One of the most important sustainability-related articles you have never read

This may be a big call, but I think one of the most important sustainability-related articles which few people have read is ‘Verification, Validation, and Confirmation of Numerical Models in the Earth Sciences’ by Naomi Oreskes et al (published in Science back in 1994).** Sure it sounds dry, but it usefully considers the increasing use …

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Dealing with complexity in evaluation, foresight and sustainability practice

I’ve just finished reading The Science of Evaluation: A Realist Manifesto by Ray Pawson (SAGE, 2013), which re-states the case for realist forms of evaluation and further explicates ways of doing it (e.g. in systematic reviews). Pawson is Professor of Social Research Methodology at the University of Leeds and he describes social science inquiry as …

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The capacity for futures work to help address “super wicked” (or just “wicked”) problems

Over the last week or so I’ve come to realise a lot of my reading and thinking has an implicit focus, which I ought to make much more explicit. That is: the capacity of futures work (or “applied foresight” or “futures research” as many folk call it) to help us to more effectively address complex …

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Initial thoughts on futures practices for sustainability

In early June, I’m giving a talk to the Centre for Sustainability Leadership on futures thinking and techniques (for the Melbourne Fellowship Program). This post is an initial “idea dump” which I’ll revisit over the next month. It also picks up on some themes I’ve spotted in relevant literature, such as on “wicked”/”super-wicked” problems and …

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Climate change and the pursuit of sustainable futures: are we using the best strategies and approaches (and what are they? Do we know?)

This is a huge topic, and one that I plan to return to often on this blog. This post has been prompted by my recent reading of the book The Dynamics of Sustainable Innovation Journeys (Geels et al., 2011) and attendance at the 2013 Sustainable Living Festival. The editors of this book describe three strategies which …

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On sustainability (part 1)

There is no one set way of defining or thinking about ‘sustainability’ or ‘sustainable development’. In my case I was introduced to these ideas mostly in a business context, where related concepts such as the ‘triple bottom line’ framework (i.e. financial, social and environmental performance) and ‘sustainable enterprise’ are central. Within the consulting world I …

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Sustainability impasses and futures practices

How can ‘sustainability impasses’ be best understood and dealt with (ideally broken)? This increasingly seems like one of the most important questions. Just look at the situations of (mostly) inaction and major, increasing conflicts around the management of the Murray-Darling Basin in Australia over the proposed ‘Basin Plan’ for more sustainable water use, over major …

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