Reflexivity and Learning in System Innovation Processes

Pieter J. Beers*, Barbara van Mierlo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


In-depth insight into the relationship between reflexivity, learning and reflection is needed to enrich governance approaches for persistent sustainability issues. However, current conceptualisations of reflexivity seem limited for the understanding of system innovation processes – reflexivity remains highly abstract and often gets conflated with reflection, and, by extension, learning. In this article, we critique the concepts reflexivity and learning and then present an exploratory case-study of greenhouse vegetable production in the Netherlands to examine their relations. Results suggest a shifting compatibility between initiative and context – reflexivity alignment: the extent to which an innovation initiative shares an orientation towards structural change with its institutional setting. Furthermore, learning sometimes appeared to increase reflexivity, as often assumed, but we found evidence of the opposite as well – reflexivity changes preceding learning. Synthesising the results, we posit three archetypal modes that describe the relation between learning in and reflexivity of a system innovation initiative.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-436
JournalSociologia Ruralis
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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