the deep transitions framework

FreedomLab’s mission is to unlock society’s potential to shape an open, just and sustainable future. We believe that we can build such a future if we tackle the biggest challenges of our time: socio-economic inequality, climate change and the degradation of natural ecosystems. However, to tackle these challenges, we need a fundamental transition of our economy and society. This requires a long-term perspective and the ability to navigate conflicting social, ecological and economic values. At FreedomLab, we use the Deep Transitions Framework to develop such a long-term perspective for a just and sustainable world. The framework thus offers us a lens to look into a better future.

The current state of the world is shaped by the written and unwritten rules that have developed over 250 years of economic growth. Therefore, to stimulate a fundamental reorientation, new rules for a just and equitable world must be defined and ingrained in society. The Deep Transitions Framework encompasses seven guiding principles that, taken together, could shape a just and sustainable society and economy. The framework serves multiple purposes. First, it inspires us to think about the transformation of socio-technical systems, rather than mere incremental improvement. For example, to consider a full overhaul of the existing mobility system to something like shared mobility, instead of focusing on substituting combustion engines with electric ones. Second, the framework and its underlying principles can serve as a compass to navigate an uncertain future in which many trade-offs emerge between social, ecological and economic factors. The guiding principles help us to keep an eye on fundamental goals of systemic change.

On this page, we explain the principles, how they relate to existing rules and how they may be achieved. We also provide examples and weak signals that demonstrate the actual emergence of these principles. The guiding principles are deeply interrelated and we can also distinguish a hierarchical order between them. The emergence of a planetary consciousness (an alternative to the current anthropocentric worldview), for example, can be seen as the ultimate precondition for all of the other principles. A focus on societal wellbeing (instead of economic welfare) is a precondition for the internalization of social and ecological costs.

This framework is an elaboration on the work of Professor Johan Schot and his consortium on
Deep Transitions.
Guiding principles for a Deep Transition
Click or tap the buttons below to learn more
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Participative and inclusive governance 

Rather than having an instrumental perspective on human capital, companies and governments should ensure the entire population and all employees are represented in decision making. The community is part of the powerplay, and everyone should be taken into consideration. It is important not to focus on a one-dimensional approach to, for example, diversity. An interdisciplinary approach is key, built on a joint network of employees, employers and citizens. This can be done through active participation of stakeholders, showing vulnerable and transparent leadership, or for example making employees co-owner of the company. Also, by applying a broader and longer horizon of capital markets. 

Examples of inclusive governance in daily life:
– The rise of metamodern leadership qualities and virtues (honesty, embracing uncertainties)—new forms of leadership, shown in New Zealand, resignment of Liliane Ploumen, Barack Obama
– Employee stock programs
Quota
– KPIs on sustainability and inclusion/diversity ambitions in governments and corporates
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Transformative innovation

In the current economy, there is almost unconditional belief in technological progress. Instead of embracing technological innovation for the sake of endless progress, innovation should be transformative for society and nature. This type of transformative innovation is one of the preconditions to a circular network economy. It entails a socio-technological perspective (with an eye on technological and social aspects) at the core of (technological) innovation. The principle has a policy-based approach, where governments must stimulate innovations based on long-term societal and ecological missions (for example the energy transition). It also includes a business-approach; innovators should anticipate potential societal impact when designing a product or service. Digital tools, such as modelling and AI can play a big role in such assessments.

Examples of mission-oriented innovation in daily life:
– Dutch government investments in moonshot-like projects and transitional innovations through for example SHIFT-invest and Invest-NL
Digital twinning (for example for city planning)
– Earth system virtual mapping (Global Ecosystem Typology)
– More support for the Modern Monetary Theory
×
Internalization of social and ecological costs and benefits 

To ensure a fair and equal collaborative circular economy, social and ecological costs and benefits of production and consumption must be taken into account in any (economic) decision making. This principle goes against the current mechanism that social and ecological costs (i.e. ‘externalities’) are placed outside the valuation of products and services. However, the producer and consumer must carry responsibility for the negative effects of production processes, either through pricing or through the establishment of social norms. This can be done by including social and ecological costs into the price of products and services, but also by making supply chains transparent (for example by using blockchain technology) in order for consumers and other buyers to make informed decisions. It also begs the question whether some products should be sourced more locally, in order to lower social and ecological costs.

