Wicked Problems and Urban Sustainability Transition

The aim of this project is to explore theoretically and empirically how political spaces of urban sustainability transitions (UST) may function as educative spaces. Thereby, we strive for both progressing basic research and meeting societal demands.

The project has two main research objectives;

  1. Advancing knowledge on how new political spaces of USTs can function as creative educative spaces in view of exploring and creating new possibilities for a more sustainable future; and
  2. Strengthening the theoretical and empirical basis for further capacity development and innovation regarding how to design democratic educative spaces in view of governing USTs.

The project is a collaboration between Uppsala University and Ghent University. It is a step in SWEDESD ongoing effort to co-develop a partnership between European and non-European research environments. Furthermore, SWEDESD has the ambition to enrich research environment about ‘sustainability transitions’ in relation to wicked issues and where formal and non-formal learning and education meet.

At present, there is no clear institutional accountability for wicked problems. Thus an institutional void is emerging in a decision-making context.  Facing this challenge scholars and policymakers make appeals that learning could be an important strategy to overcome these voids, i.e. that we have to "learn our way out of sustainability" towards  realising a transition for sustainability" (Finger & Asun, 2001).

Sustainability transitions are often framed as a matter of ‘learning by doing’ and ‘doing by learning’, i.e. as an outcome of experiential, experimental, transformative or social learning. Yet, research within the field of Environmental and Sustainability Education (ESE) shows the difficulties involved in learning how to deal with so called ‘wicked’ sustainability issues which do not have predetermined answers. The meaning and practical value of learning must be explored theoretically as well as empirically. With this research project we want to contribute to this ambition, striving to combine basic and societally relevant research.

  • Duration: 2017-2019
  • Partners: The project is lead by SWEDESD in close collaboration with; the Department of Political Sciences - Centre for Sustainable Development, Ghent University; the Department of Architecture and Urban Planning, Ghent University; the Department of Political Sciences - Centre for Sustainable Development, Ghent University; and the Department of Education, Uppsala University.
  • Funders: The Swedish research council FORMAS,  Department of Political Sciences - Centre for Sustainable Development, Ghent University, SWEDESD, Department of Education at Uppsala University
  • Contact Eva Friman, eva.friman@swedesd.uu.se

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Wicked problems and educative spaces for urban sustainability transition (Ghent University)