A collaborative vision and pathways for transforming academia

By The Care Operative and “Transforming Academia” workshop participants at 2021 International Transdisciplinarity Conference

Author biographies

What do we want academia to be like in 2050? Is academia on the right track? What will it take to agree on and realize a joint vision that can steer life in science towards a more sustainable and agreeable place to work, to learn, to share and to appreciate knowledge?

The issues raised here are based on a workshop with more than 40 participants at the International Transdisciplinarity Conference 2021. The discussion was initiated and hosted by the Careoperative, a leadership collective motivated to explore, embody and pollinate transformational sustainability and transdisciplinary research.

Careoperative’s discussion springboard

As a starting point for the discussion, Careoperative members shared ideas on how the current academic system discourages the kinds of leadership required for sustainability transformations (Care et al. 2021).

Academia currently focuses on output-based metrics and internationally-mobile careers that favour individuals who have the opportunity, privilege, and ability to pursue prestige. As such, academia rewards and promotes personal excellence within specific disciplines.

The Careoperative has proposed and sought to model an alternative set of practices that embody a new model of collective leadership, one that embraces critical reflection, inclusivity and care. Most notably, the Careoperative approach includes fundamental changes in the structure of academia:

  • from metrics- to merits-based rewards,
  • from a focus on career to care, and
  • from discipline-bounded to inter- and trans-disciplinary research.

For broader change to happen, academic organisations need to reorient their training programs, work ethic, and reward systems to encourage collective excellence. Such organisations also need to allow space for future leaders to develop and enact radically reimagined visions of how to lead as a collective with care for people and the planet.

A vision for academia in 2050

During the workshop, an invited panel offered diverse perspectives of the academic system; as funders (Jeroen Guerts), institute leaders (Gabriele Bammer, Thomas Breu), a centre researcher (Øyvind Paasche), and a mid-career researcher (Jessica Cockburn). A lively discussion with participants and Careoperative members built on these perspectives, proposing that a transformed academia in 2050 requires progress towards the following:

  • Transdisciplinary science is valued on equal terms with monodisciplinary science; transdisciplinary scientists are recognized for their skills, practice, and community of practice.
  • Porous boundaries and movement in and out of academia allow for more “real world” experiences to shape and advance academic practice.
  • Entry into and progress through academic careers is characterised by accessibility, diversity and transparency, with decisions made fairly.
  • Cooperation and team science are the norm. The myth of the lone individual who creates knowledge and succeeds purely on their own merits is a thing of the past.
  • Research questions are not determined solely within academia or by academics working alone, but collectively with a diverse range of societal actors.
  • 1) Scientific rigour, 2) societal impact and engagement, and 3) care towards self and others are equally valued. In all three, quality of contribution is valued over quantity of output.

How can we move towards this future?

Steps to move towards these aspirations, on a personal scale and more systemically, include:

  • Taking inspiration from the spekboom plant (Portulacaria afra) by creating nourishing and enabling environments through and around immediate relationships (including supervision) to provide inclusive spaces for multiple voices and approaches, also envisioned as microhabitats.
  • Initiating and encouraging bottom-up initiatives.
  • Undertaking research on research practice itself.
  • Seeking novel funding arrangements.
  • Doing less, better. Avoiding redundant publications by encouraging more reading and careful editorial work as well as evaluating academic contributions based on quality not quantity.
  • Developing and disseminating innovations to explain different team member contributions, such as narrative CVs (curriculum vitae).

Transformational change will also require connection and alignment across hierarchies and sectors within academia, including:

  • Forming multi-actor consortia and long-term networks.
  • Enabling dialogues between universities and funders.
  • Developing an equivalent to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) focused on academia, perhaps an International Panel for Academic Change (IPAC).
  • Agreeing on a direction before we set sail.