Examples of internalization in daily life:
Vertical farming/urban farming
– 3D-printing meat and products
– Value tokenization (United Economy)
– Zero-growth companies (Patagonia)
Natural capital inventory accounting
Local energy sourcing (renewable energy)
– Blockchain-based supply chains for transparent reporting
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A collaborative economy

We currently live in a closed economy that runs on capital-intensive and protected technologies. In a collaborative economy, knowledge and resources are made available in a network of users and developers. This happens, for instance, in the form of open-source software and intelligence, boosting the use of the sharing, renting, and other as-a-service models. Web3-related developments around blockchain and decentralized finance could play a role in this economy as well. Because of such an open economy where resources and knowledge are shared, inequality is reduced. Also, ecological damage is reduced due to optimal use of natural resources and extended use of existing products.

Examples of a network economy in daily life:
European acts and regulations covering digital markets, AI and data are being developed and implemented, also concerning data sovereignty.
– Sharing initiatives on mobility are adopted by larger corporates (Pon, Louwman, BMW)
Cryptocurrencies and Web3 protocols are on the rise
Open AI like SingularityNET
– Open public data (Estonia’s X-Road)
– GaiaX
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A circular economy

We should move from a linear economy based on resource extraction, to a circular economy based on reusing resources and renewable energy. The circular economy consists of two layers. The lower layer entails an economy that only uses renewable energy. Resources are continuously being reclaimed and reused, without the loss of economic value. On a higher level, a circular economy is a broader socio-economic paradigm wherein economy, innovation and competitiveness are reshaped, and where new business models emerge. It thus calls for a fundamentally different approach to business operations and the use of natural resources. However, it is only truly transformative if businesses and governments adopt a systemic perspective, and entire value chains are made circular. 

Examples of a circular economy in daily life:
– Increasing the share of renewable energy
– Hydrogen as a versatile and circular energy carrier (Gasunie, Northsea)
– Development of smart grids 
– Neighborhood batteries, Vehicle2Grid
Circular ambitions in The Netherlands and the EU (Nederland Circulair in 2050)
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Societal well-being
‍‍

Rather than having a one-dimensional focus on GDP and economic growth, the goal of politics and economy is to create societal wellbeing for all. Along with economic growth, other factors such as health, education, living and safety play are taken into account as well. Also, economic and societal resilience are of crucial importance to the wellbeing of future generations, even though it may come at the expense of economic growth in the short term. Societal wellbeing must play a central role in both public as private decision making.

Examples of societal wellbeing in daily life:
– Monitor Brede Welvaart from CBS is used in political debates
– Citizens Assembly (like in Ireland)
– EU trying to develop a more independent energy system through hydrogen and renewable energy
– In NL: from reactive healthcare to preventive, value-based healthcare (CZ and VGZ)
– Investment and subsidies for housing isolation and higher standards for buildings
×
A planetary perspective

Our worldview is driven by a planetary perspective instead of an anthropocentric perspective. This means that we appreciate and respect the intrinsic value of nature and the planet as a whole. This perspective puts emphasis on complex interdependencies between (eco)systems and emphasizes the need to learn from non-human beings, but also from non-Western cultures. It thus contradicts the instrumental perspective on nature in which we value human interests over the rest of the planet. The principle of planetary consciousness is ideological by nature and is difficult to enforce. It is both the ultimate precondition to other principles, as well as their result.

Examples of planetary consciousness in daily life:
– Multiple countries granted rights to nature
– Mother Nature gets a seat in the board of a soap and beauty-products producer
The planet as an emerging category
Nitrogen crisis in the Netherlands; ecological value is prioritized over economic value
Guiding princples for a deep transition
Click or tap the buttons to learn more
Preconditions:
Participative and inclusive governance
Rather than having an instrumental perspective on human capital, companies and governments should ensure the entire population and all employees are represented in decision making. The community is part of the powerplay, and everyone should be taken into consideration. It is important not to focus on a one-dimensional approach to, for example, diversity. An interdisciplinary approach is key, built on a joint network of employees, employers and citizens. This can be done through active participation of stakeholders, showing vulnerable and transparent leadership, or for example making employees co-owner of the company. Also, by applying a broader and longer horizon of capital markets.

Examples of inclusive governance in daily life:
– The rise of metamodern leadership qualities and virtues (honesty, embracing uncertainties)—new forms of leadership, shown in New Zealand, resignment of Liliane Ploumen, Barack Obama
– Employee stock programs
Quota
– KPIs on sustainability and inclusion/diversity ambitions in governments and corporates
Transformative innovation
In the current economy, there is almost unconditional belief in technological progress. Instead of embracing technological innovation for the sake of endless progress, innovation should be transformative for society and nature. This type of transformative innovation is one of the preconditions to a circular network economy. It entails a socio-technological perspective (with an eye on technological and social aspects) at the core of (technological) innovation. The principle has a policy-based approach, where governments must stimulate innovations based on long-term societal and ecological missions (for example the energy transition). It also includes a business-approach; innovators should anticipate potential societal impact when designing a product or service. Digital tools, such as modelling and AI can play a big role in such assessments.

