About the Conference
Humanity sits at a crossroad between tragedy and transformation, with seemingly little idea of where we wish to go, or how we intend to get there. Similarly, now is a crucial time for sustainability research. Is it to be a passive chronicler of the challenges of our times? Or an active facilitator of transformative change towards sustainability?
This conference was inspired by the seminal essay by Donnella Meadows “Leverage Points Places to intervene in a system”. In this work, born of frustration and a deep desire for a more effective change, Meadows highlighted a series of leverage points—places in complex systems where a small shift may lead to fundamental changes in the system as a whole— for sustainability transformations. In particular, she noted the tendency to focus on highly tangible, but essentially weak leverage points (i.e., interventions that are easy to make, but have limited potential for transformative change).
Instead, she urged a focus on perhaps less obvious, but potentially far more powerful areas of intervention. Donnella Meadows’ notion of leverage points can be seen as a boundary object, a model, a metaphor and a fundamental challenge to the status quo, dominate mindsets and paradigms. We firmly believed that such radical approaches are needed in sustainability research and praxis if they are to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
Inspired by Meadows’ work we seeked to explore (in theory, methods and praxis) the deep leverage points that can lead to sustainability transformations. This conference was asking: how do we transform ourselves, our science, our institutions, our interventions and our societies for a better future? The conference was premised on three principles:
- The importance of searching for places where interventions can lead to transformative change.
- Open inquiry, exchange and co-learning across multiple theoretical, methodological and empirical research approaches focused on sustainability science and transformative change.
- The need to reflection on modes of research and processes of change in leverage point and sustainability transformation related research.
The conference had a number of core themes:
- Re-structuring institutions for transformative change
- Re-connecting people and nature as a deep leverage point
- Re-thinking how we know and act in relation to sustainability transformations
- Systems thinking and complexity as tools for transformation
- Transformative research practices in sustainability science
In the spirit of Meadows’ work there also were emergent themes dictated by inspiring research that fell outside the confines of the themes outlined above.
We were hoping that this conference would help us move from incremental to transformational change; extend our thinking about complex sustainability challenges and deepen our collective and transdisciplinary research practices.
For more information about the conference and its outcome, please visit http://leveragepoints2019.leuphana.de/