Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Papers in Innovation Studies,
Lund University, CIRCLE - Centre for Innovation Research

No 2023/2: The Transformative Capacity of Public Sector Organizations in Sustainability Transitions: A Conceptualization

Susana Borrás (), Stine Haakonsson (), René Taudal Poulsen (), Trine Pallesen (), Christian Hendriksen (), Lucas Somavilla (), Susanna Kugelberg (), Henrik Larsen () and Francesco Gerli ()
Additional contact information
Susana Borrás: Copenhagen Business School, Postal: Denmark
Stine Haakonsson: Copenhagen Business School, Postal: Denmark
René Taudal Poulsen: Copenhagen Business School, Postal: Denmark
Trine Pallesen: Copenhagen Business School, Postal: Denmark
Christian Hendriksen: Copenhagen Business School, Postal: Denmark
Lucas Somavilla: University College London, Postal: UK
Susanna Kugelberg: Copenhagen Business School, Postal: Denmark
Henrik Larsen: Copenhagen Business School, Postal: Denmark
Francesco Gerli: Copenhagen Business School, Postal: Denmark

Abstract: Although public sector organizations (such as municipalities, executive agencies, and publicly controlled utilities), are pivotal in sustainability transitions, a conceptualization of their transformative capacity is underdeveloped. Several strands of literature have started to pay attention to the concept of ‘capacity’, but these remain disjointed. Conducting a literature review, the present paper identifies variations and understudied aspects of the concept. It proposes a holistic conceptual framework based on three elements: their organizational roles, resources, and skills. Hence, the transformative capacity of a public sector organization is defined by the interaction between its purposeful enactment of various roles when exercising change agency, and by the deployment and development of its dynamic skills, when mobilizing the internal and external resources at its disposal. The framework offers the opportunity for a granular understanding of what specific combinations of those elements are at play in the implementation of highly diverse sustainability actions. This has important theoretical and empirical implications, as well as practical implications for more targeted transformative capacity-building efforts.

Keywords: sustainability transitions; eco-innovation; transformative innovation; socio-technical systems; climate; capacity; dynamic capabilities; climate; governance

JEL-codes: O31; O33; O38; Q01; Q28; Q58; Z18

Language: English

47 pages, February 22, 2023

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