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Environment Magazine September/October 2008


March-April 2011

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Moving Forward on Competence in Sustainability Research and Problem Solving

Sustainability problem constellations related to sea-level rise, desertification, poverty, lack of education, pandemics, or military conflicts result from complex, dynamic cause–effect chains. Elements of the problem constellation exist at different scales (local to global) and interact with one another across those scales. Inertia and reinforcing feedbacks are likely to aggravate these problems, threatening the integrity and viability of our social–ecological systems in the long term. Public discourse largely focuses on the adverse effects of these constellations, such as catastrophes and accidents. When we focus on isolated outcomes, we avoid dealing with their root causes, namely, human factors such as motives, actions, practices, and habits. Sustainability challenges emerge from “normal” systemic failures caused by an imbalance between limited cognitive, emotional, and organizational capacities of individuals and institutions on the one hand, and overly complex and high-risk technologies and production systems on the other hand. A recent example of systemic failure that is part of a larger sustainability challenge is the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. While media and public attention center on an “ecological catastrophe” and whether government or corporate executives are to be blamed, the systemic character of the disaster gets neglected. Ever-increasing energy demand (that is us!), complex oil-extraction technologies, risk-tolerant site selection, lax safety standards, concern for profit above all, lack of transparency in government–business relations, and uninformed and uninterested consumers—these are some of the key factors that we must consider if we are to fully understand what happened in the Gulf of Mexico and why it happened. One might argue that its occurrence was inevitable because of the mismatch between human capacity and technological complexity, as Charles Perrow demonstrated in his 1984 seminal study1 on “normal accidents.”

Caption: Disaster headlines related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill catastrophe.

As sustainability challenges occur like epidemics, our awareness grows that society is unprepared to fully understand, let alone to cope with, these challenges. This has led to calls for educational programs focused on building capacity for sustainability. In the decade since Kates et al.2 provided a groundbreaking article on sustainability science in 2001, numerous academic programs in sustainability have emerged. These programs do not just educate professionals for “green” jobs, but train systemic-problem solvers, change agents, and transition managers. This is a critical distinction if we are to build a workforce of enthusiastic and knowledgeable people who can cope with sustainability challenges in creative and holistic ways.

Caption: Aerial image of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Caption: Pandemics are one of the many sustainability concerns we face.

Caption: Shacks in Soweto, South Africa show the desperate poverty plaguing the nearly 1 billion slum dwellers worldwide.

However, the identification of what constitutes competence in sustainability is still at a nascent stage; therefore, we lack shared criteria for program development. A 2011 review by Wiek et al. of literature on sustainability education3 finds convergence on the key competencies in sustainability research and problem-solving, but also concludes that specific key competencies essential for program design and teaching are insufficiently justified and developed.

This article is based on a series of efforts that we conducted, coordinated, and participated in, all of which were dedicated to moving forward on competence in sustainability research and problem-solving. We conducted two workshops on key competencies in sustainability, one at the 8th Ball State University/Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) “Greening of the Campus” Conference (together with Beth Mercer-Taylor, University of Minnesota, and Anne Kapuscinski, Dartmouth College) in September 2009, and the other at the Forum for Sustainability Science Programs during the 2010 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in February 2010. In preparation for the AAAS Forum, we conducted a survey with 37 representatives of academic degree-granting sustainability programs worldwide. We were also involved in a conference in March 2010 called “Taking It to the Next Level: Strategies for Adaptation Across the Sustainability Curriculum,” sponsored by Wake Forest University and AASHE, where the focus was on comparing sustainability curriculum and academic programming from various perspectives. Participants were campus sustainability officers, faculty members, and administrators from academic units developing degree programs or minors in sustainability. Participants in each of these events came from large, public research universities as well as smaller, private liberal arts schools. The consensus was that these academic programs would benefit from further discussion of the necessary competencies, close relationships with ongoing campus sustainability programs, and working together with non-university partners.