Radically redesigning academia raises several practical and logistical issues, including:

  • much has already been said and written about the need for better versions of academia. Given their limited impact, what can we add? We need to acknowledge and credit previous efforts in addressing transformation of academia, and examine why they have not achieved significant change.
  • conversations like those on the panel are inevitably limited by engaging only those who already agree with the message. We struggle to influence those who disagree or reach those who have not yet heard or choose not to listen, including those with powerful interests in maintaining the status quo. We need to start having conversations with those who appear to be happy with the status quo and see where our vision for the future may connect with theirs.
  • instigating change takes time. Ways of doing things have become so normalized within the dominant academic culture that they often go unquestioned. We need to free ourselves from more peripheral tasks (eg., those related to administration) to be able to devote more time to shaping transformation. This will allow us to start looking for answers, engaging in dialogue, and focus on why transformational change is important.
  • creating and maintaining alliances is central to many of the actions key to shaping change that we would like to invest in. Such alliances are both in and out of academia, and between different parts of the globe. We will be stronger if we connect with groups and initiatives with similar aspirations, for example, action researchers and artists, to strengthen our collective activities. Creating a stronger international presence might be achieved by creating a network between individuals and groups working to transform academia to make it a more caring place. This requires a strong sense of community and collective energy to keep such a network strong and to drive positive change.
  • funders and others may be using “transdisciplinarity” because it is a buzzword, without a full understanding or proper evaluation of the kind of research it encompasses. Effective evaluation needs to include a focus on the defining aspects of transdisciplinarity. It also needs to consider that not all outputs are measurable, especially when research questions are defined in collaboration with societal actors.

Next steps

A useful first step is to gather relevant materials and initiatives so that, collectively, we can learn and begin to improve our practices, centring care in our own work, thereby enabling the future we envision. We list the references we are aware of immediately below.

What do you think of the proposed ideas? Are there additional issues to take into consideration for transforming academia? How do we find those with an appetite for change and ready to work for it? What do you think the next steps should be?

Resources that provide different entry points to transforming academia


Care, O., M. J. Bernstein, M. Chapman, I. Diaz Reviriego, G. Dressler, M. R. Felipe-Lucia, C. Friis, et al. 2021. “Creating Leadership Collectives for Sustainability Transformations.” Sustainability Science, 16 (March) 703-708. (Online) (DOI): https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-021-00909-y

Author biographies:.

The combined image of all the authors (JPEG 161KB) can also be opened via this link.

Top row: The Care Operative (group photo)
Second row (left to right): Julie G. Zähringer, Hannah Pitt, Maria L. Kernecker, Sonia Graham
Third row (left to right): Michael J. Bernstein, Øyvind Paasche, Jessica Cockburn, Thomas Breu
Second last row (left to right): Gabriele Bammer, Markus Szaguhn, Giulia Sonetti, Niko Schäpke
Last row (left to right): Sara Mynott, Ulrike Kuchner, Livia Fritz

The Care Operative (members listed alphabetically, *denotes authors most involved in the development of this blog post, their biographies are listed below; biographies of other Care Operative members can be found at https://i2insights.org/2020/06/16/caring-online-workshops/:
Michael J. Bernstein*, Mollie Chapman, Isabel Díaz-Reviriego, Gunnar Dressler, Maria Felipe-Lucia, Cecilie Friis, Sonia Graham*, Hendrik Haenke, L. Jamila Haider, Mónica Hernández Morcillo, Harry Hoffmann, Maria L. Kernecker*, Poppy Nicol, Concepción Piñeiro, Hannah Pitt*, Caroline Schill, Verena Seufert, Kesheng Shu, Vivian Valencia, Julie G. Zaehringer*

Biography: Julie G. Zaehringer PhD is Assistant Professor for Land Systems and Sustainability Transformation with the Wyss Academy for Nature, Centre for Development and Environment, and the Institute of Geography at the University of Bern, Switzerland. She is conducting transdisciplinary research to identify options that help to mitigate trade-offs between different land uses for sustainable development along tropical forest frontiers.

Biography: Hannah Pitt PhD is a Lecturer in Environmental Geography at Cardiff University, UK. Her work focuses on knowledge and skills in food production, and takes a particular interest in relationships between people and plants.

Biography: Maria Kernecker PhD is a researcher at the Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research in Müncheberg, Germany. She explores how biodiversity conservation and agriculture can be integrated at field and landscape scale using social-ecological and transdisciplinary approaches.

