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The Transformations to Sustainability programme (2014–2022) 

Status: Completed
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The international Transformations to Sustainability (T2S) programme supported pioneering, international transdisciplinary research on the social dimensions of environmental change and sustainability.

Background  

The T2S programme ended in December 2022 after nine challenging and rewarding years. The programme, launched in January 2014 by the International Social Science Council (ISSC, one of the predecessors of the International Science Council) with financing from the Swedish International Cooperation Agency (Sida), emerged from an effort to create a research programme that would enable the social sciences to make their much-needed contribution to sustainability science. The T2S programme was a milestone in the history of international science and is still one of the most significant manifestations of international, interdisciplinary collaboration between the natural and social sciences on sustainability.  

The programme had two phases. The first, from 2014 to 2019, funded 38 seed grants and three major ‘Transformative Knowledge Networks’. In the second, from 2018 to 2022, the ISC, still with support from Sida, partnered with the Belmont Forum and NORFACE to fund 12 international research projects, benefitting from top-up funding from the European Commission that made for a hugely significant step up in scale and scope for social science research cooperation and leadership in the domain of sustainability.  

The 15 projects tackled a wide range of socio-environmental problems in diverse sites all over the world, with a variety of conceptual and methodological approaches. What they had in common was the social framing of the problems and potential solutions, the deep involvement of non-academic partners, and the effort to understand and facilitate processes of social change towards more sustainable and socially just situations.  

Altogether, about 370 people had core roles in the projects in many dozens of sites across more than 35 countries. About 180 project members were based in countries of the Global South. Several thousands more were involved in various ways in participatory forms of research. The projects were prolific, producing in total more than 400 academic publications, including three cross-project special issues, and many non-academic and multi-media outputs. All of the projects produced impressive outcomes over their lifespans, under difficult conditions, and more can be expected in the coming years as the seeds planted by the projects mature and eventually come to fruition. 

In sum, the T2S programme increased social science leadership capacity and provided a platform for social scientists from the Global South to play leading roles in international, transdisciplinary sustainability research. The programme helped to change the status of the social sciences in sustainability science and to shift the locus of responses to unsustainability from the technical to the social, political and economic.  


Summarizing ten years’ of learning from transdisciplinary research on social transformations to sustainability 

What we learned from three major international projects about the origins, dynamics and scaling of social transformations, and about the role of science in social transformations, is synthesized in the following report: 

Transformative Labour: The Hidden (and Not-So-Hidden) Work of Transformations to Sustainability. Integrative Insights from Three Transformative Knowledge Networks.

Moser, S. 2024. Transformative Labour: The Hidden (and Not-So-Hidden) Work of Transformations to Sustainability. Integrative Insights from Three Transformative Knowledge Networks. International Science Council. DOI: 10.24948/2024.04   


What we learned from 12 major international projects about transformative responses to contemporary challenges in governance, economy and wellbeing, and in transdisciplinary research approaches, is synthesized in the following report:

Social Transformations to Sustainability through a Critical Lens: Integrative insights from twelve research projects funded under the Transformations to Sustainability research programme.

Moser, S. 2024. Social Transformations to Sustainability through a Critical Lens: Integrative insights from twelve research projects funded under the Transformations to Sustainability research programme. Belmont Forum, International Science Council, NORFACE. DOI: 10.24948/2024.03


What we learned, from nine years of coordination of two research programmes, about how (and how not) to design international research programmes to advance transdisciplinary, transformative research for sustainability, is synthesized in the following report: 

Programme Design for Transformations to Sustainability Research: A Comparative Analysis of the Design of Two Research Programmes on Transformations to Sustainability.

Mukute, M., Colvin, J., Burt, J. 2024. Programme Design for Transformations to Sustainability Research: A Comparative Analysis of the Design of Two Research Programmes on Transformations to Sustainability. Belmont Forum, International Science Council, NORFACE. DOI: 10.24948/2024.02  


Featured publications

Knowledge briefs and blogs

News & Events View all

blog
12 July 2024 - 10 min read

What we learned about social transformations to sustainability from a decade of transdisciplinary research

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“You can’t just plunk in renewables and call it a sustainable solution”

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Photo: Matthew Williams-Ellis blog
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Agents of change: Spotlight on place-based sustainability initiatives in the Amazon

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Project team

Sarah Moore

Sarah Moore

Operations Director

International Science Council

Sarah Moore

Publications View all

publications
12 July 2024

Synthesis of the Transformations to Sustainability programme

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Caño Martin Peña © Doel Vázquez publications
31 January 2022

The transformative potential of managed retreat in the face of rising sea levels

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publications
18 May 2021

Finding common ground in transformative sustainability narratives

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