Friday - DAY 3
Eline van Ballegooij
|Inclusive futures: what are they and how are they achieved? Researchers could help study the future through testing anticipated scenarios and using imagination in qualitative research. The definition of the word ‘inclusive’ seems hard to grasp and highly dependent on researchers’ positionality. Research on the studying of the future includes a wide variety of areas: energy, food consumption and governance to name a few. Another area of research that was a recurring theme in the Saturday sessions was that of circularity, whether in economy, production, or consumption. Data on current circular behaviour and policy was presented as outcomes of studying one of the biggest contributors to environmental impacts: cities. Discussions arose as to how change is framed, and the consensus seemed to be that we need to move away from so-called ‘doom and gloom’ scenarios. Instead of the reduction narrative, should we not focus on what stands to be gained (on individual and societal level) from change? That the current state of production and consumption is not sustainable is not controversial, but instead of telling people that they can no longer do certain things, we could focus on the benefits of changing habits, values, policy and more. Another point of discussion was structural and big pictures injustices, and how the affluent are the problem. Finally, the last keynote of the conference by Prof. Richard Wolff presented us with a different future scenario or perspective on change: he focused on finding a collective way to ‘break free’ of the current production-consumption system. To move away from a minority-majority organisation of work, Prof. Wolff argued for implementation of worker cooperatives to democratize workplaces.
During today's sessions, the topic of missing elements in sustainability transformations was discussed. In circualr economy research, there is a lack of comprehensive understanding of the concept of ‘consumption’ when it comes to consumers and the dynamics of post-consumption (aside from waste management). Often, consumers are seen as passive participants, and the focus remains on technology and product design. However, it is essential to recognise that fundamental change lies in consuming less rather than simply encouraging different consumption patterns. To address this, it is suggested that we need to develop strategies that move beyond recycling and towards higher levels of the R-ladder. This entails promoting repairing, reusing, and refusing, which ultimately leads to reduced resource usage. In the keynote session, Professor Richard Wolff prompted us to reconsider the current production system. While we have observed various changes in production, the organization of work has largely remained unchanged, necessitating a fundamental transformation. A small minority at the top continues to govern the majority, excluding them from decision-making processes. Therefore, it is crucial for us to reflect on what, how, and where we produce, as well as how we distribute the fruits of work. Connecting Professor Wolff's speech with the discussions from other sessions, it becomes apparent that in addition to identifying missing elements, we must also consider the interconnectedness between these elements and situate them within a broader context.
Danielle van Dijl
|While there was more than enough new interesting information, today mostly felt like a day for reflection. There are so many things I learned during the conference that I like to think about what from these learnings I can implement myself. After all, if you want to change the world, start with yourself right?
I am going to:
- Question how my work frames the world and if I am adding to a positive frame
- Be more democratic in my projects since this will revolutionize the workforce (one with limited power can hope)
- Actively offer my clothing mending skills to my circle because I learned that communal skills are a thing
- Write and look for stories since this brings humanity back in the debate
- Try and figure out what sufficiency means to me, taking my values into account
What will you take home with you?
|The last day opened up a world of debate and discussion for me, first at some great panel sessions where we had lots of time for discussion and also with the final keynotes from Prof. Halina Brown and Prof. Richard Wollf. Reflecting on the key question the day ‘how to achieve transformative change in production and consumption systems,’ and synthesising what I heard throughout the conference, I put forward these points of enquiry…
1. What is the meaning of a technology, which technologies should be used for truly transformative change to production and consumption systems, and how?
2. What decision making frameworks, and visions for the future help guide us towards a just and sustainable transformation?
3. Who are the visionaries in society - historical or living - whom we can follow to learn from and inspire us towards transformational change?
3. What is the meaning of growth? Should more emotive and just words be used to guide our society... 'care' or 'joy' perhaps?
4. What should the role of shareholders be in corporations, and how might governance be adapted or created to foster the democratisation of enterprises globally?