Biography: Sonia Graham PhD is a DECRA Research Fellow in the School of Geography and Sustainable Communities, University of Wollongong, Australia. She is a human geographer who investigates environmental collective action, justice, and values in the context of climate adaptation and invasive species management.

Biography: Michael J. Bernstein PhD is a Scientist in the Center for Innovation Systems and Policy at the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, GmbH and an Assistant Research Professor at the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at Arizona State University, USA. He applies descriptive and participatory social science research methods to align research and innovation with long-term societal interests, like sustainability.

Biography: Øyvind Paasche PhD is the Head of Innovation at Climate Futures, and a Senior Scientist with the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Change and NORCE Norwegian Research Centre in Bergen, Norway. He has a long-term interest in climate variability and how scientific information is handled, understood, and used by stakeholders and policymakers.

Biography: Jessica Cockburn PhD is a Lecturer in Environmental Science at Rhodes University, Makhanda, Eastern Cape, South Africa. Her work focuses on multistakeholder collaboration for integrated landscape management. She is particularly interested in transdisciplinary approaches, and the experiences of early-career researchers in sustainability science.

Biography: Thomas Breu PhD is Professor for Sustainable Development and Director of the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) at the University of Bern, Switzerland. His research focuses on the effects of globalization on natural resources and the livelihoods of rural populations in developing countries.

Biography: Gabriele Bammer PhD is Professor of Integration and Implementation Sciences (i2S) at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the Australian National University in Canberra. She is developing the new discipline of Integration and Implementation Sciences to improve research strengths for tackling complex real-world problems through synthesis of disciplinary and stakeholder knowledge, understanding and managing diverse unknowns, and providing integrated research support for policy and practice change.

Biography: Markus Szaguhn is a doctoral candidate in Sociology at the KIT Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany and is interested in transformative sustainability science, transdisciplinary real-world-labs and education for sustainable development.

Biography: Giulia Sonetti PhD is a transdisciplinary researcher at CENSE – Center for Environmental and Sustainability Research in Lisbon, Portugal, and fellow at the Postdoc Academy for Transformational Leadership funded by the Robert Bosch Stiftung Foundation. She is currently principal investigator of the research project “TrUST – Transdisciplinarity for Urban Sustainability Transition”.

Biography: Niko Schäpke PhD is an assistant professor at the University of Freiburg, Germany. He is an interdisciplinary social scientist interested in the governance of sustainability transformations. His research focus is on settings and methods of transdisciplinary and action-oriented sustainability science as well as dynamics of human agency and spaces for societal learning and change.

Biography: Sara Mynott PhD is an interdisciplinary marine scientist, driven by a desire to understand human impacts on marine systems and how we might mitigate them to produce the best outcomes for society and the environment. She is a Knowledge Broker and Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Victoria in Canada and is also affiliated with the Centre for Marine Socioecology at the University of Tasmania in Australia.

Biography: Ulrike Kuchner PhD is an astronomer artist, curator and creative producer both in astronomy and in the inter- and transdisciplinary context of ArtScience. As an astronomer, she is a research fellow at the University of Nottingham in the UK. As an artist and interdisciplinary researcher, she joins interdisciplinary creative process of other art-scientists and science-artists as curator, mentor and coordinator of the SEADS network (Space Ecology Art and Design) to integrate different approaches and knowledge systems.

Biography: Livia Fritz PhD is a postdoctoral researcher at the Laboratory on Human-Environment Relations in Urban Systems at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne. As a social scientist in an interdisciplinary environment, she explores how social theories can support us in making sense of what happens within science-policy-society systems and in identifying levers for improving these complex interfaces for sustainability governance.

11 thoughts on “A collaborative vision and pathways for transforming academia”

  1. Comments copied from LinkedIn

    1) Olivia Bina (comment to Giulia Sonetti)
    Dear all, the tension between changing what is there or building from scratch is also underpinning all sustainability dilemmas. And the jury is “stuck”. Lots of resistance to all options. And as we see in the real World of sustainability, the price of resistance is paid by the 99% Academia is, in my experience, just a reflection of the same struggle. And, as we write here, source of some of these problems. We have a lot of work to do! https://doi.org/10.1080/00139157.2020.1764286

