Critical social science perspectives on transformations to sustainability – emerging framings and approaches

Akriti Jain shares an insight into how critical social science perspectives can help advance knowledge for transformations to sustainability.

This blog relates to the forthcoming session at the Sustainability Research & Innovation Congress (SRI2021), Critical social science perspectives on transformations to sustainability – emerging framings and approaches, which takes place at 11:00 am CEST on Monday June 14, 2021. Find out more and register now.

Are sustainability transitions as straightforward and faster as any other technological transitions in the past? Can we solve the critical problems of climate change and social sustainability through mere technological interventions? What role do the social science and humanities play in the acceleration of sustainability transitions?

The session on critical social science perspectives on transformations to sustainability on 14 June 2021 will discuss some of these vital questions by engaging with six out of twelve research teams from the Belmont Forum–NORFACE Transformations to Sustainability Programme.

The discussion will highlight the need to integrate the scientific facts with critical social, cultural, political, and economic fabric and co-design and co-produce knowledge with critical stakeholders of sustainability transitions. Such integration can enable more democratic engagement in the transition process.

The speakers of the session will provide a rich collection of collaborative approaches adopted to understand complex social phenomena and issues related to mining (GOLD MATTERS), urban water dynamics (H2O-T2S), intellectual property (IPACST), forest management (AGENTS), wildlife conservation (CON-VIVA), and energy systems (GoST).

The discussants will bring to the table that sustainable technological solutions can quickly become debt for marginal communities if deployed in isolation, without understanding their nexus with appropriate financing, training, infrastructure, land features, and other social and environmental issues with it.

Taking learnings from the IPACST project, I will highlight that sustainable technological solutions are coupled with intellectual property rights (IPRs) issues. IPRs provide an economic stimulus to inventors but sometimes contradict open innovation and decentralization. Thus, they may sometimes restrict technological diffusion. I will emphasize the need to relook at the current IP strategies adopted for sustainable technologies by technology providers to facilitate a systematic shift in the production-consumption system.

Finally, the session will bring together critical insights from collaborative projects emphasizing the need for long-term “human” and interdisciplinary solutions to transformations to sustainability perspective.

Akriti Jain

Dr Akriti Jain is a postdoctoral Fellow at the Indian Institute of Science, and part of the project team for the Transformations to Sustainability Intellectual Property in Sustainability Transitions (IPACST) project.