5. Where do the boundaries of education for sustainability lie? Should we be educating kids, or also head teachers and parents to realise transformative change, and how?
6. What is the role of the researcher in transforming society? Are we observers or drivers of change?
It was a joy to discuss these points over the past three days, and I look forward to developing this thinking and continuing the discussion before the next SCORAI in two years!
Friday - DAY 2
Eline van Ballegooij
From critical reflections on consumption to interactive and roleplaying sessions: the programme today showed yet another great variety of options. Whereas some presenters discussed methodological debates around social practice theory approaches and the explorative vs. representative nature of certain methodologies, questions that were raised mostly concerned 1) the roles of scientists and 2) the long-lasting changes that either interventions or disruptions in everyday life might invoke. Especially the first topic was popular: what is the role of a social scientist? And what normative assumptions do they take with them during research? What is the relationship between policy and research? How about municipalities or other governmental actors? What is the role of science in informing business leaders?
There is a link to be made here to the keynote speech of Diederik Samsom, who presented us with the task of supplying policy makers with tools to improve the quality of environmental policies. His question to us is ‘how do we reach the kitchen table?’, as he suggests sustainability transformation is driven from there. Circling back to the methodological debates mentioned earlier, the question for the research community might then be: ‘how do we know how to reach the kitchen table?’
Some more explorative sessions surrounding methodologies propose an innovative answer here: we could use scenarios, roleplaying and even games as we ‘dream together’ to create a more sustainable future.
|The concept of sustainability transformation has been developed over many years. However, our efforts continue to fall short in keeping pace with the rapid deterioration of the environment. The notion of transitioning from an efficient society to a sufficient society has gained significant attention in today's sessions. Merely increasing the productivity of raw material resources is insufficient, and we must also consider reducing the volume of consumption. Speakers sought to debunk prevailing myths in the pursuit of social change, challenging the beliefs that technologies are silver bullet solutions, individuals should take on the responsibility of making smart choices, happiness solely stems from higher levels of material wealth… Therefore, it is crucial for researchers to adopt a critical and reflexive perspective on these dominant ideas and explore the integration of diverse perspectives and approaches in future research. While we have successfully dispelled these myths, a new challenge has emerged: how to effectively promote profound societal transformations? Speakers shared their experiences in developing living labs to test and create solutions, but this approach has faced criticism due to its lack of clear and specific conceptualisation. Additionally, as discussed in some sessions, there are questions surrounding whether disruptions during the Covid-19 would temporarily or permanently change people’s social practices, and how these changes will impact other interconnected practices.
Danielle van Dijl
|In the first session of the day I learned about a, for me, whole new approach to understanding behaviour; social practice theory. While looking at behaviour from this lens, you acknowledge the connectivity with your daily routine (excuse my incredibly simplified explanation). It left me asking myself: why am I using certain research method? Is it because I think it is the most fitting, or is it because it is within my own routine?
What I loved about the key note presentation by Diederik Samsom is that, even if it was only for a second, he made me realize, this whole conference is a bubble of its own. Whether that was his intention or not, he reminded me we are in our scientifically educated circle here with our pro green visions. We might want to change the world but the world (and I mean also the Netherlands) contains many people who don’t have the luxury to think about sustainable behaviour.
A last important take away for me was when in one of the sessions it was suggested that literature mostly focusses on the “good” behaviour and not on why people aren’t ‘behaving’ sustainably. We maybe assume we know; but are we hearing enough stories and motivations of this group? Or are they being left out of the debate (or data set) because we are operating in our above mentioned bubble?
|Adding on to yesterday’s debates around the possible initiatives for changing consumer behaviour, several discussions were held today regarding the main drivers, barriers, and enablers for more circular consumption. There were more traditional individualistic, actor-centric perspectives shared on how to categorise consumers according to their socio-demographic characteristics or personality traits and value systems to distinguish between different possibilities for more circular consumption. This was contrasted with more structural and contextual approaches which points to the role of economic, social, and infrastructural conditions in delimiting our everyday consumption choices. Interesting insights were also provided on the importance of the domestic sphere in determining how and why we engage with materials and technologies thereby pointing to the importance of opening up and engaging with the household in circular transitions research. In line with this view, fascinating findings were shared on how moments of crisis and disruption can act as instigators for changing everyday practices and on how this can be applied for designing possible interventions in everyday consumption dynamics.