    2) Maria García Alvarez (comment to Giulia Sonetti)
    I believe the problem of moving towards this type of collaborative academia settings will take loads of time. I believe we will may need to build new systems, maybe rebuilding is not enough. We cannot move to transdisciplinarity if the learning context is still teacher or student centred as it is now. We need to move to higher learning orders, world center, curricula moving from competence and learning outcome based towards conciousness based. We need to rethink decision making in the university setting. Universities are hierarchical and in the decission making goes most of the money, when the managers are more and more distanced from education itself. Higher education educators, lecturers are still trained and hired on discipline bases and they have no training whatsoever in pedagogical skills or how to create contexts for learning, how can we even ask them to create spaces for transformative learning. I believe we need to start building new academia hoping students will choose for those new formats and then wait for the existing ones to dissappear. That is at least how I perceive the situation.

    3) Marilyn Mehlmann (comment to Giulia Sonetti)
    I believe and hope that many academics are like birch buds afraid of unfurling into a cold world, just waiting for the touch of spring. May your article be a harbinger of that spring, Giulia.

  2. Thank you for this post.
    What do we want academia to be like in 2050? Is academia on the right track?
    These are global issues that give you goosebumps! The people who ask these questions and try to answer them are admirable! However, these ideas can be reinforced by answers to the questions asked by the authors of the post:

    1. Are there additional issues to take into consideration for transforming academia?

    There are additional issues that need to be taken into account when transforming academia. First of all, it is necessary to conduct a risk analysis of the proposed reform of the academy. This risk analysis should take into account the answers to the fundamental questions:
    – is the idea of transforming the academy timely;
    – what is the substantive basis for the transformation of the academy;
    – how deep should the transformation of the academy be;
    – will the theory of scientific knowledge benefit from the transformation of the academy;
    – how deep can the negative consequences for theoretical and practical science from the reform of the academy be;
    – on what theoretical, conceptual and methodological basis should the transformation of the academy be carried out;
    – when it is necessary to start the transformation process of the academy in order to get the expected results of the transformation of the academy, etc.

    2. What do you think of the proposed ideas?

    The ideas are great! However, a few comments can be made. The authors of the post are the bearers of a well-formed scientific worldview. The fact that they were able to identify the shortcomings of the academy indicates that they studied very well at universities. Simply put, the academy has shaped our scientific worldview. The horizon of this worldview can be expanded. But, this worldview must first be formed. The formation of a scientific worldview is the main task of the academy. The formation of the structure of scientific research is the main task of the academy. Protecting science from profanation is the main task of the academy.
    Most teachers can be woken up at night and asked to give a lecture on their subject – they will do it without difficulty. An academic scientist can be woken up at night and asked about the structure of academic scientific research – and s/he will tell about this structure without difficulty. What kind of reasoning should be used to make academic teachers and scientists want to leave their own psychological comfort zone during the transformation of the academy?

    Philosophers say that when a global problem is divided into many small issues, the illusion arises that this problem is being solved. But – this is an illusion. It just raises a lot of unsolvable questions. My colleagues and I in systemic transdisciplinarity have been thinking a lot about these issues. Perhaps some colleagues will be interested to hear the answers. These answers can justify the next steps.

    • Thanks for your comment Vladimir!

      It’s a really important question: “What kind of reasoning should be used to make academic teachers and scientists want to leave their own psychological comfort zone during the transformation of the academy?”

      This is something I’m often stuck with: are the changes that we are suggesting too small, based on a worldview born within the academy. Do we lack an ontological foundation for our ideas to have truly revolutionary or transformative power? One great idea is to involve more indigenous and alternative worldviews in the academy. The Careoperative is under-represented in this regard – and we’ve recently submitted some proposals to improve our inclusivity though involving a greater diversity of scholars (e.g. from BIPOC+, LGBQTIA+, neurodiversities and diverse career stages).
      [Editor: BIPOC+ stands for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, Plus others with complicated relationships with their race; LGBQTIA+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer, Transgender, Intersex, Asexual, Plus others not represented by this acronym.]

