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Amar KJR Nayak

Transition Challenges to Sustainable Community Systems: Design and Systems Perspectives

While the intent in many of our initiatives towards sustainability have been noble; inconsistencies between the intent and approaches, methods, tools, techniques and actions often make these initiatives unsustainable over time. The inherent inconsistencies and tensions there upon in the designs and lack of synergy across different sub-systems even in small communities perpetuate lock-in effects, path dependencies and greater external control than freedom leading to inequity and un-sustainability. The paper presents five critical dimensions viz., relationships, institutions, production, organization and governance for functioning of any community system. Under each dimension, critical factors are presented where characteristics of the factors at one end of the spectrum create locking-in effects, control by few, inequity and unsustainability in the long run and on the other end facilitates freedom, equity and sustainability. Figure 1 and Chart 1 at the end of the paper summarize the critical dimensions and the spectrum of each of the twenty five factors. Further, the article emphasizes that designs for sustainability need to anchor on the natural principles of interconnections and interdependence. It argues that although sustainability appears to be fuzzy, blurred and impossible; making our communities and society at large sustainable are within our collective choices on the direction of critical factors as outlined in Chart 1. Unless people in small local communities recognize these flaws and simultaneously makes efforts to unlock themselves from the various lock-in effects; our transition to sustainability will only be partial at best.