Complexity of Sustainability Fund

To accelerate the transition to a just and sustainable world, we need first to understand the complex systems 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 stimulating this 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 through the development of a position paper. 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

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 systems are also essential to understanding how new technologies such as AI may influence our society.

Besides quantitative modellers and data scientists that populate complex systems community, we require a more inclusive form of complexity science that involves diverse perspectives and actors that would help to unpack the differing norms, views and values that are essential for the sustainable transition.

Aim of workshop 1

The first workshop aims to develop an opinion 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 who will be joined by three leading scientists in the fields of sustainability, complexity and transdisciplinary science who will provide their expert input on this theme. The workshop will take a form of interdisciplinary knowledge co-production by co-writing the outline of the paper together.  As preparation for the workshop, we ask you to prepare a 5-minute presentation on how or why complexity science can or should be done in a transdisciplinary way in the context of achieving sustainability.


Table with the CCSS-PtS workshop program
Workshop program

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 15 - 17 September. 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.

For honours masters’ students, attendance and writing can contribute to fulfilling honours programme requirements. If you are taking part in an honours programme or wish to do so, please mention this in your application, including the contact person for the relevant honours programme.

Please submit your application before 31 July 2021 to 

Organising team