      Arguably, we (the Careoperative, and/or authors of this blog) are also fairly successful academics, since we continue to exist. So we are ticking enough of the necessary boxes to be successful in the academy, and hope to change the system from within, incrementally. A good example is funding: if we are revolutionary in our funding proposals then maybe we’ll never get funded (so far we don’t have a great success rate) and will cease to exist and therefore be unable to change the system…

      You also argue that large problems divided into small issues creates an illusion of change when it actually just leaves unsolvable questions. I’d argue though that “you matter more than you think” as Karen O’Brien writes about in her new book on transformative change drawing on quantum explanations of transformations. So it’s not about dividing the problem, but rather selecting one’s actions and practices in a sphere of influence.

      Who do you think is best positioned to transform academia, and how?

      • Jamila, thank you for the question.
        You write that one of the great ideas is to attract more indigenous and alternative worldviews to the academy, as well as many different scientists. At first glance, this is a good idea. However, this idea has objective disadvantages.

        The reasons for these shortcomings are described:
        – remarks of philosophers:
        If you collect nine pregnant women, the baby will still not be born in one month.
        – facilitators’ remarks:
        One category of systems complexity pertains to the barriers to transdisciplinary integration arising from interpersonal interactions in transdisciplinary team-based contexts called interactive systems complexities. Interactive systems challenges to transdisciplinary integration include perceived inequitable contributions to the project, unbalanced problem ownership, discontinuous participation, fear of failure, variability in communication types and skills, overall lack of participant satisfaction with the project processes and outcomes, among others. Structural systems complexities, on the other hand, are barriers to transdisciplinary integration that arise from characteristics inherent to the makeup of teams. These include differences in foundational training among team members, diverse and changing career paths, geographic dispersion, a lack of awareness of the breadth and complexity of the problem, perceived insufficient legitimacy of a team to solve the problem, conflicting methodological standards, conflicting epistemological and ontological orientations, and differing levels of transdisciplinary orientation among team members. (Lotrecchiano, G. R., & Misra, S. (2018). Transdisciplinary knowledge producing teams: Toward a complex systems perspective. Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline, 21, 52-53. https://doi.org/10.28945/4086).

        With such shortcomings, we will inevitably lose to the academy. Sooner or later, we will finally be declared marginals.
        In such a situation, I suggest thinking about a new idea that will eliminate these shortcomings. The essence of this idea may be as follows. We have to show the academy the obvious:

        – transdisciplinarity is the result of the natural development of interdisciplinary interactions, the inevitable result of the development of the academy itself.
        – the term “natural development” implies the preservation of the structure of the academy, the structure of academic disciplines and knowledge.
        – the term “transformation of the academy” does not mean the transformation of a “nasty academic caterpillar” into a “beautiful transdisciplinary butterfly”. Transformation can mean, for example, the transformation of the front pair of legs of this caterpillar into a pair of hands, with which it will be more convenient for it to “crush the granite of science.”
        – In our case, such a transformation of the academy presupposes the emergence of new disciplines in the disciplinary structure of the academy, possibly integration and implementation sciences (Gabriele Bammer) and systems transdisciplinarity (Vladimir Mokiy).
        – The appearance of such disciplines in the disciplinary structure of the academy and universities will allow only a certain group of specialists to be trained in a systemic and transdisciplinary worldview and methodology, but leave academics alone.
        – Within the framework of such disciplines, it is possible to combine and systematize the methods and methodological tools of all our colleagues and groups, and, most importantly, to create technologies for solving medium- and high-threshold problems of modern society.
        – A distinctive feature of such disciplines is the ability to manage disciplinary knowledge, not disciplinary specialists. Thus, it will be possible to eliminate barriers to transdisciplinary integration that arise as a result of interpersonal interactions in multidisciplinary transdisciplinary teams.
        – Thus, we leave academics in their disciplinary comfort zones. We only offer them to carry out a certain amount of disciplinary research in transdisciplinary teams, preserving their disciplinary methods and tools.
        – The results of these disciplinary studies, new or old disciplinary knowledge will be unified and generalized by specialists (generalists) using transdisciplinary methodological tools.
        – As a result, academics will be able to make sure that we play by the rules of the academy. They can make sure that the new disciplines are integrated into the classification of academic and system disciplines. The concepts and methodologies of these disciplines have all the identifying features of academic disciplines.
        – In this case, we can only join forces within the framework of international cooperation to prepare these disciplines for their introduction into the structure of universities.