Caption: At the 2010 Forum for Sustainability Science Programs at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), San Diego, February 2010.

Next, we summarize the key competencies in sustainability synthesized from the literature, present results from the efforts just described, and offer our views on moving forward.

What the Literature Says About Key Competencies in Sustainability

Scholars and practitioners concerned with sustainability4 have begun to define the key competencies that graduates should possess to be able to address sustainability challenges. Key competencies provide a distinct and recognizable qualifications profile for research, teaching, and other professional work focused on sustainability. Many articles have been written over the last decade that define learning outcomes and competencies for sustainability education.5 Elsewhere, we have reviewed these articles and proposed a framework to synthesize key competencies in sustainability.6

Competence in sustainability research and problem solving means having the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for successful task performance and problem solving with respect to real-world sustainability challenges and opportunities. This competence is composed of five components, or key competencies in sustainability, which are systems-thinking competence, anticipatory competence, normative competence, strategic competence, and interpersonal competence. These five components must be integrated to successfully co-create knowledge and action for sustainability.7 The components build upon one another and can be combined in different ways.8

Caption: The functional links among sustainability research and problem-solving competencies.

If competencies are successfully acquired, graduates should be able to analyze a sustainability problem from a holistic perspective (systems-thinking competence); assess a problem and its context comprehensively with respect to sustainability (normative competence); construct non-intervention scenarios about how the problem might play out in the future (anticipatory competence); envision sustainable future states in contrast to the non-intervention scenarios (anticipatory and normative competence); and create intervention strategies to avoid undesirable scenarios and realize sustainability visions (strategic competence). Doing this requires close collaboration with researchers from other disciplines, and stakeholders in government, businesses, and civil society (interpersonal competence). This collaboration co-creates knowledge, builds capacity, and develops shared ownership for the intervention strategies.

Systems-thinking competence means that graduates have the ability to understand the intermediate and root causes of complex sustainability problems, including:

  • How causes and effects relate to each other directly and indirectly.

  • The actions, needs, motives, intentions, and mandates of key players in the problem constellation.
  • The role technology plays in the constellation.
  • What dynamics, cascading effects, feedback loops, and inertia occur in the constellation.

The acquisition of systems knowledge is based on methodological skills in how best to analyze systems and problem constellations. Methods include qualitative and quantitative modeling; institutional, decision, and governance analysis; and combinations thereof.

Anticipatory competence is the capacity to think systematically about the future and future generations. It requires:

  • The ability to discern which time scales are relevant to a problem and its possible solutions.

  • Familiarity with different theories of how the future emerges, be it determined, accidental, or intentional.
  • Understanding of the different types of futures, i.e., possible futures (based on notions of plausibility), probable futures (those determined “likely” to occur), and desirable futures (value-laden; based on sustainability principles).
  • Understanding of the corresponding ways to build these different futures using methods like scenario construction, forecasting from statistical or simulation models, and sustainability visioning.

In practice, systems-thinking competence is necessary, for instance, for a sustainability officer at an energy company. The competence entails the knowledge and skills required for understanding the complex relations and tradeoffs between meeting energy demand, generating revenues, preserving the natural environment, fostering technological innovation, creating social benefits, and so forth. This type of thinking is critical in large corporate structures that have thrived from compartmentalization (supply chain, finance, CSR, etc.). The competence would enable the officer to identify opportunities as well as unintended consequences i.e., species and habitat lost, contaminants emitted, workers endangered) as they pertain to a new technology for extracting oil or the selection of a new drilling location.

Caption: The functional links among sustainability research and problem-solving competencies.

