A bottom-up way of building a system and changing perceptions – urban pioneers as a model for transformation for sustainability

Katri-Liisa Pulkkinen


The perceptions of the system of itself and of its environment affect the way the system acts, and change in these perceptions can have a paradigmatic effect in the behavior of the system. The study of urban pioneers shows how this kind of transformation is possible from bottom-up. The success of the urban pioneering movement grows from the ability to develop efficient and effective patterns over time from repeated trial-and-error type action, supported by “lets just do it” -kind of attitude. For the urban pioneers, the patterns have become strong especially in creating urban cultural events. The systemic action of the urban pioneers has also affected the larger panarchic cycle of the city, especially the rules, or the negative feedback loops, that maintain many of the perceptions of the system of itself. Assessing the successes of the urban pionering movement reveals that the underlying causes behind the growth of the movement include understanding the law of attraction and the importance of creating connections, but also, and in a way that has become evident over time for system formation, the many benefits of having to negotiate with the governing systems. One of the main aims of the study is to find if the lessons learned from the urban pioneers could help as a systemic model in formation of what could become a system-changing movement in sustainability. Many of the system forming behaviors and patterns of the urban pioneers were found to be worth considering for the sustainability pioneers. However, the model cannot be copied directly, as there are some differences among these two partly joined movements, and also because the sustainability movement is and will be, as it evolves, an open, dynamically emerging complex adaptive system that will create a model of its own.


Bottom-up process, complex adaptive system, dynamic emerging system, feedback loops, panarchy, perception of a system, resilience, sustainability, sustainability pioneers, transformation, urban pioneers

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Systema: connecting matter, life, culture and technology (ISSN: 2305-6991) is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal. All journal content, except where otherwise noted, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.