A new study investigates how eleven global sustainability-oriented research networks – the MRI among them – can effectively contribute to co-production of knowledge and action towards sustainability transformations, and introduces a strategic tool to support this process.

An increasing number of voices highlight the need for science itself to transform and to engage in the co-production of knowledge and action in order to enable the fundamental transformations needed to advance towards sustainable futures. But how can global sustainability-oriented research networks engage in co-production of knowledge and action?

A new study published in Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability explores how global research networks, the MRI among them, engage with co-production of knowledge and action for sustainability by studying their specific functions. To help these networks foster the co-production of knowledge, the researchers introduce a tool called the ‘network compass.’

“The network compass is a strategic tool for research networks who want to strengthen co-production of knowledge and sustainability transformations,” explains lead author Flurina Schneider, Scientific Director at ISOE and Professor at Goethe University Frankfurt. “While many such tools exist for projects who work in local contexts, our study highlights what global research networks can do.”

The network compass highlights four generic, interrelated fields of action through which networks can strive to foster co-production:

  1. Connecting actors and scales to enable co-production
  2. Supporting the network community in co-production
  3. Fostering co-production to leverage the network community’s transformative power
  4. Innovating the network to strengthen co-production

Each field of action is divided into five subfields, embracing the different activities of the heterogeneous networks. The researchers hope that this tool will help to foster self-reflection and learning within and between networks in the process of (re)developing strategies and activity plans and effectively contributing to sustainability transformations.

 “This important tool can guide research networks in strategy planning and evaluating past sustainability activities,” says co-author Theresa Tribaldos, Head of Just Economies and Human Well-Being Impact Area at the Centre for Development and Environment. “It is helpful for defining a focus and aligning activities accordingly.”

“This publication is a fruitful output that encapsulates very nicely the highly rewarding experience had being part of this research process with colleagues. I particularly valued the emphasis placed on collective social learning and reflection as part of that process," adds MRI Executive Director Carolina Adler. "On behalf of the MRI, it was a great experience to contribute and be part of this collaboration, the outcomes of which we will certainly take on board going forward as we seek to support co-production of knowledge in mountain research.”

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Cover image by Grzegorz Pysz.

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