Reflections from Monday parallel session “C1/C2 Transformative agency Part 1: Social-ecological transformations for sustainability”

This session pitched several speed talks followed by breakout conversations. The topics all explored various aspects of agency-related challenges of transformations. There were two sets of presentations/breakouts, which was helpful because that made it possible to have more conversations with the speakers!

Round 1
Topics ranged from shrinking villages and community innovation, to infrastructure and the transformation ‘mindset’.

  • Tobias Luthe from University of Applied Sciences HTW Chur, Switzerland, discussed a shrinking alpine town, and its journey to revitalisation through the efforts of a visionary mayor.
    • Silvia Serrao-Neumann from Griffith University, Australia, discussed disaster resilience in coastal communities in Australia, and the role of political agency and self-reliance in preparing for future threats.
    • Tuuli Hirvilammi from the University of Jyväskylä Kokkola University Consortium Chydenius, Finland, discussed eco-social innovations in the context of the search for more sustainable work and welfare models that can support social-ecological transformation.
    • Daniella Hirschfeld, Kristina Hill from the University of California, US, discussed infrastructure for climate change adaptation in San Francisco from a broader transformation perspective, and different ways of conceptualising the function of this infrastructure.
    • Samuel Mann from Otago Polytechnic, New Zealand, discussed the elements of a ‘transformation mindset’, starting from the question of “how would you see things in the world if you were a sustainable practitioner?”

The breakout sessions were vibrant, and before you knew it, it was onto the second round!

Round 2
Topics here ranged from ways of exploring one’s inner world, learning how to learn how to learn, the challenges of transitions in rural communities, food systems, and lastly, the role of academics in sustainability transformations.

  • Rebecca Freeth from Leuphana University, Germany, discussed the importance of paying attention to our ‘inner worlds’ in order to bring deeper connection to the issues we are working on, and for personal care and renewal.
  • Bruce Goldstein discussed the importance of “learning how to learn how to learn” in knowledge co-production, and the role of “netweavers” (agents working across scales).
  • Robert Summers from University of Alberta, Canada, discussed communities working to transition in Western Canada, and particular challenges of boom-bust cycles in resource-dependent communities.
  • Thomas James discussed a study building robust empirical evidence of cross-scale interactions to better understand farm-scale transformations and rigidity traps.
  • Johannes Halbe from University of Osnabrueck, Germany, discussed transformations in food systems through a case in Ontario, Canada, examining sustainability innovations in the food system.
  • Rodrigo Martinez-Peña discussed the role of academics in transformations, identifying that academics often help ‘prepare for change’ but can also play broader roles during transformation processes.


The vibrancy of the breakout sessions did not diminish second time around, and it seemed that many great conversations took place.

Your Resilience2017 correspondent:

James Patterson is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), Vrije
University Amsterdam, working in the area of environmental governance. His current research focuses on climate change adaptation in cities, with a particular focus on institutional innovation and change. He also has a keen interest in sustainability transformations, collective action, and science-policy interactions.



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