        This may be the general and non-conflict plan (idea) for the transformation of the academy by 2050. However, the current situation in world politics and the economy is likely to force us to reconsider the timing of such a transformation. You can read about this in the articles:

        1. Mokiy, V.S. (2019). International standard of transdisciplinary education and transdisciplinary competence. Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline, 22, 73-90. DOI: https://doi.org/10.28945/4480
        2. Mokiy, V. S., & Lukyanova, T. A. (2021). Transdisciplinarity: Marginal Direction or Global Approach of Contemporary Science? Informing Science: The International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline, Vol.24, pp. 001-018. https://doi.org/10.28945/4752
        Mokiy, V.S. (2019). Systems Transdisciplinary Approach in the General Classification of Scientific Approaches. European Scientific Journal. Vol. 15, no 19, ESJ July Edition, pp. 247-258. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.19044/esj.2019.v15n19p247
        3. Mokiy, V. (2019). Training generalists in higher education: Its theoretical basis and prospects. Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline, 22, 55-72. https://doi.org/10.28945/4431

    • Thank you, Vladimir, for your thoughtful engagement with our piece and provocation. Within our internal group conversation, Jamila shared your question, “What kind of reasoning should be used to make academic teachers and scientists want to leave their own psychological comfort zone during the transformation of the academy?” as particularly important, and I agree.

      For me this is really the “trillion dollar” question for engaging in any systematic change process. Climate transitions more generally, for example, present a very important additional example. People whose lives and identities are wrapped up in fossil industries have their own world-views, narratives, livelihood conditions, just like academic teachers and scientists—why would they change comfort zones, as well?

      On the one hand, your comment on the risk analysis here, then, makes a lot of sense and points to some sense of “external conditions” that would drive change. In the climate case, we could consider IPCC reports as presenting some sense of this external information suggesting the “need to change.” And of course, very real lived experiences of climate hazards, as another excellent Guardian long-read presented of the Saami people’s livelihood challenges in the face of a thawing Arctic and advancing treeline.

      Here, I think, we get to the other hand—which is that perception of risk, assessment of vulnerability, and development of transition processes are inherently social and therefore political.

      There was an interesting New Yorker article recently on the German energy transition away from coal, and the lived experience of this in the so-called Brown Coal region. Reading the piece, it seemed to me one of the reasons the transition is facing difficulty is because of a break-down in genuine engagement or any truly collaborative self-determination in which livelihood and climate realities get balanced, with care, by the people being asked to change. This breakdown despite devotion of billions of Euros to labor and management interests in the region.

      From this, I take a sense of needing to approach academic transformation in such a way that one’s perspective on the external factors “driving the need for change” is not taken for granted — may not be shared by people who may be implicated by “the need for change.” Thus the care comes in meeting people where they are in the academy—understanding their identities, livelihood needs, the pressures in their lives, and seek the shared understanding that could, on the one hand, “enroll them” in change processes, but also genuinely change the process itself based on the views that they bring to the cause. This includes recognizing, of course, that some people benefit tremendously from and are highly successful within the status quo paradigm. All this takes openness, care, time, resources, patience, and a long-view informed by the very personal realities we all inhabit.

      • Thanks Michael.
        I found two topics in your reply.
        The first topic is “how to leave academics in the comfort zone”. I hope I answered this question briefly in a response to Jamila.
        The second topic is “risk perception and vulnerability assessment, as well as the impact of external conditions”. Let me philosophize a little on this topic.