This competence enables graduates to integrate concepts such as intergenerational equity and long-term consequences of present action into sustainability problem-solving.1

To have normative competence means to understand concepts of justice, equity, social–ecological integrity, and ethics. It means understanding how these concepts vary across and within cultures, and how integrating these concepts contributes to solving sustainability problems. Using methods such as visioning, multi-criteria assessment, and risk assessment, graduates should be able to collaborate with stakeholders to specify, negotiate, and apply sustainability values, principles, objectives, and goals. This enables graduates to assess the (un-)sustainability of current and future states of social-ecological systems, and to create and craft sustainability visions for these systems.

In practice, anticipatory competence is important, for instance, for a city planner. Planning has a long history of adopting rather short-term (5-year) planning horizons and focusing on a single future (forecast), which reduces preparedness and responsiveness. Cities are complex systems where policies in one area have resonating impacts in other areas and a range of plausible impacts far into the future. Competence in anticipation enables city planners to consider alternative but plausible outcomes to plans and policies while thinking systemically about how the city will function in the short and long term. Tools such as scenario building can be used by planners to create more sophisticated plans that consider different futures from plausible to desirable, while incorporating perspectives of the public.

Strategic competence is the ability to collaboratively design and implement interventions and governance strategies with the sophistication necessary to address sustainability challenges. This competence is “where the rubber meets the road,” where the knowledge and skills that comprise the other competencies are translated into action that creates change. Graduates with strategic competence are familiar with concepts and methods for strategy building in real-world situations. They should understand intentionality, systemic inertia, path dependencies, barriers, carriers, and alliances. They should also know about the viability, feasibility, efficiency, and efficacy of systemic interventions, and the potential of those interventions to produce unintended consequences. They should be able to use methods for designing, testing, implementing, evaluating, and adapting policies, programs, and action plans in collaboration with different societal actors. They must be able to accommodate varying perspectives and act despite inconclusive or incomplete evidence.

Interpersonal competence is the capacity to motivate and facilitate sustainability research and problem-solving. It requires strong communication and negotiation skills, and expertise in participatory and transacademic methods for collaborating with stakeholders outside academia. Graduates should be able to work in teams, and understand, embrace, and facilitate diversity among cultures and social groups. Interpersonal competence is a basic ingredient in each of the other competencies.

Technical advisors and consultants are traditionally brought in by administrations, corporations, or agencies to assess the environmental impacts of products and services. Broader normative competence is required if they want to apply sustainability as a comprehensive and value-laden guiding principle. Beyond skills in Life Cycle Assessment and Environmental Impact Assessment, normative competence in sustainability would enable technical advisors or consultants to elicit the spectrum of values and preferences that are embedded in products and services. The critical skill is then to assess those values and preferences against sustainability principles such as intergenerational equity (how do we seriously consider future generations in large infrastructure decisions?). And finally, this competence would constructively be used for crafting visions of products and services that would align with sustainability principles (what does a sustainable food system look like?).

Transforming the Way We Operate

The literature reviews, surveys, and conferences mentioned earlier have clearly demonstrated that there is great interest and need for building capacity among faculty and staff in order to design the curricula and teach the courses that “breathe” the transformative nature of the sustainability field. Despite the fact that there is still significant progress to make in building this capacity, and in justifying and specifying sustainability competencies, we need to think about what lies ahead of us: How do we get from competencies and learning outcomes to curricula development, to finally measuring student achievement and societal impact thereafter? Along this way, there are a series of obstacles to overcome and opportunities to seize.

