Emerging Sustainability

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Civil Environmental and Geomatic Eng


Sustainability is a key challenge for modern social systems. This project will explore sustainability as an emergent property of the interactions between and among people, societies, technologies and the built and natural environments. We will investigate the conditions and factors which allow or hinder the emergence of sustainability in domains including health, organic agriculture and urban water systems. More significantly, the project will experiment with open source knowledge space as a method of facilitating the emergence of new knowledge about complex systems. We hypothesise that open source interaction between theoretical and methodological developments in complexity theory and expert and practitioner knowledge in specific domains will lead to rapid and unanticipated advances in both fields.


10 25 50
Description Complexity theory is a useful framework for understanding sustainability and fostering interdisciplinary research.
Exploitation Route Developing an on-line collaborative tool for sustainability research was technically challenging at the time of the research project. New software and platforms have emerged since the project that could be utilised for enhancing academic and practitioner engagement in the future.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Environment

URL http://emergingsustainability.org/user
Description This project aimed to identify necessary conditions for sustainability to emerge across different sectors. It used an open-source online methodology, which proved difficult to develop and hindered the level of engagement that was originally intended. The research showed that complexity theory provides a useful framework for analysing sustainability across different disciplines and sectors, but that interdisciplinary work and collaboration with industrial and community based partners requires long-term sustained engagement using simple tools and methods.
First Year Of Impact 2008
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Environment,Healthcare
Impact Types Societal

Description Emerging Sustainability Collaboration Portal 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Is a forum for researchers and practitioners working for sustainability. It is a place for building new tools - and rediscovering old ones - with the potential to facilitate the 'emergence of sustainability' from the bottom up.

The portal grew from the 'Emerging Sustainability' project, part of the EPSRC-funded 'Network on Emergence and Complexity' (EmergeNet).

Sustainability can emerge as a property of complex social organisations and networks (communities, institutions, regions) working cooperatively. New ideas for creating 'experimental environments' to achieve this are needed. Some may come from the disciplines of emergence and complexity, and many more exist in other spheres of thought and practice. This website provides space for these ideas to grow - by sharing tools, knowledge and understanding, comparing conceptual frameworks and research methods, and debating disagreements. Objectives of the portal were to:

· Build the site's network of researchers and practitioners

· Reflect on the methods, tools and ideas that the portal develops

· Critically review the use of open source technology as a way to support research in sustainability and complexity

This site is built on Drupal, an open source web technology. The choice of open source reflects the ethos of the Emerging Sustainability project: providing a space for building a shared knowledge platform, a place where a community of practice can evolve around complexity and sustainability.

url: http://emergingsustainability.org/index
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008