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Persistent problems plague the systems of society. If you know how the systems work, can you hack them and transition them to be more sustainable, liveable, resilient? Is it better for outsiders – not part of the systems – to do the hacking?
Energy, food, healthcare, transport and even cities as such. All of them complex systems, plagued by problems tied up with the very structures of those systems making them unsustainable, expensive, vulnerable or unfair. So perhaps it is not about improving the existing, but about transitioning to something better. Innovation at the societal level.
So what will you be hacking? You will design an intervention to address a real-life persistent problem. You will have to show that your hack will make a difference. To do that, you need to understand how your system works and how your intervention contributes to a transition – towards a better system. Once you are there you will have to be able to explain it to a policy maker or those in a position to implement your hack. If you can implement it yourself, even better, then explain how you will do it.
This subject is about how transitions work and how to make them happen. We know they happened in the past, but can we make them happen in the future? The challenges are great. The systems we talk about are large, powerful and have many stakeholders. Can we transition to renewable energy at large? How about truly resilient cities? Patient-centred health care? Is it better to change them from within or from the outside in? This subject will introduce you to the interdisciplinary field of sustainability transitions studies. You will learn how to analyse persistent problems and how they relate to the structures of societal systems. You will learn to analyse these systems themselves and be able to understand complex transitions dynamics. Based upon these system-analytic skills, the course will introduce you to approaches to organise societal processes of engendering and managing transformative change.
This intensive elective will be 10 days of hard work – 2 hour lectures and 2 hour tutorials. Some days will have guest lecturers working on, or otherwise experts in, transitions and persistent problems. Half of the assessment will be individual and half will be group-based work. The assessments carefully build up towards a total report – each subsequently written assignment throughout the subject becomes a section. Ideas and content for each next written group assignment will be presented to everyone to provide feedback so all groups will be well prepared for the writing. The final, total report is due a week after the intensive ends but the work in the tutorials should make that deliverable easy to meet.
Intended learning outcomes
Students who successfully completed this subject will be able to:
- Convey a good overview of the sustainability transitions research field and its theories and frameworks;
- Analyse persistent societal problems and wicked problems as part of the systems in which they appear;
- Articulate what transformative change entails, both conceptually and in the context of a real-world case
- Explain the consequences of complexity, non-linearity and uncertainty for understanding and managing transformative change processes;
- Conduct systems analyses and apply the relevant transitions concepts and frameworks;
- Prepare a policy brief and implementation plan for an intervention addressing a persistent problem.
- Critical thinking;
- Communication skills for written and oral presentation;
- Problem solving and analytical skills;
Last updated: 30 October 2023