Redefine the role of disciplines in the field of sustainability. It is difficult to imagine creating an academic field that is neither anchored in a discipline nor an amalgamation of parts of different disciplines. Genuine sustainability (as opposed to eclectic or add-on approaches) is a problem-driven and solution oriented field that derives its integrity from a holistic approach to problems that are multifaceted, dynamic, and not bound by traditional disciplines. A genuine approach to sustainability requires us to critically analyze and adapt methods and theories from other disciplines for their contribution to sustainability. Still, the field cannot arise from a void; it has to rely to a certain extent on established methods and concepts. We commonly associate disciplines such as ecology, environmental sciences, and geography with sustainability, but other disciplines have much to contribute as well. Fields that practice intervention research (e.g., social work studies), evaluation and program planning, prevention psychology, community-based research, transition research, and transformative research and evaluation use problem-solving approaches that can enrich sustainability.10 Sustainability teachers and students need adequate grounding in methods and knowledge adopted (and modified) from many different disciplines, not just those generally associated with sustainability. They need to be able to “scan” disciplines for theoretical and methodological input that is relevant to the problem they are tackling and the solutions they are crafting. In many respects sustainability problems and solutions are unique and require the development of unique approaches; however, when other disciplines provide valuable tools for problem-solving, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Contributions from the humanities can help to assess values implicit in sustainability practice that practitioners would otherwise be unaware of. Finally, sustainability should proactively take advantage of tension within and among disciplines so as to increase scholars' interest in reconceptualizing disciplines to make them more socially relevant.

Sustainability is becoming a popular concept among school administrators interested in transforming their schools into schools that positively contribute to economic stability, social cohesion, and environmental quality in the communities they are embedded in. To successfully manage this transition process a school administrator needs to acquire strategic competence. The barriers to sustainability in today's public schools are numerous and administrators need to develop smart and robust action programs to transform facilities, curriculum, and practices while accounting for external and internal constraints (lack of funding, local politics, teacher competence). Strategic competence enables school administrators to build critical alliances, enhance accountability, and create synergies that overcome the inevitable barriers to sustainability transitions.

Caption: Seeds in Hand: The hands of two girls getting ready to plant squash seeds in pots for a school science project.

Millions of dollars are poured annually into international agencies whose missions are to provide relief and community recovery in the aftermath of disasters. Year after year, recovery initiatives, despite their intentions, fail to create resilient societies that are capable of living without foreign aid. Employees for these agencies, such as USAID, need to acquire strong interpersonal competence in order to understand the cultural and institutional contexts that influence preparedness and responsiveness to disasters. To have interpersonal competence means that aid workers are able to prioritize collaborative agreements over individual agendas. It ensures that aid workers have an open ear (and language competence), are able to map different perspectives and values, can facilitate dialogue, and reconcile differences across social and cultural backgrounds.

Caption: Disaster Relief: A UN helicopter responding to a disaster.

Embrace diversity of knowledge and values

The authors' research shows that sustainability scholars and practitioners are consistent in their view that recognizing and learning from “different ways of knowing and valuing” is essential to sustainability education and problem-solving. To do this, a sustainability graduate must be able to understand the relevant vocabulary and methods of collaborators from different disciplines. The graduate must also recognize that every discipline has its own set of important questions to pursue and its own standards for producing acceptable knowledge. In addition to this “internal” diversity, researchers and stakeholders outside academia have their own worldviews and problem-solving approaches, and these are also integral to sustainability transitions (i.e., the change from the way a system works now to a sustainable system). In another article,11 we coined the term “epistemological pluralism” to refer to valuing and including diverse perspectives on knowledge and problem-solving. Just as this should not lead to a situation where one approach dominates the others, it should not lead to sustainability using the lowest common denominator of these approaches. A strength of sustainability academic programs is that students and faculty come from different backgrounds and degree programs. While this fact may create friction in communication and collaboration at the outset, systematic approaches to form effective interdisciplinary and transacademic teams can transform differences from a source of friction into a source of creativity. New pedagogical techniques and settings can create epistemological pluralism. Role play, joint fact-finding, and walking audits in the real world encourage students to map different values and norms, recognize how values manifest, and ultimately appreciate the different ways of knowing and valuing.

Caption: Oil covering the beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Distilling competencies into testable knowledge and skills

Competencies must be demonstrable and testable if they are to be useful for establishing a distinct and recognizable qualifications program in sustainability. We need to ascertain how the five individual sustainability competencies translate to real-world sustainability research and problem-solving. We also need to develop examination settings beyond the classroom that account for the real-world orientation and practical problem-solving. Experiments that test key competencies in sustainability in real-world settings will eventually provide empirical evidence for (or against) the value of the competencies and how they are taught and evaluated.

