Final seminar: Bioenergy Governance and Sustainability: a Systems Thinking Approach

Bianca Cavicchi

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Bianca Cavicchi is a PhD Research Fellow at the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO). This seminar marks her final evaluation prior to submission of her dissertation.


Project description

This thesis investigates the development of bioenergy in two regional contexts, Emilia Romagna (Italy) and Hedmark (Norway). The goals were; first, to explore the processes of bioenergy development in both case study regions. I carried out an in-depth within-case analysis of the bioenergy systems in each region taking into consideration the feedback processes between social and environmental dynamics, and the governance structure. Governance is the regulating structure of the system and plays a key role in enabling the bioenergy system ability to simultaneously secure social and environmental sustainability. The second goal was to compare the results of the within- case analysis and shed light on the governance (or structural) leverages to the bioenergy system ability to secure social and environmental sustainability. The research questions are: “How do the bioenergy system processes unfold within Emilia Romagna and Hedmark? Why did they lead to unexpected and unintended consequences? How does the governance of bioenergy system - as its regulating structure- determine the economic, social and environmental sustainability of bioenergy development? How can we leverage the system governance to enable the sustainable development of bioenergy?

In each case study region, I focused on how the bioenergy system developed over time, i.e. on the social and environmental processes and outcomes. I looked at the outcomes of bioenergy development from the perspective of the triple bottom line sustainability. Thus, I considered them as the result of interrelated social, economic and environmental processes. To investigate these complex, interrelated and multi-level processes, I primarily used systems thinking and system dynamics, but also other conceptual frameworks such as the pathways approach, transitions governance (i.e. pathways approach, power in transition and STEPS work on sustainability transitions and social-ecological systems), adaptive governance, innovation systems and grounded innovation. Moreover, I relied on a rather unconventional approach to research which is called ‘process philosophy’. Process philosophy draws on reflexivity and critical self-reflection. By doing so, it is possible to both clarify how the environment influences the subject(s)’ understandings and values and, in turn, how these influence his (her) view of the real-world events. System dynamics helped me to combine these different perspectives and understandings, and to see how they influenced the development of bioenergy over time. The outputs of this research are three peer-reviewed and published papers, one submitted paper and a high-quality working paper.


Thesis supervisor

  • Olav Wicken


  • Kim van Oorschot (BI)
  • Vito Laterza (Agder University)

This seminar is open to everyone, and the manuscript is available upon request.


Published Nov. 14, 2018 2:13 PM - Last modified Nov. 14, 2018 2:16 PM