Complexity of Sustainability Fund

To accelerate the transition to a just and sustainable world, we require a holistic understanding of the complex structures and paradigms that underlie sustainability challenges. This knowledge should be co-produced to include diverse actors and their differing and sometimes clashing perspectives. The Complexity of Sustainability fund has been set up to help build a diverse transdisciplinary community of UU researchers and societal stakeholders focused on developing holistic approaches to stimulating a just and sustainable transition. Watch Ed and Marta’s story to learn more.

More information

The fund is a joint initiative of the Pathways to Sustainability strategic theme and the Centre for Complex Systems Studies of Utrecht University. The fund aims to stimulate cooperation in three workshops over the period of two years. Each workshop will focus on a theme that leverages diverse expertise at UU to contribute to accelerating sustainability transitions. These workshops will primarily comprise UU researchers, complemented by selected high-profile international leaders in relevant fields to ensure the dialogue remains cutting-edge. The first workshop will begin by focusing on making fundamental theoretical progress. The second workshop will be focused on developing these insights into a grant proposal. The final workshop will focus on transdisciplinary outcomes that have an impact around Utrecht and beyond.

Workshop 1: Co-produced complexity science for a just and sustainable transition

Complexity science sets out conceptual and methodological approaches that allow us to gain a holistic understanding of the world around us. Methods such as network analysis can inform us of how viruses or information spread through society. We can gain insight into how feedback processes give rise to non-linear change and path dependency, which are central to understand in the context of transitions. Complexity science is also essential to understanding how new technologies such as AI may influence our society.

However, complexity science tends to be carried out by quantitative modellers and data scientists. This approach excludes a wide range of academic perspectives, not to mention broader, non-academic perspectives. For complexity science to serve the sustainability transition, we require a more inclusive form of complexity science that involves diverse perspectives and actors.

Complexity science must embrace approaches of knowledge co-production and participatory methods to gain a deeper holistic understanding of the differing norms, views and values that are essential to gaining a holistic understanding of how we can accelerate towards a just and sustainable transition.

Aim of workshop

The first workshop aims to develop a position paper on how a co-produced form of complexity science can be created that meets the needs of the Sustainability Transition. The workshop will take place over three days and involve 10-15 UU researchers. UU researchers will be joined by three high-profile thinkers who will provide their expert input on this theme. More details on external participants will be announced soon.

Application procedure

To apply, please write a motivation letter (max 300 words) stating how your research can contribute to the workshop theme. In addition, you should commit to attending the workshop at Utrecht University (or online) from 21-23 April. Candidates will be selected based on their motivation letter and disciplinary background. We encourage applications from the Humanities, Sciences, Social and Life Sciences and will aim to achieve a diversity of participants as part of the workshop.

Please submit your application before 22 March 2021 to 

Organising team