Close the gap between a “green” job market and the qualifications profile of sustainability graduates

Job profiles in the “green” job market reflect “add-on” and weak sustainability approaches.12 Employers seek graduates who can, for example, evaluate carbon footprints or aid in compliance with federal environmental regulations. Graduates trained to identify and intervene in the root causes of sustainability problems are underutilized in positions that emphasize (or are entirely dedicated to) dealing with end-of-pipe issues. Though sustainability programs have changed our idea of what being a sustainability practitioner means, the job market has yet to catch up with the change. To close the gap between sustainability education and practice, employers will need a clearer idea of the skills that are now available to them and how they can be applied to solve problems. But a shared profile of skills does not yet exist. Unlike a graduate in finance who has specific, recognized skills regardless of the degree-granting university, sustainability graduates cannot be identified by a standard set of knowledge and skills. To overcome this barrier in the short term, academic sustainability programs ought to be in continuous conversation with sustainability practitioners outside academia, and vice versa. Both sides would benefit. Sustainability practitioners would be party to evolving ideas in academia, and students and faculty would understand better what competencies are necessary in practice. Such a conversation could build on existing partnerships among academia, business, and government to create mutual learning opportunities. By adopting the concept of midstream modulation,13 student interns could infuse business and government with transformative concepts of sustainability, and change what it means to be a sustainability practitioner. A more concerted collaboration among academia, business, and government would make sustainability education more practical and sustainability practice more effective.

Build a track record of real-world impacts and reward real-world problem-solving.

The community engaged in sustainability research and teaching agrees on the transformative nature of sustainability competencies. But the key indicator of effectiveness is the tangible, demonstrable, real-world impact graduates achieve. There is not yet an established system for measuring these accomplishments. Current reward systems are based on publication record, peer review, and objectives of other disciplines. Government departments and funding agencies have similar reward systems. Implicit in this traditional approach is the assumption that excellence can only take the form of research and disciplinary expertise, and that those who cross disciplinary and even academic boundaries are therefore dubiously qualified. This assumption has been and continues to be a serious barrier to addressing the vexing challenges facing society. We need a system that recognizes and rewards interdisciplinary and transacademic excellence, as well as real-world achievements. The first step toward such a system is publicizing accomplishments in sustainability and highlighting the competencies that made them possible. The next step is to incorporate lessons from these accomplishments into the educational process, taking education outside of the classroom. Real-world learning opportunities provide students with competencies that cannot be taught in a classroom, because real-world situations include different kinds of challenges, communication styles, deadlines, politics, and so forth.


While the conversation about competence in sustainability research and problem-solving has been lively, we still need to create a clear profile of what sustainability graduates know and are capable of. To do so, we need more research into the key sustainability competencies. But we also need institutions that value the profile and that reward sustainability research and problem-solving.15 Publishing in peer-reviewed journals is important because it allows us to share successes in and approaches to sustainability research and problem-solving. However, this function is less important than actually solving and mitigating sustainability problems. Our institutions must find a way to reward all of the activities that go into developing and implementing solution strategies, not just publishing and acquiring research funding. To catalyze institutional transformation, we propose a series of specific efforts across all groups concerned about sustainability education and practice.

Faculty and educational staff are encouraged to:

  • Identify specific and demonstrable knowledge, skills, and attitudes that comprise each of the five key competencies in sustainability.

  • Establish guidelines for each competence specific enough to generate examinations, marshal existing didactic techniques, and develop new ones to impart competencies.
  • Gather evidence of successful sustainability research and problem-solving projects, and analyze the success factors. Use those indicators to substantiate or revise competencies.
  • Use tested and validated competencies as the basis for curriculum and course design.
  • Establish a small network of individuals and institutions (linked to but with a more narrowly defined focus than AASHE) to advance sustainability curriculum development, course design, and evaluative schemes.
  • Establish formal and informal communication mechanisms that make it possible for faculty, administrators, and students to jointly shape sustainability education.

