Transformations to Sustainability is a Belmont Forum-NORFACE Joint Research Programme


Conceptualizing transformations to sustainability today

Appeals for 'transformations' are everywhere right now - in calls for action on climate and biodiversity policy, in demands for social justice and equity, and in plans for recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Is the term in danger of becoming a buzzword, conveying urgency but used too loosely to be meaningful?

In recent weeks we've convened a series of public and internal discussions on what 'transformations to sustainability' means today, revisiting some of the thinking around transformations as synthesized in the early days of the ISC's T2S programme, looking at different approaches to understanding social transformations, and asking what 'transformative' research means in times of great disruption.

Virtual Roundtable: What does ‘transformation(s) to sustainability’ mean today?

On 4 March 2021 the T2S programme convened three leading scholars and practitioners – Ulrich Brand, Cheikh Mbow and Karen O’Brien – for a roundtable discussion of some of the critical questions for research on transformations to sustainability, including:
  • What are the minimum elements of a conceptualization of transformation (to sustainability)? What can and should we agree on?
  • How do we recognize transformation and distinguish it from other kinds of change, particularly as it is happening?
  • When is research itself transformative?
  • What if anything is the COVID-19 pandemic teaching us about ‘transformation’ and ‘transformative research’?
The discussion was moderated by Susanne Moser. Watch the recording here.

More news and opinion from the T2S community:


#Reset2021 – Maintaining Transdisciplinary Teamwork through a Pandemic

As countries around the world gear up to deal with the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gold Matters lead researcher Eleanor Fisher reflects on change to trans-disciplinary team-working through the pandemic, underlining how we need all our energy, trans-disciplinary skills, and imaginations to capture opportunities for sustainable transformation.

Read more

What does ‘transformation’ mean amid the disruption of COVID-19?

In a blog that draws on the experiences of all of the current T2S projects, programme coordinator Sarah Moore summarizes how the pandemic has changed the parameters for transdisciplinary and internationally collaborative research.

Read more.

Resources round-up: latest publications from the T2S community

Articles, book chapters, media coverage and more from the T2S programme projects and related research...

Read more

Reading and viewing recommendations from our network

Knowledge brief: Three ways of understanding social transformations to sustainability
This knowledge brief, produced by the T2S programme and based on a peer-reviewed article, provides an overview of different conceptions of transformations and their respective strengths and weaknesses.

Article: Fostering bottom-up actor coalitions for transforming complex rural territorial pathways
This article presents a perspective on rural transformations to sustainability from the TRUEPATH project in Nicaragua. It is the first article to be made available online from the forthcoming special issue of COSUST on Transformations to sustainability: critical social science perspectives. NB: the link above provides open access for a limited time only.

Article: Humility in the Anthropocene
This paper by Sheila Jasanoff looks at sites of struggle between 'human imperialism' concerned with the commodification of nature, and more humble ways of knowing and guiding humanity’s planetary future from standpoints in ethics, politics and law.

Animation: What are pathways to sustainability?
This brief video introduces the approach of the PATHWAYS network, and how it’s been used in research around the world.

The PATHWAYS network was part of the first phase of the Transformations to Sustainability programme. You can find out more about PATHWAYS and the other projects and networks formed through that phase of the programme here.

Calls and other opportunities:

INASP Online Courses: Research Writing in the Sciences (2021)
These courses are designed for researchers in developing countries working in a scientific field (life sciences / natural sciences / other related fields). They are particularly suitable for early career researchers, or those with limited experience in publishing papers in reputable peer-reviewed journals, and are free for participants:
  • 6th April to 17th May: Research Writing in the Sciences
  • 8th June to 20th July: Research Writing in the Social Sciences
  • 7th September to 2nd November: Research and Proposal Writing in the Sciences
Find out more on our website.

Sustainability: Call for papers on Transformations for a Sustainable Future
A special issue of the journal Sustainability will feature research articles, reviews, and case studies that explore transformations from various theoretical, methodological, conceptual, and geographic perspectives. Manuscripts can be submitted until 31 December 2021, and a full call is available on our website.

Global Sustainability: Call for papers on transformations
Global Sustainability, an Open Access journal dedicated to sustainability research, has recently released a call for papers for a forthcoming special collection dedicated to Transformations. The deadline for submissions is 31 March 2021, and the full call is available on our website.

Save the date: The second order draft of the chapters and the first order draft of the summary for policymakers of the IPBES sustainable use of wild species assessment will be open for external review from 15 April to 10 June 2021.

Connect with the T2S Community

Webinar series: Transformational Leadership in Sustainability
Next webinar: 14 April 2021, 20:00 – 21:30 CEST

Sustainability Research & Innovation (SRI) Congress
12-15 June 2021
In person in Brisbane, Australia, and online

Transformations 2021: Enabling Positive Tipping Points
17-18 June 2021

Symposium: Evidence for Action: Aligning the Climate and SDG Agendas, 20-22 July 2021
20-22 July 2021

Human Development and Capability Association Conference: ‘Capabilities and Transformative Institutions’
POSTPONED until 19-22 September 2022

See our website for all forthcoming events.
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