Knowledge practices and action for sustainability: some questions and gaps needing further examination in 2016

I recently reread an important commentary/thought piece on the future of sustainability science which argues that the field needs to substantially change in order “to ensure that science is focused on facilitating sustainability outcomes” (Miller et al. 2014). In particular, these sustainability researchers believe that a stronger focus on contributing to real-world solutions is required …

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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 problem of evaluation — and some potential options

This post discusses some of my recent reading on evaluation, and outlines evaluation issues and options that need to be considered as part of my doctoral project. In an ideal world we could learn which types of interventions produce the best outcomes — be they organisational interventions (e.g. to identify the most effective decision support …

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Learnings and reflections five months into my PhD

Broadly speaking, my doctoral project is examining the increasing use of foresight methods for tackling sustainability problems, and their effects. A key focus that’s emerged is inquiring into related practices for enhancing the handling of more “wicked” sustainability problems – for example, as part of participatory governance approaches – and for preventing worse challenges emerging …

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Revisiting the original paper on “wicked” problems

The foresight field has long suggested that modern models of planning and ‘classical approaches’ to policy have serious short-comings. In particular it has critiqued the focus on prediction (‘predict-then-act’) and on control. In my view some of these critiques go too far, such as some colleagues who have argued that we should “rid the world …

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