Examples of mission-oriented innovation in daily life:
– Dutch government investments in moonshot-like projects and transitional innovations through for example SHIFT-invest and Invest-NL
Digital twinning (for example for city planning)
– Earth system virtual mapping (Global Ecosystem Typology)
– More support for the Modern Monetary Theory
Internalization of social and ecological costs and benefits
To ensure a fair and equal collaborative circular economy, social and ecological costs and benefits of production and consumption must be taken into account in any (economic) decision making. This principle goes against the current mechanism that social and ecological costs (i.e. ‘externalities’) are placed outside the valuation of products and services. However, the producer and consumer must carry responsibility for the negative effects of production processes, either through pricing or through the establishment of social norms. This can be done by including social and ecological costs into the price of products and services, but also by making supply chains transparent (for example by using blockchain technology) in order for consumers and other buyers to make informed decisions. It also begs the question whether some products should be sourced more locally, in order to lower social and ecological costs.

Examples of internalization in daily life:
Vertical farming/urban farming
– 3D-printing meat and products
– Value tokenization (United Economy)
– Zero-growth companies (Patagonia)
Natural capital inventory accounting
Local energy sourcing (renewable energy)
– Blockchain-based supply chains for transparent reporting
Result:
Collaborative economy
Rather than having an instrumental perspective on human capital, companies and governments should ensure the entire population and all employees are represented in decision making. The community is part of the powerplay, and everyone should be taken into consideration. It is important not to focus on a one-dimensional approach to, for example, diversity. An interdisciplinary approach is key, built on a joint network of employees, employers and citizens. This can be done through active participation of stakeholders, showing vulnerable and transparent leadership, or for example making employees co-owner of the company. Also, by applying a broader and longer horizon of capital markets.

Examples of inclusive governance in daily life:
– The rise of metamodern leadership qualities and virtues (honesty, embracing uncertainties)—new forms of leadership, shown in New Zealand, resignment of Liliane Ploumen, Barack Obama
– Employee stock programs
Quota
– KPIs on sustainability and inclusion/diversity ambitions in governments and corporates
Circular economy
In the current economy, there is almost unconditional belief in technological progress. Instead of embracing technological innovation for the sake of endless progress, innovation should be transformative for society and nature. This type of transformative innovation is one of the preconditions to a circular network economy. It entails a socio-technological perspective (with an eye on technological and social aspects) at the core of (technological) innovation. The principle has a policy-based approach, where governments must stimulate innovations based on long-term societal and ecological missions (for example the energy transition). It also includes a business-approach; innovators should anticipate potential societal impact when designing a product or service. Digital tools, such as modelling and AI can play a big role in such assessments.

Examples of mission-oriented innovation in daily life:
– Dutch government investments in moonshot-like projects and transitional innovations through for example SHIFT-invest and Invest-NL
Digital twinning (for example for city planning)
– Earth system virtual mapping (Global Ecosystem Typology)
– More support for the Modern Monetary Theory
Goal:
Societal well-being
Rather than having a one-dimensional focus on GDP and economic growth, the goal of politics and economy is to create societal wellbeing for all. Along with economic growth, other factors such as health, education, living and safety play are taken into account as well. Also, economic and societal resilience are of crucial importance to the wellbeing of future generations, even though it may come at the expense of economic growth in the short term. Societal wellbeing must play a central role in both public as private decision making.

Examples of societal wellbeing in daily life:
– Monitor Brede Welvaart from CBS is used in political debates
– Citizens Assembly (like in Ireland)– EU trying to develop a more independent energy system through hydrogen and renewable energy
– In NL: from reactive healthcare to preventive, value-based healthcare (CZ and VGZ)
– Investment and subsidies for housing isolation and higher standards for buildings
Worldview:
Planetary perspective
Our worldview is driven by a planetary perspective instead of an anthropocentric perspective. This means that we appreciate and respect the intrinsic value of nature and the planet as a whole. This perspective puts emphasis on complex interdependencies between (eco)systems and emphasizes the need to learn from non-human beings, but also from non-Western cultures. It thus contradicts the instrumental perspective on nature in which we value human interests over the rest of the planet. The principle of planetary consciousness is ideological by nature and is difficult to enforce. It is both the ultimate precondition to other principles, as well as their result.

Examples of planetary consciousness in daily life:
– Multiple countries granted rights to nature
– Mother Nature gets a seat in the board of a soap and beauty-products producer
The planet as an emerging category
Nitrogen crisis in the Netherlands; ecological value is prioritized over economic value