by Sebastian Rohe and Camilla Chlebna
In transition studies, formal inter-organizational networks – ‘networking organizations’ – are considered essential for inducing socio-technical change. Yet, there is little research on how their structural composition and role evolve in advanced transitions and which tensions arise over time. We address these gaps by combining insights from network research in social and economic science with transition studies, where networking organizations are conceptualized as intermediaries and key elements of Technological Innovation Systems. We synthesize a framework capturing the evolution of and resulting tensions within networking organizations in sustainability transitions. It is applied to two regional energy networking organizations from Germany. We draw on qualitative expert interviews and a complementary social network analysis. We show that networking organizations do not necessarily stabilize once the initial technologies they were centered around become established. Instead, their member base broadens to different sectors. This can lead to tensions over the networking organizations’ scope. Tensions also arise from misalignments between ‘private’ goals of member firms and the ‘public’ goal of transforming system-level structures. Furthermore, complementary or competing networking organizations might emerge during the transition. Managers need to navigate these tensions and regularly review the networking organization’s mission to maintain its relevance in the transition process.
Cite as: Rohe S. and Chlebna C. (2021) The evolving role of networking organizations in advanced sustainability transitions. GEIST – Geography of Innovation and Sustainability Transitions, 2021(04), GEIST Working Paper series.