and challenges in working on sustainable urban development

Lara Hendrikx

Sustainability is a comprehensive term and covers a wide range of approaches and ideas. It offers endless opportunities to learn and exchange. But how to organize this exchange?  Who gets a seat at the table? And how do you keep this exchange useful for all participants?

Click here to download the full article. 

To be announced

Carlotta Cataldi

Other resources


We are a group of researchers across the Erasmus University of Rotterdam that share an interest in just sustainability transitions. The publication series is organised by the Dutch Research Institute for Transitions (DRIFT) and the Vital Cities & Citizens (VCC) initiative of the Erasmus University of Rotterdam, in collaboration with several other organisations and initiatives the Erasmus School of Social and Behavioral Sciences (ESSB) and the UrbanA project on Sustainable Just Cities.

Vital Cities and Citizens

With the Erasmus Initiative Vital Cities and Citizens, Erasmus University Rotterdam wants to help improve the quality of life in cities. In vital cities, the population can achieve their life goals through education, useful work and participation in public life. The vital city is a platform for creativity and diversity, a safe meeting place for different social groups. The researchers involved focus on one of the four sub-themes:

•    Inclusive Cities and Diversity
•    Resilient Cities and People
•    Smart Cities and Communities 
•    Sustainable and Just Cities

VCC is a collaboration between Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences (ESSB), Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC) and International Institute of Social Studies (ISS).

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