Overall, a central theme within these discussions was the balance and interaction between targeting individual consumer behaviour and more structural and production focused initiatives. The conclusion of several sessions was the need to tackle both given their interconnected relationship.
The final keynote speakers: Kersty Hobson and Ruth Mugge, both pointed to the need for everyday citizens to be assigned a more active and engaging role within circular transitions that goes beyond their initial purchasing decisions. Whilst Ruth Mugge emphasized the opportunities for product design to transform how citizens engage with their electronic appliances, Kersty Hobson spoke to the deep transformation required to tackle the socio-material cultures underlying our systems of linear consumption. Both speakers acknowledged the mutually interactive relationship between these two perspectives and highlighted how circular transformations demand an entirely new way of engaging with and valuing our materials.
|This morning’s keynote from EU representative Diederik Samsom sparked strong debate around whether such techno-centric and pro-growth visions can facilitate truly transformative change. Though asserting that sustainability cannot happen without growth, he hinted to growth in certain areas (e.g., sectors/regions?) and how intergenerational voices are influencing this sustainability narrative. Discussions following this concerned whether current paradigms hinder transformation, and the role of knowledge co-production, reflexivity, relational perspectives, transdisciplinary, and new modes of education and university activism to question such paradigms.
Practically speaking, I reflected on the seemingly important role of sustainability frameworks in creating a ‘vision’ for consumption and production systems to aim for, ‘decision-making process’ to follow, or ‘analytical method’ to apply. I ask readers to consider… do these frameworks account for the context-specific and evolving nature of society and sustainability challenges? And if they need updating… do we always need to ‘reinvent the wheel’ but can we also ‘nurture existing knowledge’? Some reflections on this include “looking back at older research such as organisational learning frameworks from the 70’s and 80s” (Kira Matus, Hong Kong University), or “looking at religious teachings as drivers of change, e.g., writings on meat consumption in the Quran” (Zarina Ahmad, Manchester University). Looking forward to tonight’s dinner and tomorrow’s closing sessions!
Thursday - DAY 1
Eline van Ballegooij
|The social conditions of consumption were brought forward by multiple presenters and participants, resulting in lively debates around ethical aspects of ‘sustainable’ food as well as the way consumption is framed. A recurring theme across various sessions was that of needs and satisfiers, for example how needs satisfaction should be prioritized over CO2 emissions when talking about transformations towards more sustainable consumption. Finally, futuring and visioning methods such as persona narratives were well-represented.
|The rapidly increasing consumption of meat has raised global concerns regarding environmental pollution, health risks, and animal welfare. How to replace meat and dairy products in people's diets has become a significant challenge. Scholars from various disciplines have made efforts to understand consumers' perceptions, motivations, and barriers when it comes to consuming plant- or insect-based food. For instance, philosophers examine shifts in the conceptualisation of meat, psychologists delve into the psychological factors influencing consumption choices, and sociologists adopt a broader perspective, situating meat (alternative)-related food practices within the larger context of the sociotechnical system. Despite these differing perspectives, there is a consensus that changes in consumer behaviour are not solely driven by individuals’ motivation or attitudes, but are also influenced by socio-material arrangements, individuals' capabilities and life experiences, culture and tradition, and various other factors. Therefore, it is crucial to consider the context when implementing strategies aimed at reducing meat consumption across different societies.
Danielle van Dijl
|In the first session I visited there was a debate about whether striving for sufficiency meant producing less or distributing more. While it is easy to get polarized in discussions of how to address sustainability issues the conclusion was that it is a shared identity we need for action.
A key take-away of the day for me was that we need to have and feel the ‘freedom of choice’ for us to choose sustainable behaviours. This might seem logical but it is important on multiple levels. If our only option is to ride a bike while we see people riding a car, we will want a car. But in addition, we also need to have the freedom represented in our infrastructure and the social freedom so we are not the weirdo on a bike.
In the last session I learned that telling stories is a good way of bringing humanity back in the debate. Many presentations I witnessed were focussed on sharing research data and with that sometimes losing the story. It however also got me thinking about the stories we tell ourselves. What story would we write for our future? Maybe storytelling helps us envisioning which in turn helps us making that vision a reality.
|Several interesting discussions and debates were held on the topic of how to instigate and support transitions towards more sustainable consumption. Whilst most dialogues agreed that lowering consumption is an integral component of a sustainable systems transition, there were several differing opinions on how to do so. A lot of speakers stressed that too much emphasis has been placed on consumers and not enough on the provisioning systems and infrastructures driving and sustaining overconsumption. They advocated for more top-down governmental policies related to choice-editing, taxing, capping and true pricing to transform the landscape of provisioning. Other discussions focused more on bottom-up citizen engagement for transforming daily practices related to consumption. All discussions raised the critical issue of how to protect the most vulnerable in society and ensure that consumption transitions are fair. A second theme that was touched upon multiple times throughout the day was related to the changing role of scientists and academics as several speakers stressed that the role of researchers can no longer be limited to the production of knowledge. Equally vital is their active involvement in driving transformative change through hands-on and practical initiatives.
|• In his opening keynote, Arthur Mol highlighted the normative dimension of sustainability and production research, and the need for continuous reflection on researcher positionality and the very definitions/goals we have in terms of sustainability. Also, the ‘puzzle’ provoked discussions on the many challenges our research addresses, namely, many view points, high complexity and a need for context specific approaches, imagination, (un)learning and boundary pushing.
• Linked to this, I heard many critical debates on “what happens after”. After the conference/after publishing a paper/after teaching students about sustainability? How can the conference and our work contribute to truly transformative change rather than perpetuating the status quo? Some discussions on this in sessions focused on the need to balance the dominant economic-based rationality with feminist perspectives on consciousness, openness, emotions and connection with nature. Also ‘going meta’ as a researcher by reflecting on our own practices/processes or goals/values and how we make decision, or studying these processes in society when/why is society learning and indeed changing?
• Reflecting on the limitations of the conference, I noticed a clear bias towards studies on consumption rather than production and very few seem to bridge the two. Can demand (consumption) change without a focus on supply? And vice versa, should supply studies only be limited to demand? I provoke participants to ask themselves – how is your work on consumption related to the production context, and vice versa? And what might the broader benefits/limitations of broadening your research focus be?
SCP23: SCORAI-ERSCP-WUR Conference "Transforming consumption-production systems toward just and sustainable futures" (July 5-8, 2023, in Wageningen)Registration website for SCP23: SCORAI-ERSCP-WUR Conference "Transforming consumption-production systems toward just and sustainable futures" (July 5-8, 2023, in Wageningen)
SCP23: SCORAI-ERSCP-WUR Conference "Transforming consumption-production systems toward just and sustainable futures" (July 5-8, 2023, in Wageningen)firstname.lastname@example.org
SCP23: SCORAI-ERSCP-WUR Conference "Transforming consumption-production systems toward just and sustainable futures" (July 5-8, 2023, in Wageningen)email@example.com://www.scp-conference-2023.com/web
SCP23: SCORAI-ERSCP-WUR Conference "Transforming consumption-production systems toward just and sustainable futures" (July 5-8, 2023, in Wageningen)SCP23: SCORAI-ERSCP-WUR Conference "Transforming consumption-production systems toward just and sustainable futures" (July 5-8, 2023, in Wageningen)0.00EUROnlineOnly2019-01-01T00:00:00Z
Wageningen University & ResearchWageningen University & ResearchHoge Steeg 2 6708 PB Wageningen Netherlands