Three ways of understanding social transformations to sustainability

A Transformations to Sustainability knowledge brief.

Zhangbei Windpower project

The enormity, complexity and urgency of the global targets enshrined in the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are widely acknowledged. However, even with calls for transformations to sustainability resounding around the globe, it is often not clear what should be transformed, by and for whom, and how. There are considerable gaps in our understanding of how knowledge about transformation can inform intentional change towards environmentally sustainable and socially just goals. The scientific literature points to three main ways of conceptualizing and approaching research and action towards transformations to sustainability, which can be described as: (1) structural, (2) systemic and (3) enabling. Research on and efforts to achieve transformations to sustainability can draw on the strengths of these contrasting but complementary approaches.

This Knowledge Brief, published by the Transformations to Sustainability programme, is based on a peer-reviewed article that provides an overview of different conceptions of transformations and their respective strengths and weaknesses. It features knowledge from the PATHWAYS network, which was part on the first phase of the Transformations to Sustainability programme.

It is part of a series of knowledge briefs which synthesize findings from recent research papers on transformations into an accessible format, with the aim of opening up the latest transformations research to a wider audience.


Three ways of understanding social transformations to sustainability


Header photo: Asian Development Bank via Flickr.

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