Students are encouraged to:

  • Familiarize themselves with the key competencies and become capable of marketing their education by highlighting the set of knowledge, skills, and abilities they have acquired and the diversity of problems this portfolio enables them to tackle.

  • Demand that faculty teach courses that impart the key competencies and directly contribute to their ability to solve sustainability problems in the real world. Support those faculty who already pursue this agenda.
  • Actively pursue internships and applied projects outside of academia during their education and deliberate with potential employers on the competencies possessed by sustainability graduates. Explore with potential employers how to address sustainability challenges more comprehensively in light of these competencies.

Sustainability professionals are encouraged to:

  • Maintain contact and initiate partnerships with university programs focused on sustainability in order to provide insight from sustainability practice, as well as remain apprised of advancements in the field and the evolving skills profile of sustainability graduates.

  • Take a comprehensive and systemic approach to sustainability in their practice, going beyond what is defined in their job profile in order to tackle sustainability challenges holistically.
  • Create new and join existing organizations for sustainability practitioners that allow for continuous and joint capacity building in sustainability problem solving.

As sustainability graduates become recognized for having knowledge and skills critical to solving sustainability problems, society can take advantage of these skills and their tangible contributions to sustainability transformations. In return, this requires reprioritizing different forms of knowledge and skills across academia, business, government, and the civil society. Implementing the strategies just outlined will move sustainability endeavors forward, enabling all parties to foster the societal transformations that future generations legitimately demand.

Acknowledgments: The authors thank Robert Kates for the invitation to write this article and Margaret Benner for helpful comments on previous versions of this article. They thank Kathryn Kyle (Arizona State University) for editorial support.

1. C. Perrow, Normal Accidents: Living With High-Risk Technologies (New York: Basic Books, 1984).

2. R. W. Kates, W. C. Clark, R. Corell, J. M. Hall, C. C. Jaeger, et al., “Sustainability Science,” Science 292, no. 5517 (2001): 641–42

3. A. Wiek, L. Withycombe, and C. L. Redman, “Key Competencies in Sustainability—A Reference Framework for Academic Program Development,” Sustainability Science (2011, in press).

4. Even if used in a broad sense including natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities, other prominent fields addressing sustainability issues such as engineering, business, design, and planning seem to be not sufficiently captured and recognized under the term “sustainability science.” With the formulation used here, we propose to overcome all of these demarcations as the field develops its genuine program beyond disciplinary anchoring.

5. For example, J. Byrne, “From Policy to Practice: Creating Education for a Sustainable Future,” in K. A. Wheeler and A. P. Bijur (eds.), Education for a Sustainable Future: A Paradigm of Hope for the 21st Century (New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum, 2000), 35–72; G. de Haan, “The BLK ‘21’ Programme in Germany: A ‘Gestaltungskompetenz’-Based Model for Education for Sustainable Development,” Environment and Education Research 1 (2006): 19–32; M. Barth, J. Godemann, M. Rieckman, and U. Stoltenberg, “Developing Key Competences for Sustainable Development in Higher Education,” International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education 8, no. 4 (2007): 416–30; Y. Sipos, B. Battisti, and K. Grimm, “Achieving Transformative Sustainability Learning: Engaging Heads, Hands and Heart,” International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education 9, no. 1 (2008): 68–86; J. Segalas, D. Ferrer-Balas, M. Svanstrom, U. Lundqvist, and K. F. Mulder, “What Has to be Learnt for Sustainability? A Comparison of Bachelor Engineering Education Competencies at Three European Universities,” Sustainability Science 4, no. 1 (2009): 17–27; and M. Willard, C. Wiedmeyer, R. W. Flint, J. S. Weedon, R. Woodward, I. Feldmand, and M. Edwards, The Sustainability Professional: 2010 Competency Survey Report (retrieved from:

6. Wiek et al. (op. cit.).

7. L. van Kerkhoff and L. Lebel, “Linking Knowledge and Action For Sustainable Development,” Annual Review of Environmental Resources 31 (2006): 445–77.

