The Framing of Urban Sustainability Transformations

David M. Iwaniec, Georgia State University
Elizabeth Cook, Barnard College
Olga Barbosa, Universidad de Chile
Nancy B. Grimm, Arizona State University

Originally published in:

Iwaniec, David & Cook, Elizabeth & Barbosa, Olga & Grimm, Nancy. (2019). The Framing of Urban Sustainability Transformations. Sustainability. 11. 573.


Transformational change is not always intentional. However, deliberate transformations are imperative to achieve the sustainable visions that future generations deserve. Small, unintentional tweaks will not be enough to overcome persistent and emergent urban challenges. Recent scholarship on sustainability transformations has evolved considerably, but there is no consensus on what qualifies transformational change. We describe variations in current discussions of intentional sustainability transformations in the literature and synthesize strategies from funding institutions’ recent requests for proposals for urban sustainability transformations. Research funding initiatives calling for transformational change are increasingly common and are an important driver of how transformational change is articulated in research-practice in cities. From this synthesis, we present seven criteria for transformational change that provide direction for framing and implementing transformational change initiatives.