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Designing transformative spaces for sustainability in social-ecological systems

Laura M. Pereira, Centre for Complex Systems in Transition, Stellenbosch University; Centre for Food Policy, City University of London
Timothy Karpouzoglou, Public Administration and Policy Group, Wageningen University & Research, The Netherlands; Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden
Niki Frantzeskaki, DRIFT, Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Per Olsson, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden


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Transformations toward sustainability have recently gained traction, triggered in part by a growing recognition of the dramatic socio-cultural, political, economic, and technological changes required to move societies toward more desirable futures in the Anthropocene. However, there is a dearth of literature that emphasizes the crucial aspects of sustainability transformations in the diverse contexts of the Global South. Contributors to this Special Feature aim to address this gap by weaving together a series of case studies that together form an important navigational tool on the “how to” as well as the “what” and the “where to” of sustainability transformations across diverse challenges, sectors, and geographies. They propose the term “transformative space” as a “safe-enough” collaborative process whereby actors invested in sustainability transformations can experiment with new mental models, ideas, and practices that can help shift social-ecological systems onto more desirable pathways. The authors also highlight the challenges posed to researchers as they become “transformative space-makers,” navigating the power dynamics inherent in these processes. Because researchers and practitioners alike are challenged to provide answers to complex and often ambiguous or incomplete questions around sustainability, the ideas, reflections and learning gathered in this Special Feature provide some guidance on new ways of engaging with the world.

Key words

Global South; sustainability; transdisciplinary; transformation; transition

Copyright © 2018 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087