Modes of adaptiveness via experimentation

Dr. ir. Jonas Colen Ladeia Torrens MSc is a postdoctoral researcher at the Transforming Cities hub. He is an expert on the use and evaluation of urban, policy and societal experimentation applied to sustainability transitions. Discover more about this topic and Jonas's work on this page.

What is experimentation?

In contemporary discussions about urban sustainability, climate, and digitalisation, it is increasingly evident that urban infrastructures are expected to undergo widespread and substantial transformations. Cities around the globe have been attempting to foster innovative responses to challenges that are uncertain and ambiguous, and are increasingly reliant on urban experimentation as a crucial transformative practice for enabling transitions towards sustainability.

The sustainability transitions literature has focused on the potential for scaling up or generalising the outcomes of specific experiments or experimental settings such as urban living labs. Another strand has explored the potential for a new breed of ‘experimentalist governance’ capable of mobilising experiments on an ongoing basis to navigate challenges and continually reconfigure existing infrastructures in ‘radically incremental’ ways. However, the first wave of experimentation has revealed severe limitations due to the increased ‘projectification’ and fragmentation induced by the proliferation of small-scale and time-limited experiments.

How does experimentation relate to Jonas's research interests?

In this research, Jonas Torrens examines current efforts to institutionalise experimental governance, to learn about the underlying strategies and rationales that guide its development. This includes three elements:

  •     a critical assessment of how portfolios and ecologies for experiments are being used to redress projectification
  •     in-depth case studies of strategies for embedding or institutionalising experimentation in Amsterdam, Utrecht, and Toronto
  •     a survey of the dilemmas, contradictions and tensions that proponents of innovations encounter when they are pressured to institutionalise.

This research aims to contribute empirically-grounded insights to the current debates about the avenues for increasing the transformative potential of experimentation.


Interested in more of Jonas's work? Click this drop-down bar for a list of his publications.