Table 2. Comparison of adaptive management and transition management

Adaptive Management Transition Management
Theoretical background Resource management, ecology, resilience theory, “panarchy” theory Technology and innovation studies, complexity theory, evolutionary theory
Realm of application Socioecological systems (SES): functionally or spatially defined systems (natural parks, river basins, etc.) Sociotechnical systems (STS): arrangements providing societal functions such as energy provision, agriculture, transportation
Overall objective Adaptation
Maintain resilience of socioecological systems by increasing capacity to cope with complex dynamics
Transform existing sociotechnical systems by modulating ongoing innovation, leading to a sustainability transition
Basic assumptions Complex and coevolving systems
Constant cyclic change is taking place
Universal cycle of collapse and renewal
Complex and coevolving systems
Transitions are taking place
S-Curve as universal pattern of change
Concept of governing Experimentation and learning
Navigate through cycles of social–ecological change
Bring heterogeneous actors together to construct and test policy hypotheses
Experimentation and learning
Modulate sociotechnical dynamics (breed alternative systems)
Provide platform for frontrunners to collectively experiment and learn what works
Consideration of politics Substitute politics by trust-based collaborative learning in interaction with social–ecological system, but no design elements for how to achieve this
No systematic consideration of political contexts
Draw on institutionalized policy process for general goals, but avoid interference. Negotiations in transition arena without power and strategic interaction. Public opinion as external factor
Add-on to “normal” policy making