Making new connections for transformations: An early-career transdisciplinary research networking day

Pre-conference workshop – Tuesday, 5th February 2019


We are a small group of PhD and early-career researchers involved in transdisciplinary research who have come together to share reflections, insights and strategies for the challenges we experience in our research. We will be hosting an informal networking day (5 February 2019, starting at 9AM) for PhD and early-career researchers involved in transdisciplinary (TD) research as a pre-conference event associated with the Leverage Points Conference to be held at Leuphana University in Lüneburg, Germany (6-8 February 2019).

We recognise that many young scholars are already involved in numerous other networks, and do not intend this day to be the beginning of yet another formalised, structured network. We would rather just create a generative and enjoyable space for people to build interpersonal relationships and share their TD experiences with one another in a creative and meaningful way. We further see the value of pre-conference engagement in that it speaks directly to a core theme of the conference, namely transformative research practices. The intention of this workshop is to connect with researchers about this theme in a way that provides the basis for enhanced engagement on the topic during the course of the formal conference programme.

The purpose of spending a day together would be to:

Build relationships and get to know each other in an informal, fun, yet focused manner, ahead of more formal conference engagements
Share, through practice, methods for engaging stakeholders and co-producing knowledge
Explore ideas and energy for a network of early-career researchers involved in transdisciplinary research
Provide a space to reflect on transdisciplinary approaches and methods with others
Below is the proposed schedule for the day. We encourage participants to co-create the programme with us, and we will all share our ‘learning intentions’ during the introductory session to facilitate this. We also plan to do some of these activities outdoors and to spend some time in the forest:

09:00 Introduction, welcome and mapping who we are (co-initiating) (1 hour)

Appreciative Inquiry Activity (co-sensing) (1h30 mins)

Dialogue Walks (co-reflecting, presencing) (1h30 mins)

13:00 Light lunch and warm drinksto warm up after outdoor activities (1 hour)

Thinking Council activity (co-reflecting, presencing) (1 hour)

Visual-creative prototyping activity (co-creating) (2 hours)

17:30 Cooking, eating and drinking together (co-evolving) (3-5 hours)

Guiding thematic question: The following overarching question will be used to guide interactions on the day, and we will link this to our formal session in the conference programme where we will discuss this question in more detail: Practicing transdisciplinary research in a complex world: How can we as early-career TD researchers navigate the triple jump challenge of scientific rigour and excellence, societal relevance and engagement, and self-respect and care?

We encourage people interested in participating in this networking day to read our blog seriesin which we introduce and reflect on this ‘triple jump challenge’ experienced by TD scholars.

Process design: We propose using ‘Theory U’ as a process design tool (one of the methods we can share through practice in the day) to hold the activities of the day together, and also as some of the specific tools and activities (there is a suite of associated facilitation tools available on the Theory U website). We will also draw on other methods, and aim to make this a multi-sensory experience for participants. In this way we hope to create an experience where we not only reflect intellectually on our work, but also spend time re-connecting in and with nature, open our hearts, and let our creativity come to the fore! The methods we use are ones which participants could also use in stakeholder engagement and knowledge co-production processes in their own TD work.

Participants: We will already be approximately 12 participants and would like to invite up to 18 additional early-careers scholars from the Leverage Points Conference to join us for the day. We will be capping the numbers at 30 participants to enable meaningful interactions and keep logistics manageable. We plan to circulate an open invite through our networks to join us for selected sessions via webinars.

If you would like to join us in “making new connections for transformations” on this networking day, please send a brief biography and letter of motivation (maximum of 300 words) to David Lam by the 30th September 2018 ( Participation in the workshop is free for early-career researchers attending the Leverage Points 2019 conference (excluding drinks, food, lunch, dinner, transport). If you wish to attend the workshop, but not the conference, please note this in your motivational letter.

Facilitation: The day’s activities will be facilitated by our small group of international TD researchers the ‘TD PhD Journeys’ team, in partnership with PhDs and ECRs involved in TD research at Leuphana University.

‘TD PhD Journeys’ team: David Lam1, My Sellberg2, Jessica Cockburn3, Petra Holden4, and Megan Davies5

1Institute for Ethics and Transdisciplinary Sustainability Research, Leuphana University, Lüneburg; 2Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden; 3Environmental Learning Research Centre, Rhodes University, South Africa; 4Plant Conservation Unit and the African Climate and Development Initiative, University of Cape Town, South Africa; 5Centre for Complex Systems in Transition, Stellenbosch University, South Africa.

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