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Three important inputs ...

Additional input to the discussion was provided by three lectures.

Frank W. Geels of Manchester University presented his deliberations on "Socio-technical transitions and implications for a new growth path for Europe". His main message was that we are still in the early phases of sustainability transition, facing quite some resistance from different groups. Acceleration of this process can be possible when based mainly on local initiatives, when market mechanisms of the transition are improved and political will becomes stronger.

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Gunther Tichy of WIFO then addressed "Determinants of individual life satisfaction and societal well-being and policy implications". Tichy stressed that even if we have a carefully designed and consistent combination of instruments for the transition to a more sustainable regime, one of the trickiest problems remaining will be how to change citizens' goals and attitudes towards this change.

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And finally Janneke Plantenga of Utrecht University gave a speech on "Gender regimes in Europe". Her input concentrated on how different policy logics form gender regimes and what this means for gender equality. The lecture showed both the inconsistencies in these regimes as well as the difficulties in building a meaningful model describing the impact of policies on gender equality.

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... and one award-winning paper

And last but not least, the Feedback Conference also provided the opportunity to present our WWWforEurope Best Paper Award. Franz Fischler (Ex-EU Commissioner, President of European Forum Alpbach) presented the Best Paper Award to Frank W. Geels for the paper "The impact of the financial-economic crisis on sustainability transitions: Financial investment, governance and public discourse". Geels' paper has been published in the journal Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions.

The First WWWforEurope Feedback Conference

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First-class scientific work with a common goal

18 months have elapsed since WWWforEurope has started – time to take stock. This was done at the first WWWforEurope Feedback Conference on Sept 18th and 19th, 2013, in Vienna. The result: We do have very many and first-class results already and we are on a very good way to find common denominators: We agree that we have to measure welfare by “Beyond GDP Indicators” and that income growth is an important instrument for attaining several economic goals but in rich countries not necessarily a goal per se.

In the months to come we will use the empirical evidence and theoretical insights of this excellent scientific work already done and still going on to formulate comprehensive policy measures needed for the new development path and the envisaged socio-ecological transition. A major challenge will be to show to which extent this socio-ecological transition can work if it is the strategy of only one region in a globalised world in which other regions go into different directions.

The first WWWforEurope Feedback Conference, hosted by the Austrian Institute of Economic Research (WIFO), took place on September 18th and 19th, 2013, at the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber (WKO) in Vienna. It marked the end of the first, analytical, phase after 18 months and the beginning of the second, policy formulation, phase of the project.

The focus of the conference was on getting a clear idea of where we stand in the WWWforEurope project and what the implications of the work done so far are for the next phase.

In more detail, the aims of the conference were to determine how the plethora of outputs of the WWWforEurope project contribute to the overall project, and to explore interlinkages between the individual outputs, highlighting possible controversial and cross-cutting issues as well as trade-offs and synergies.

Participants at the conference were the project partners working in different thematic areas of the project as well as external experts and stakeholder representatives from European / international institutions, social partners, NGOs and academia. The project partners discussed their themes during the day in parallel bilateral groups: Each group tried to find synergies, common ground and remaining conflicts with one other thematic group at a time. The stakeholder representatives and experts were invited to give the external perspective on the central questions and concepts in separate focus groups.


Where do we stand in our synthesis and modelling work?

During the Feedback Conference once again it became quite evident that the socio-ecological transition we are aiming for is a very complex issue with a number of equally important sub-goals. To solve the challenges of the future (foremost the challenges of globalisation, of demographic change, of new technology and climate change) it will be important to find those policies which are mutually supportive for as many of these goals as possible. But it also became clear that we already have a wide range of scientific work to build on.
In all thematic themes of WWWforEurope (i.e. the welfare state, the environmental dimension, innovation, EU governance and regional issues) the experts working on the project have published excellent theoretical and empirical papers which provide valuable insights and best practices. Although it is understood that we need different strategies for countries at different income levels and with different unemployment rates, we all agree that welfare is a goal which goes far beyond traditional GDP measures. Therefore income growth can only be an important instrument, but is not the overriding goal for all countries.
In the coming months all these findings will have to be synthesised to develop the policy instruments needed for an inclusive, smart and ecologically sustainable growth model.
Part of the project is the development of a short and long term Dynamic New Keynesian (DYNK) model, linking GDP growth to unemployment and environmental constraints. At the Feedback Conference a first prototype was presented. During the ensuing discussion it became clear that, in line with the challenges mentioned above, the model has to be enriched by aspects of innovation, migration, demographic change and active labour market policies.

Summing Up

So, all in all, we consider the scientific work we have done so far as very important contributions to the on-going discussions inside and outside of our project. And although we already have found important synergies and common insights, we also know that we have still lots of work ahead before we really will be able to concretise and substantiate a feasible and consistent action plan for our common vision of the socio-ecological transition for Europe.

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