Practices may be defined as ‘meaningful configurations of the world in which actions take place intelligibly’ (Rouse, 1996: 135). Practices, therefore, are made up of many elements which can be grouped together as images or meanings, materials, and skills or competences (Shove and Pantzar, 2005). We can take the example of people attempting to be comfortable in the heat of summer. In this example, the image may be of coolness, meaning the ability to sleep at night and wellbeing. Materials include air conditioners, fans, light clothing, a home with shade, windows, eaves, trees and probably a mortgage or owning one’s home. Skills/competences include questions of can I afford to use the air conditioner or fans? Do I have appropriate clothing, shade, and so on? Image, materials and skills are all connected in accessing thermal comfort.
Connections can be vertical and/or horizontal. Vertically, we can distinguish three ‘levels’ (Geels, 2011):
Horizontal connections include those between local interest groups, for instance, or across regimes.
The diagram shows the points of connection between hypothetical regimes (horizontal) and practices (vertical). It is these points of connection which are important, as is a having a multiscalar perspective which considers links between niches, regimes and landscapes.
If we look at innovative practices (by local government authorities, non-government organisations and the private sector) and how they connect with other practices, we can begin to identify the critical points of connection and the potential footholds or leverage points for change.
We cannot overemphasise the importance of making new connections for disseminating ideas and practices and also of breaking old connections in terms of disrupting unsustainable, outdated ways of thinking and acting. Making and breaking connections represent provocative challenges to the status quo. They can be creative disruptors, such as reading the landscape of legislation in new ways (eg Stucco housing). They can bring missing actors into conversations (eg Griff Morris, WA, getting onto the Housing Industry Association environmental committee to ‘try to change them from the inside’). All work together differently – from regional alliances of local government authorities to departments within an authority, such as the City of Fremantle, WA, or Marrickville in the new Inner West Council, NSW.
Geels F. (2011) ‘The multi-level perspective on sustainability transitions: responses to eight criticisms’, Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, 1: 24-40.
Hargreaves T., Longhurst N. and Seyfang G. (2013) ‘Up, down, round and round: connecting regimes and practices in innovation for sustainability’, Environment and Planning A, 45: 402-420.
Hoh A. (2016) ‘Stucco students install one of Australia’s first shared solar and battery systems for apartment block’, ABC Radio Sydney, 08/12/2016.
Rouse J. (1996) Engaging Science: how to understand its practices philosophically, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY.
Shove E. and Pantzar M. (2005) ‘Consumers, producers and practices’, Journal of Consumer Culture, 5: 43-64.
Sturmberg B. (2017) ‘Get in on the ground floor: how apartments can join the solar boom’, The Conversation, 21/06/2017.