It is clear that we need to build a more sustainable world. Groups of people from all different areas are working towards this goal. However, so often we work in silos, trying to leverage our specific expertise only. The problem is that climate change is complex. The challenges we face and transformation we need impact a huge variety of actors, topics and fields in an interrelated way. These are not separated by expertise or field, so our approach to overcoming climate-related challenges can’t be siloed either.
One way to overcome this problem and work more holistically is referred to as “transdisciplinarity.” Addressing a problem transdisciplinarily means incorporating a wide variety of voices, and working collaboratively across areas of experience and expertise to create methods, approaches, knowledge and solutions together.
An area of climate action that is undoubtedly complex is the transition from using mostly fossil fuels for energy, to using renewable and clean energy sources. This energy transition will impact communities, our behaviours, the way we consume, jobs, infrastructure, culture and more.
A new Horizon 2020 project called SONNET (SOcial iNNovation in Energy Transitions) is addressing this head-on. The project – that had its first in-person meeting this month in Karlsruhe (Germany) – is looking at social innovation in the energy transition by engaging social science researchers, technical researchers, economists, city government officials, civil society groups, citizens and more actors to learn together and co-create solutions.
The project includes City Labs in ICLEI Members Antwerp (Belgium), Basel (Switzerland), Bristol (United Kingdom), Mannheim (Germany) and Warsaw (Poland), as well as in Grenoble (France). The local governments are project partners, steering knowledge and results collaboratively alongside researchers from various countries and fields. This will support transdisciplinarity and make sure that perspectives from different cultural and research backgrounds – including academic and on-the-ground expertise – are equally important.
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