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A pluralistic and integrated approach to action-oriented knowledge for sustainability

Abstract

Sustainability science needs more systematic approaches for mobilizing knowledge in support of interventions that may bring about transformative change. In this Perspective, we contend that action-oriented knowledge for sustainability emerges when working in integrated ways with the many kinds of knowledge involved in the shared design, enactment and realization of change. The pluralistic and integrated approach we present rejects technocratic solutions to complex sustainability challenges and foregrounds individual and social learning. We argue that research institutions devoted to sustainability should focus more on creating the conditions for experimenting with multiple kinds of knowledge and ways of knowing to foster sustainability-oriented learning.

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Acknowledgements

G.C. thanks the Marie-Curie Individual Action (grant no. 752135) for supporting the project ‘What Epistemology for Sustainability Science? Experiments and Theories for Social Transformations’. D.J.L. thanks the Volkswagen Foundation and the Lower Saxony Ministry of Science and Culture for funding the project ‘Leverage Points for Sustainable Transformations: Institutions, People and Knowledge’ (grant no. A112269). G.C., D.J.L. and M.D.L. thank the Volkswagen Foundation and the Lower Saxony Ministry of Science and Culture for funding the project ‘Complexity or Control: Paradigms for Sustainability Science’ (grant no. A112135) and the Smart Family Foundation for support. We thank researchers in the Faculty of Sustainability at Leuphana University for engaging in critical and constructive conversations that have inspired many of the thoughts and arguments in this Perspective.

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G.C. with the support of C.L. developed the idea, laid the conceptual foundations and led the writing and revision process. T.v.W., I.F. and D.J.L. contributed to the development of the main arguments and to the writing. B.M.-L., K.H., A.K., H.v.W., N.A.S. and M.D.L. contributed to the conceptual development, to some of the writing, and to improving the structure and style.

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Correspondence to Guido Caniglia.

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Caniglia, G., Luederitz, C., von Wirth, T. et al. A pluralistic and integrated approach to action-oriented knowledge for sustainability. Nat Sustain 4, 93–100 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-020-00616-z

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