How: Mindset & Skills

Engaging in transdisciplinary initiatives requires a particular frame of mind and specific skills and capacities.

There are mindset qualities which all team members need to bring to the project:

  • An open, curious and adaptive approach to research.
  • Reflection on our personal assumptions, biases and triggers and a capacity to navigate them,
  • Valuing of diverse forms of knowledge across disciplines and societal stakeholders.

The academic culture traditionally celebrates advocating, explaining and telling others about our insights and expertise. Co-creating and co-delivering a research project with others including external stakeholders requires a more open inquiry approach and a level of humility, generosity and genuine interest in the perspectives and contributions of others on the team.

It can be helpful to make a distinction between advocacy and inquiry. There is certainly a need for both in a research process; however, transdisciplinary research and its collaborative nature requires more of an inquiry mode than advocacy.

Here are some resources for supporting an open mindset, listening and bringing an inclusive approach to transdisciplinary research processes. More resources can be found here.


Skills and Training

There are also skills and capacities needed across the project team for transdisciplinary research processes:

  • Curiosity and listening: an openness and keen interest in the development of the project and research through empathic listening, self-reflection and inquiry;
  • Communications skills: capacity to engage on the hub purpose and translate complex ideas into accessible descriptions.
  • Content: Sufficient expertise in problem and research area;
  • Systems approach: Capacity to adopt a holistic and dynamic approach to the project, embrace uncertainty and be adaptive over time;
  • Strategy and ongoing learning: short and long-term strategic planning and process abilities to guide hub development, and be responsive and adapt to emergent opportunities and unintended effects based on evaluation and learning.
  • Facilitation: Expertise in facilitating transdisciplinary sustainability research processes;
  • Networking: Access to network of researchers and external societal organizations;
  • Bridging disciplines and sectors: Boundary spanning capacity to connect across disciplines and different stakeholder groups.
  • Team work and management: skills to energize multidisciplinary teams of academics and transdisciplinary engagement with stakeholder to generate actionable results;
  • Project management: Experienced in project- and contract management with external parties. 

Utrecht University offers public engagement training, media, communications and impact tracking:

Go to trainings offered by Utrecht University

The Resources page provides further suggestions.