        At one time, the mathematician Goedel formulated the famous “incompleteness” theorem. This theorem states that the logical completeness (or incompleteness) of any system of axioms cannot be proved within this system.
        Academics do not like this theorem, because it testifies to the obvious: disciplinary pictures of the world are incomplete, and also, within the framework of these pictures, it is impossible to understand, know and describe a single world.
        The natural development of interdisciplinary interactions will make the academy want to avoid the pressure of this theorem. The paradox is that the academy cannot fulfill this desire due to its disciplinary structure. However, the specialized transformation of the academy, about which I spoke to Jamila, will satisfy this desire.
        Within the framework of a special scientific discipline, for example, “systems transdisciplinarity”, it is enough to postulate the unity of the world. The grounds for this are provided by ancient philosophy. Next, we should use a methodology that uses models of units of order that determine the unity of the world. The world in the form of vertical functional assembly and the system in the form of the general order, which makes the condition for the unity of this assembly, are close to the vision of L. Bertalanffy with respect to the general systems theory. L. Bertalanffy (1968) wrote:
        A unitary conception of the world may be based, not upon the possibly futile and certainly farfetched hope finally to reduce all levels of reality to the level of physics, but rather on the isomorphy of laws in different fields. Speaking in “material” language, it means that the world, i.e., the total of observable events, shows structural uniformities, manifesting them-selves by isomorphic traces of order in the different levels or realms. Bertalanffy, L. V. (1968). General system theory: Foundations, development, applications. New York: George Braziller Inc. 48-49.

        Such a systems transdisciplinary philosophical concept and methodology allows us to go beyond the boundaries of disciplinary worldviews, but remain within the boundaries of disciplinary knowledge.
        Michael, I think that in this case we can reasonably build two directions of risk perception, vulnerability assessment and development of transition processes.
        – The first direction is the movement “from the bottom up” (from personal subjective perception to the philosophical and methodological apparatus that justifies such perception).
        – The second direction is the movement “from top to bottom” (from the corresponding objective philosophical and methodological apparatus to personal subjective perception).
        Somewhere, in the middle, these directions will meet. And we will have to choose which of them is able to support the sustainable development of nature and society. It may turn out that we should not abandon the processing of minerals. It may require new technologies to protect the environment, etc.

        In conclusion, I will say a few words about people and their preferences. Our systemic transdisciplinary research has shown that everything is not so simple in this matter. We found that modern society consists of four main subspecies. Each subspecies has characteristic features of higher nervous activity. As a result, we have four interpretations of the content of needs, benefits, values and goals. Therefore, in conversations with people in the academy, in politics, in cities, this information may be useful.
        However, it’s easy for us to talk about a new worldview, but it can be difficult to perceive and accept the pictures that she describes. You can read about this in the article:

        Mokiy, V.S. & Lukyanova T.A. (2019). World Social and Economic Development in the Theory of Ternary Counterpoints. European Scientific Journal. Vol. 15, no 23, ESJ August Edition, pp. 12-27. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.19044/esj.2019.v15n23p12

        I think that the information of the article is more important in the context of our discussion: Mokiy, V. S. & Lukyanova T. A. (2022). Sustainable Development of Nature and Society in The Context of a Systems Transdisciplinary Paradigm ( http://www.td-science.ru/images/kart/Mokiy_Sustainable_development_of_nature_and_society_in_the_context_of_a_systemic_transdisciplinary_paradigm.pdf ).
        This article is planned to be published in a special issue of “Complex Resilience and Sustainability. Transdisciplinary Perspectives” in the Transdisciplinary Journal of Engineering & Science, ATLAS, USA. This issue is scheduled to be published in September 2022. It will be freely available. Therefore, it will be interesting for you to be the first to get acquainted with the working version of this article.

    • Thanks for your enthusiastic comment and for the links Timothy. We are keen to join up with other initiatives and organisations working in the same direction.

  3. This is such an encouraging Blog post. The initiative you vision starts from conversations like this and the Blog engages others who wish to be fellow travelers. Another starting point that I think we should consider is creating the expectations that Universities will ‘model’ and inwardly behave in ways that incorporate the Graduate Attributes they espouse. Increasingly Universities claim these values identify them from others, if they practiced them and were accountable themselves against such values we may create a stronger motivating impulse towards a caring institution. A good question for each of us in our different organisations is to ask, how can we manifest this organisation’s values in everyday performance.

    • Hi Bruce, thanks for your thought provoking comment. I like the idea of universities needing to act with the same values that they say they are trying to teach their students. When the Careoperative was at Leuphana we considered how to nurture “individual-level” competencies for sustainable development, like values thinking, systems thinking, strategic thinking and futures thinking (drawing on Wiek et al. 2016). Wouldn’t it be great if we could build unis to account with these?!


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