Sunday, June 29, 2008

MOPAN 2008 Conference in Boston

MOPAN (or the 15th Annual Conference on Multi-Organizational Partnerships, Alliances and Networks) took place June 25 - 27 in Boston. After two smooth flights (with a change at Dublin) a cab brought me to the surprisingly quiet and beautiful center of Boston. The Suffolk university residence provided me with a decent student room sharing the bathroom with the room next door - probably a common feature in US dorm rooms, but which carries the risk, for those who are not familiar with it, to lock each other out of the bathroom - which actually happened to me thanks to a colleague from LSE ;-). Other highlights of the conference were: spectacular views over Boston from the welcome reception on the 12th floor (see picture above); the presence of the two 'mothers' of the conference (Chris Huxham & Barbara Gray) who managed to present a joint paper despite misbooked flights and hotels; an interesting track on Intersectoral Collaborative Arrangements by Pieter Glasbergen & Mariette van Huijstee, which I could only follow partly due the overloaded conference program on Friday; interesting conversations about framing, interaction and discursive repertoires with Anna Heydenreich; taking a water taxi to the dinner at the Hyatt, with a great sight on Boston from over the water (see picture below); bringing together my formers bosses at Leuven (René Bouwen & Tharsi Taillieu) with my new boss at Wageningen (Katrien Termeer); drinking coffee at Starbucks in order to obtain, after a complicated process involving a pre-paid Starbucks card and registration with AT&T, free wireless internet access; and, of course ;-), my own presentation on "Steering system innovations" in track 5 - here's an updated abstract of our paper which is more precise than the original abstract uploaded on the MOPAN website:

Steering system innovations – a theoretical exploration of transition management

Art Dewulf, Katrien Termeer, Renate Werkman and Gerard Breeman

Transition management, as a theory of directing structural societal changes towards sustainable system innovations, has become a major topic in scientific research over the last years. In the Netherlands, the concept of transitions was adopted by several governmental agencies as one of the leading principles for ‘steering’ sustainable development. In this paper we focus on the question how transitions can be influenced or managed, in particular by governmental actors. We will address these questions by theoretically comparing transition management theory to a number of related theories on change and intervention, such as organizational change management, multi-actor collaboration, network governance, policy agenda setting, social learning and adaptive management. From this selective comparison, we argue that (1) these related theories put the managerial assumptions of transition management into perspective, by adding other steering roles and leadership mechanisms to the picture; and (2) transition management tries to overarch a lot of diversities in one theory, while we suggest an approach of theoretical multiplicity for dealing with the enormous challenge of sustainability.

As anounced by Colette Dumas, who organized the conference together with Robert DeFilippi, the full papers of the conference would be uploaded to the website as an on-line proceedings.

Next years MOPAN conference will take place in Dublin. As a thought-provoking contribution to Brendan Bartley's invitation to think about next year's conference format, here's a paper in FQS on the "Unconferencing Approach" and the "un-bla" method ...

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