A leverage points perspective on social networks to understand sustainability transformations: evidence from Southern Transylvania

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Sustainability transformations research increasingly recognizes the importance of local actors and their networks to foster fundamental societal change. Local actors have different types of relations between each other (e.g., sharing material resources, giving advice) through which they jointly intervene in different system characteristics. We conducted social network analyses of 32 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who drive initiatives to foster sustainability in Southern Transylvania, Romania. In so doing, we applied a leverage points perspective by differentiating between relations according to the system characteristic they address, such as the parameters, feedbacks, design and intent of the system. Additionally, we tested for differences of centrality metrics (i.e., weighted degree, betweenness, eigenvector) from NGOs that conduct different actions (i.e., amplification processes) to increase the impact of their sustainability initiatives. Our results reveal several NGOs that have central positions in their networks for intervening in both shallower (i.e., parameters and feedbacks) and deeper (i.e., design and intent of a system) system characteristics. We also identified NGOs that are only central for intervening in specific system characteristics. In addition, we found that specific groups of amplification processes (i.e., amplifying within and out) are associated with the NGOs’ positions in the parameters, feedbacks, and design networks. We conclude that the leverage points perspective in social network analysis has the potential to identify key actors and shed light on the attributes of local actors for intervening in shallower and deeper system characteristics to foster sustainability transformations.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSustainability Science
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)809-826
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 05.2021

Bibliographical note

Special Feature: Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformations