Leverage Points Conference: deadline extended to 15 July

By Dave Abson

Due to popular demand and academia’s somewhat loose interpretation of the notion of a deadline*, we have extended the abstract submission deadline for the Leverage Points 2019 conference until 15 of July 2018. Please spread this information within your networks.

* Best said by the late great Douglas Adams “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by”

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Leverage Points 2019: International conference on sustainability research and transformation, Lüneburg, Germany, 6-8 February – Call for abstracts

Humanity sits at a crossroad between tragedy and transformation, and now is a crucial time for sustainability research. Radical approaches are needed in sustainability research and praxis if they are to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Inspired by the work of Donella Meadows’ “Leverage Points: Places to intervene in a system”, this conference will explore the deep leverage points that can lead to sustainability transformations, asking: how do we transform ourselves, our science, our institutions, our interventions and our societies for a better future?

The conference is premised on three principles: 1) The importance of searching for places where interventions can lead to transformative change; 2) Open inquiry, exchange and co-learning across multiple theoretical, methodological and empirical research approaches; and 3) The need for reflection on modes of research and processes in sustainability research. We hope that this conference will help us move from incremental to transformational change; extend our thinking about complex sustainability challenges and deepen our collective and transdisciplinary research practices.

The call for abstracts is now open until 15 July 2018.

For more information please visit: http://leveragepoints2019.leuphana.de

If you have any specific enquiries about abstract submission please contact: LP2019@leuphana.de

 

You are a Leverage Point!

Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformation

by Karen O’Brien

Have you ever thought of yourself as a leverage point? Someone who can shift systems in big ways? At the 2019 Leverage Points Conference at Leuphana University, I plan to explain why you – and all of us, for that matter — should think of ourselves as leverage points for systems change. I will encourage you to lay aside your favorite “–ism” and consider your potential to generate change from a wider and deeper perspective, starting with the idea that systems are relationships and that your relationship to nature, to others, to yourself, and to the process of change actually matters. Literally!

As a big fan of Donella Meadows’ 1999 essay on “Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System,” I am particularly interested in working with the highest leverage points. Shouldn’t we all?  Given the challenges facing humanity and the urgency of responding to them, we…

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A family friendly conference

Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformation

By Anne Jo Berkau

Many of the members of organising committee for Leverage Points 2019 have children – from very young babies upwards. As such, we are acutely aware of the support needed in order to work AND care for your children. At this conference it will be us who support you.

Free childcare during the conference sessions

Professional kindergarten carers can take care of your children during day (from 8:00-18:00). Yes, all day! The day before the conference starts, your children can get acquainted with the carers while you are there. You can discuss your children’s special needs and preferences. If you want to know more about the carers beforehand please stay tuned, we will introduce them on our website soon.

Nursing room

We have a quiet nursing room for breastfeeding and pumping.

Napping room

We have a napping room: completely dark and quiet. If your child needs a…

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Making the Leverage Points Conference Family-Friendly

Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformation

By Julia Leventon

I’m very excited that Mama is an Academic has teamed up with the Leverage Points conference organisers, and the family services at Leuphana University in order to make sure that the Leverage Points 2019 conference is mama friendly.  In truth, this is a fairly easy collaboration – I overlap as a Principle Investigator in Leverage Points, and a founder of Mama is an Academic.  But it feels like a timely collaboration, as there are many conversations happening at the moment about making conferences more accessible to mothers.  This is evident in recent twitter conversations linked to @mamacademic, and in excellent articles such as here.  So we wanted to get it right.

I also think it’s an important thing to do.  Since having my son 2 years ago, I have missed my favourite annual conference twice because my husband couldn’t take time off for those days.  I…

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Job opening: 3-year postdoc (ecology/social sciences)

By Joern Fischer

I’m looking for a new postdoc to join our research group. In short, it’s a three-year position, focusing on the social and/or ecological sciences; the application deadline is 27 July 2018. Please email me for questions, and please help to spread this advertisement! The official details follow below.

POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCH ASSOCIATE (M/F) (SOCIAL/ECOLOGICAL SCIENCES)

18.06.2018

Leuphana University Lüneburg (foundation under public law), Faculty of Sustainability, is offering a post as

Postdoctoral Research Associate (m/f)
(social/ecological sciences)
– salary group EG 13 TV-L, full time –

starting as soon as possible, for a period of 3 years.

