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How Hard Can it Be to Change Practices?
A sustainability transitions and social practices approach to designing real-life interventions.

By: Margit Keller and Triin Vihalemm (both: University of Tartu)

Session type: Multiple sessions, Graduate level, Small/Medium/Large size


  • Social practice theory

  • Multi-level perspectives

  • Socio-technical systems

  • Social change


Introduction to the teaching example:

The key objective of this activity is for students to comprehend change as including more than just personal accountability or technical solutions. A conceptual paradigm (social practice approach and multi-level perspective ) based on sustainability transition theories is used for this. Students must be able to identify a societal issue, define their goals, create an intervention, and assess the possible effects of their suggested social change proposal. 


Students are invited to identify a societal issue and establish groups at the outset. Subject areas are not restricted; each group is free to choose whichever topic they find most intriguing. During seminars, themes are examined and a wide variety of possible subjects are discussed with groups of students.


The groups then undertake ethnographic and desk research, as well as conduct expert interviews to better comprehend the challenges after they have been chosen. They must examine the issues in terms of social behaviors that need to shift in order to address them and embed them inside socio-technical systems (such as food, energy, mobility, social welfare, public health, etc.). The latter can include things like utilizing recyclable packaging for takeout food, providing online instruction for kids living abroad, or re-entering the labor force for the elderly. Finally, students consider potential interventions that can help to induce these shifts and promote more sustainable consumption.

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