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EIRC Internal Seminar – Christof Brandtner on the Green American City

Date: Tuesday, May 10th, 2022

Time: 12:00 to 13:30

Speaker: Christof Brandtner


Professor Christof Brandtner did a brilliant presentation based on his paper “Green American City: Civic capacity and the distributed adoption of urban innovations”, which has been conditionally accepted at the American Journal of Sociology.

He received constructive feedback and congratulations from all colleagues.

Nineteen members of the Research Center attended the meeting (15 on site, 4 online), and were joined by professors Sandra Mariano and Joysi Moraes, from the Universidade Federal Fluminense (Brazil), who were visiting us for the day.


Paper title: Green American City: Civic capacity and the distributed adoption of urban innovations


Why do some cities adopt practices meant to resolve social and environmental problems faster and more extensively than others? Studies of practice diffusion among cities and states have emphasized administrative adoption by a central authority, even though a plethora of public and private organizations are actively involved in the distributed adoption of innovations. Drawing on research on organizational communities and urban governance, I argue that differences in diffusion among cities are due to nonprofit organizations that initiate ostensible solutions to social problems. In cities with greater civic capacity, organizations adopt new technologies and practices faster, which in turn encourages administrative adoption. An econometric analysis of the geographic dispersion of green construction practices and policies from 2000 to 2016 confirms that civic capacity shapes local disparities in the adoption of climate-related urban innovations. The effect is greatest early on because nonprofits are themselves early adopters of green construction. Municipal policies later legitimate green building, but they follow prior distributed adoption by individual organizations. The framework of administrative and distributed adoption contributes to understanding institutional determinants of responses to climate change, nonprofits as catalysts of urban innovation, and the consequences of urban governance on an intercity scale.

Forthcoming at the American Journal of Sociology.