Professor Joern Fischer’s research group on “Sustainable Landscapes” is looking to employ a postdoc to support existing activities during the time period specific above.
The research group focuses on the intersection of the ecological and social sciences, drawing on the concepts of sustainability science and social-ecological systems. Two key research areas pursued by the group at present relate to harmonizing food security and biodiversity conservation; and to leverage points for sustainability. The group is also engaged in teaching at the Bachelor’s and Master’s levels. Here, key classes include Sustainability Science (Master), Conservation Biology (Master) and practical field classes teaching bird and butterfly survey and identification techniques (Bachelor).

Tasks and responsibilities for this position will include:

  • supporting teaching activities, with a nominal teaching duty of 4 teaching hours per week during the semester;
  • supporting existing research activities – including assisting the completion of student manuscripts;
  • assisting in the preparation of new grant applications;
  • assisting with additional day-to-day aspects of facilitating smooth collaboration within the research group; and
  • preparation of a cumulative “habilitation thesis” on a topic agreed with Prof. Fischer.

Selection criteria are:

  • university degree (Master or equivalent) in ecology, the social sciences or another relevant field;
  • PhD or equivalent doctoral degree in ecology, the social sciences or another relevant field;
  • strong communication skills in English;
  • ability and willingness to teach relevant classes (drawing partly on existing materials);
  • ability and enthusiasm to work in an intercultural and interdisciplinary group;
  • strong writing skills in English;
  • strong research track record; and
  • teaching experience (desirable).

For questions, please contact Prof. Joern Fischer (joern.fischer@uni.leuphana.de ).

Leuphana University of Lüneburg is an equal opportunity employer committed to fostering heterogeneity among its staff. Disabled applicants with equal qualifications will be given priority consideration. We are looking forward to receiving your application.

Your application:
Please address all selection criteria under clearly labeled headings in up to one short paragraph each. Please also send a CV (including publications), copies of relevant certificates and transcripts, and the names of up to three academic referees.

Please send your application by July 27, 2018 preferably electronically (as a single merged pdf file) or by mail to:

Leuphana University of Lüneburg
Personalservice, Corinna Schmidt
Subject: PostDoc Sustainable Landscapes
Universitätsallee 1
21335 Lüneburg
Germany
bewerbung@leuphana.de

Leveraging transformations in knowledge systems for a more vibrant and flourishing world

Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformation

By Ioan Fazey.

Is there anything more important than trying to figure out how we should act, work and play in a world that is rapidly changing, and where contemporary challenges require much more than simply throwing the same kinds of thinking at them that created many of the problems in the first place? I am looking forward to ‘Leverage Points 2019’. The conference will provide exciting opportunities to examine how systemic change can come about and how we think about and frame such processes. In particular, I will be sharing some of the insights coming from my own and my colleagues work on the relationships between transformation and knowledge, and how the way we think about and approach science and learning influences the very nature of the world we create. Some of this thinking has led me to the conclusion that we need nothing less than a second revolution…

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Leverage Points 2019 Conference: Systems thinking

Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformation

By David Abson

The international conference “Leverage Points 2019” will be hosted by Leuphana University in the historic Hansestadt Lüneburg from 6-8 February 2019. While the conference has a number of core themes related to sustainability research and transformations, it was in no small part inspired by the seminal work of the great systems thinker Donella Meadows. In particular, Meadows’ impassioned plea for a more systematic approach to intervening in complex systems has been a key inspiration for the conference. Here I will introduce the systems thinking theme of the conference.

At its core sustainability can be thought of as a systems perspective. What it is we are trying to sustain is rarely a discrete single object, but rather a system of dynamically interconnected elements with a particular function or purpose (for example, a single farm, a pristine ecosystem, a cherished institution). In turn, that system is inevitably…

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The three most dangerous narratives in conservation

An excellent piece by Chris Sandbrook — go visit his blog!

