Transformations 2017:
Transformations in Practice

Centre for Environmental Change and Human Resilience (CECHR)
University of Dundee, Scotland, UK


Transformations 2017 is the third in a biennial series of international interdisciplinary conferences that focuses on transformations towards sustainability: addressing contemporary challenges and creating conditions for enhancing people’s wellbeing, today and in the future, while strengthening the Earth’s support system.

The aim of Transformations 2017 is to develop a better understanding of the practices that facilitate social and environmental transformations at local and at large scales in both developed and developing country contexts.

Transformations 2017 will bridge academic and practical knowledge to develop deeper insights into processes that enhance deliberate transformations. This will include gathering together researchers and practitioners from diverse disciplines around the world to share cutting-edge research and practices on transformations for sustainability.

Delegate List:


The overarching theme of this conference is ‘sustainability transformations in practice’.
Within that, there are six sub themes:

Transformation poses significant conceptual and existential challenges. Rapid and significant transformations are needed across social and environmental domains to address contemporary challenges such as from climate change, threats to human and ecosystem health, wider societal systemic issues like obesity and growing inequalities. This poses significant questions about what it means to transform or to have been transformed, who or what is the focus of transformation, whether deliberate transformations are feasible, whether the concept is distinct from transition, what it means to do transformation in practice, relationships between concepts like adaptation with transformation, and how holistic and integrated approaches to change can be achieved. We therefore invite conceptual and critical contributions that interrogate the meaning and nature of transformation. Work that is contextualised and/or illustrated by practical real world examples is particularly welcomed.

The field of design has moved well beyond just contributing to shaping the appearance and function of graphics and objects to helping establish methods and processes for creative problem solving and innovation. This includes contributing to the development of products and services (including public services), systems and business models as well as more strategic thinking and change management. At the heart of design is a commitment to people and their needs both now and in the future. Good design is important for helping facilitate transformations towards more sustainable economies, appropriate forms of governance, service provision, and human social behaviours and wellbeing and generating spaces for creativity. We therefore invite submissions that apply and critically reflect on the nature and role of design thinking, methods and processes for encouraging social and environmental sustainability transformations. This may be across diverse fields and sectors, such as in commercial, public and not for profit organisations; for developing new business models (e.g. circular economy approaches); encouraging innovations in relevant products and services (e.g. internet of things); enhancing social and/or collaborative innovation; and designing for people, uncertainty and anticipation, and futures.

There is a need to accelerate learning about how to more quickly facilitate significant change towards more sustainable economic and social outcomes. This challenge poses many questions such as the conditions and process that facilitate change in individuals, groups, institutions and societies; how we can speed and scale up change processes beyond just local scales; what are the inter-relations of the effects of change at one scale on other scales; how to work with systemic issues and multiple values, beliefs and perspectives; and the actions and processes needed to encourage changes in specific but different economic sectors (e.g. housing, transportation, agriculture) and in relation to different global challenges. All of these issues require a good understanding of both the conditions that enable change to happen and the actions and practices that enable change to occur. We therefore invite contributions from both academics and practitioners working in diverse fields (e.g. water, food, biodiversity, health, climate change) that provide insights about the conditions and practices involved in transformational change. Academic studies and case studies from practice are both welcomed.

Science and research both influence and are themselves influenced by the societies in which they are embedded. If transformation towards new ways of living is required to address issues like climate change, then new methodologies in the way knowledge is produced and used is also likely to be required. Such methodologies might include those that enhance linkages between research and practice; challenge traditional notions of producers and users of knowledge; or which encourage changes in wider systemic conditions in which science and research is located (e.g. the role of open access research in shaping change). This theme invites contributions that critically interrogate current knowledge production and use systems, examine wider systemic and social issues at the intersection of science, society and sustainability transformations, which outline new advances in methodologies that help contribute to sustainability transformations. Topics and fields might include participatory, action, reflexive and practice oriented research, issues around open access data and how this may be beginning to shape social change, or wider research and science-policy issues relevant to sustainability transitions. We also invite submissions that can provide radical new visions of what knowledge production and use might look like in a transformed world.

Transformation implies change towards something significantly different and new. Research and practice meetings are, however, often constrained by existing paradigms, particular ways of viewing problems, group-think or popular trends in research and practices that are most likely to be funded. This theme therefore encourages more radical contributions and insights that may, in some way, help accelerate thinking about transformation in practice. These may be unusual conceptual insights about transformation, contributions from the less than usual disciplines and fields of research that provide a different way of thinking about transformation, or contributions that provide radically new ways of looking at contemporary global and local challenges. Contributions may or may not be based on empirical studies.

Policies are deliberate systems of principles to guide decisions. They are statements of intent that are then implemented as some kind of procedure or protocol. Transformation, however, poses particular challenges for policy. On the one hand transformation implies a need for policies that may challenge existing ways of doing things. On the other hand the abstract nature of concepts like transformation and resilience make it difficult for policy makers to put such concepts into practice. This poses many policy related questions: How does transformation relate to policy? What are the implications of transformative practices for policies at different scales? In what ways can policies impede or catalyse transformative practices? How can practices that are effective in one place or context be translated or transferred to other contexts? Where are the significant policies barriers to change and transformation and what kinds of principles are needed behind policy design that might support transformation? This theme therefore invites those working on policy sectors (academics or practitioners) to provide examples of social and environmental policies that have aimed to enact significant change, that have examined or implemented policy evaluation and design, and which have studies relevant to policy development and implementation.

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