8. J. Ravetz, “Integrated Assessment for Sustainability Appraisal in Cities and Regions,” Environmental Impact Assessment Review 20 (2000): 31–64; G. Bammer, “Integration and Implementation Sciences: Building a New Specialization,” Ecology and Society 10 (2005): article 6; R. Kemp, S. Parto, and R. Gibson, “Governance for Sustainable Development: Moving From Theory to Practice,” International Journal of Sustainable Development 8 (2005): 12–30; R. W. Scholz, D. J. Lang, A. Wiek, A. I. Walter, and M. Stauffacher, “Transdisciplinary Case Studies as a Means of Sustainability Learning, Historical Framework and Theory,” International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education7, no. 3 (2006): 226–51; D. Loorbach and J. Rotmans, “Managing Transitions for Sustainable Development,” in X. Olshoorn and A. J. Wieczorek (eds.), Understanding Industrial Transformation—Views From Different Disciplines (Dordrecht: Springer, 2006), 187–206.

9. L. Withycombe and A. Wiek, Anticipatory Competence as a Key Competence in Sustainability, Working Paper (Tempe : School of Sustainability. Arizona State University, 2010).

10. M. W. Fraser, J. M. Richman, M. J. Galinsky, and S. H. Day, Intervention Research: Developing Social Programs (Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2009); D. M. Mertens, Transformative Research and Evaluation (New York : Guilford Press, 2009); and D. Loorbach, Transition Management: New Mode of Governance for Sustainable Development (Utrecht : International Books, 2007).

11. T. Miller, T, D. Baird, C. M. Littlefield, G. Kofinas, F. S. Chapin III, and C. L. Redman, “Epistemological Pluralism: Reorganizing Interdisciplinary Research,” Ecology and Society 13 (2008): Article 2.

12. Wiek et al. (op. cit.).

13. E. Fisher, R. L. Mahajan, and C. Mitcham, “Midstream Modulation of Technology: Governance From Within,” Bulletin of Science, Technology, and Society 26 (2006): 485–98.

14. J. Gregory, M. Mattern, and S. Mitchell, “From Ivory Tower to Urban Street: Using the Classroom as a Community Research and Development Tool,” PS: Political Science and Politics 33 (2001): 119–24; and K. Brundiers, A. Wiek, and C. L. Redman, “Real-World Learning Opportunities in Sustainability—From Classroom Into the Real World,” International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education 11, no. 4 (2010): 308–24.

15. Cf. A. Whitmer, L. Ogden, J. Lawton, P. Sturner, P. M. Groffman, et al., “The Engaged University: Providing a Platform for Research That Transforms Society,” Frontiers of Ecology and Environment 8, no. 6 (2010): 314–21.

Arnim Wiek is an Assistant Professor at the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University. He has conducted sustainability research on emerging technologies, urban development, resource governance, and climate change in different European countries, Canada, the US, Sri Lanka, and Costa Rica. He had research and teaching engagements at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, and the University of Tokyo.

Charles L. Redman served as the inaugural director of ASU's School of Sustainability 2007–2010. Building upon the extensive research portfolio of the Global Institute of Sustainability, he is dedicated to the education of a new generation of leaders through collaborative learning, trans-disciplinary, and problem-oriented approaches to address the challenges of the twenty-first century.

Lauren Withycombe is a PhD student at the School of Sustainability.

Sarah Banas Mills was involved in the described activities as a member of the Center for Science, Technology, and Sustainability, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Washington, DC

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