Thinking like a human

Emery Roe, an American policy scholar, first developed the idea that ‘narratives’ – stories about the world and how it works – are used in policy making processes to cut through complexity and justify a particular course of action. We are a storytelling species, and people find it easy to understand and get behind a compelling story with strong internal logic and a beginning, middle and end. Once a narrative has taken hold they can be very difficult to shake off, at least until an even more compelling ‘counter-narrative’ arrives on the scene. A classic example from resource governance is the ‘resources will be over-exploited unless they are in private ownership’ narrative, based on Garrett Hardin’s 1968 Tragedy of the Common’s article. It took decades of careful scholarship, and ultimately a nobel prize for Elinor Ostrom, to demonstrate that this narrative was compelling, influential, and wrong.

There are numerous narratives…

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Transgenic golden rice: friend or foe?

By Annika Kettenburg

How come scientists disagree quite fundamentally at times? In our new paper, we investigated the academic controversy over transgenic Golden Rice. Itself a microcosm of the broader debate surrounding genetically modified crops, it shows some unique particularities: Here, rice plants were modified to synthesize beta-carotene and thus act as an edible cure against Vitamin A deficiency – a humanitarian project developed in university halls, to be handed out for free to smallholders. It is anticipated to become available in the Philippines and Bangladesh in two to three years from now.

rice

At first sight, the scientific position on Golden Rice seems to almost exclusively consist of utmost approval. In 2016, 131 Nobel laureates signed a petition to accelerate the introduction of Golden Rice – calling to end the “crime to humanity” committed by the GMO opposition. Though critics are outweighed in numbers, they voice various concerns. Most often, they point to an overshadowing of malnutrition’s root causes, namely the social determinants of access to food, and the inadequacy of Golden Rice in addressing these.

Corresponding to this bifurcation, our cluster analysis identified two major branches in the Golden Rice literature. Interestingly, the branches and their clusters correlated with the disciplines authors adhered to and the scope of topics they addressed. Put simply, the branch optimistic up to euphoric about Golden Rice was mostly comprised of plant scientists, and the topics our indicator analysis marked as constitutive centered on deregulation. The more critical branch consisted mostly of social scientists writing on a variety of topics relevant to sustainability.

What now is the cause for this divergence? In our paper, we argue it is mainly the authors’ starting point – the perception of the problem (also discussed in this blog here, here and here). In simplified terms, if the problem of vitamin A deficiency is a result of mainly eating rice that lacks beta-carotenes, then the solution is to enhance the rice. In contrast, if one sees the problem in a lack of access to diverse, nutritious food, then one has to pursue biophysical, economic, political and social changes altogether. This means bio-fortification of crops results to be only one out of many strategies – a short-term fix until social and political structures change.

But even if scientists were to overcome disciplinary divides and arrive at a shared conclusion on Golden Rice – is it for us to decide what people should plant and eat? Why has nobody involved affected communities in their research? When reviewing the literature I was bewildered by the paternalistic undertone of some articles: either local people were completely left out or treated as passive victims. (Would we like to have Asian scientists donating to us a GM wheat variety against high blood pressure?)

A lot of the questions I came across were ultimately ethical in nature: what type of agriculture to pursue, whose needs to prioritize, which risks to take – can the concept of sustainability provide guidance here? We argue that for this to happen it is necessary to explicitly recognize which criteria constitute sustainability in a particular context (as we tried in our paper, see Table 1) and to ultimately seek genuine dialogue across disciplines and actor groups.

The full paper is available here.

LEVERAGE POINTS 2019: RESTRUCTURE

Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformation

By Jens Newig

From 6-8 February 2019, Leuphana University will host the Leverage Points 2019 international conference on sustainability research and transformation.

Inspired by the work of Donella Meadows’ “Leverage Points: Places to intervene in a system”, this conference will explore the deep leverage points that can lead to sustainability transformations, asking: how do we transform ourselves, our science, our institutions, our interventions and our societies for a better future?

One conference theme will be on Re-structuring institutions for sustainability transformation.

Institutional arrangements are deeply rooted structures that shape the rules of a system and, thus, have the power to advance systems change. Social structures, embedded in formal institutions (rules, regulations, and policies) enable, constrain, and guide human action, and thus shape sustainability transformations.

In this theme, we will explore the potentials of systemic, institutional change as a leverage point for sustainability transformation. Existing research often lacks a systems-oriented view…

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