What about citizens? A literature review of citizen engagement in sustainability transitions research

Suvi Huttunen, Maria Ojanen, Anna Ott, Heli Saarikoski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Public engagement is understood as a prerequisite for sustainability transitions. Yet, it has remained peripheral to the transitions research agenda and the efforts to engage citizens in transitions research remain scattered. Thus, there is a need to create a more holistic understanding of how citizens participate in knowledge co-creation for sustainability transitions. We review the sustainability transitions literature from the perspective of citizen engagement in research and provide an overview of the current situation. Overall, citizen engagement was relatively rare, and the reviewed articles remained only loosely connected to transitions approaches. We identified four key forms of citizen engagement in transitions research: (1) envisioning sustainable futures; (2) local transition implementation; (3) revealing public perceptions; and (4) developing participatory methods to facilitate transitions. These forms facilitate transitions in terms of participant empowerment and providing a broader understanding of practical circumstances. However, citizens rarely participated throughout the research process and the acknowledgement of citizens' local knowledge remained limited. There is a need to deepen citizen engagement in transitions research and more explicitly address power relations. More creative methods can better enable the active contribution of citizens. Finally, there is a need for more theoretical consideration on knowledge co-creation with citizens in sustainability transitions research.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102714
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2022
Externally publishedYes
MoEC publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • participation
  • co-creation
  • transdisciplinary research
  • citizens
  • Sustainability transition


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