We find ourselves today in a paradoxical situation: There are few leaders in business, politics, and civil society who do not acknowledge the need for a global transformation towards sustainability. And yet little progress has been made towards making this goal a reality. Merely knowing about the state of the world evidently does not suffice to bring about the necessary changes in our thinking and actions.
Transformation knowledge: bridging knowledge and implementation
This discrepancy has been the subject of numerous scientific studies covering a range of knowledge types. One important and promising bridge between abstract knowledge and political action is transformation knowledge. This can be broadly defined as the production, collation, and evaluation of knowledge for the purposes of laying the foundations for concrete transformation processes and ensuring that these are resilient, effective, and acceptable to those affected. The project "Global Sustainability Strategy Forum" seeks to address the urgent need for knowledge to foster such transformations. This project gathers together renowned experts to translate the best available knowledge on sustainable development worldwide to support the generation of actionable solutions. Every two years representatives from leading research institutes in the field of sustainable development will convene for a week-long summit to formulate strategic solutions for the most pressing sustainability challenges. Discussions at these summits will focus primarily on trade-offs and interdependencies across the SDG spectrum and between sustainability, globalisation, and digitalisation. In attempting to close the gap between the current reality and the goal of a sustainable future, actionable solutions developed at the summit will be assessed in terms of their impact, efficiency, resilience, fairness, acceptance, legality, and ethical acceptability.
A co-creative approach to solutions development
While these criteria will play an important role, they are not the only yardstick by which potential solutions will be measured. Drawing on their considerable expertise and familiarity with the complexities of sustainability challenges, the experts will pool their knowledge to provide a robust joint assessment of each proposal based on these seven scientific criteria. Highlighting the interdependencies between various courses of actions and their impacts, the experts will make the case for the most promising interventions. Then, working closely with decision-makers from business, politics, and civil society, they will identify pathways for their successful implementation within the current political context. Two summits have been scheduled for 4-8 March 2019 and autumn 2020. The project's results will be disseminated in a high-profile publication and, at the regional level, through specific recommendations to actors from politics, business, and civil society. Professors Ortwin Renn (IASS), Ilan Chabay (IASS) and Sander van der Leeuw (Arizona State University) are the project leaders. Solene Droy (IASS) is the project coordinator. Paul Skaloud supports the implementation of the project.
The following experts have have participated in the first summit from 4 to 8 March 2019 in Potsdam, Germany:
- Xuemei Bai - Professor, Australian National University, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australia
- Belay Begashaw - Director, Sustainable Development Goals Centre for Africa, Rwanda
- Marcel Bursztyn - Professor, University of Brasilia, Brazil
- Carl Folke - Scientific Director of the Stockholm Resilience Center, Stockholm University and Director, Beijer Institute of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Sweden
- Heide Hackmann - Executive Director, International Science Council (ISC), France
- Kensuke Fukushi - Professor and Vice Director, Institute for Future Initiatives, The University of Tokyo, Japan
- Joyeeta Gupta - Professor of Environment and Development in the Global South at the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research, University of Amsterdam and IHE Institute for Water Education in Delft, the Netherlands
- Carlo Jaeger - Professor of Economics, Potsdam University and Global Climate Forum, Berlin, Germany
- Anand Patwardhan - Professor, University of Maryland, School of Public Policy, USA
- George Safonov - Director, Centre for Environmental and Natural Resource Economics, Russia
- Peter Schlosser - Vice President and Vice Provost of Global Futures, Arizona State University, USA
- Elisabeth Hege - Research Fellow, Governance and Financing of Sustainable Development, IDDRI Paris, France
- Coleen Vogel - Professor, Global Change Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
- Yongsheng Zhang - Yongsheng Zhang, Senior Research Fellow, Chinese Academy of Social Science, China
The patron of the event is Prof. Dr. Rita Süssmuth, former President of the Bundestag.
A Discussion Paper summarizing the results of the First Forum (8 lessons for Science, Policy and Practice) has been published in July 2019: https://www.iass-potsdam.de/en/news/how-science-has-become-driving-force-sustainability
An opinion piece linking GSSF to the SDGs is now online: https://ensia.com/voices/sustainable-development-goals/
The second Global Sustainability Strategy Forum will take place from 22 to 24 March 2020 in Bangkok, Thailand, and is organised back-to-back with the 7th Asia-Pacific UN ESCAP Forum on Sustainable Development. This event is designed to develop common strategic ground between leaders in business and sustainability science.
The final Global Sustainability Strategy Forum will be held from 14 to 16 October 2020 in Hannover, Germany. It will synthesize and summarize the project to date and invite representatives from Science Academies from all continents.