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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2015, 12(6), 6027-6044; doi:10.3390/ijerph120606027

Organising a Safe Space for Navigating Social-Ecological Transformations to Sustainability

School of Environmental and Geographical Sciences, University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa
Public Administration and Policy Group, Wageningen University, Hollandseweg 1, Wageningen 6700 EW, The Netherlands
American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1200 New York Ave NW, Washington, DC 20005, USA
Dutch Research Institute for Transitions, Faculty of Social Sciences, Erasmus University, Rotterdam 3062 PA, The Netherlands
These authors contributed equally to this work.
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Ivy Shiue and Charles Ebikeme
Received: 31 March 2015 / Revised: 18 May 2015 / Accepted: 22 May 2015 / Published: 28 May 2015
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [705 KB, uploaded 28 May 2015]


The need for developing socially just living conditions for the world’s growing population whilst keeping human societies within a ‘safe operating space’ has become a modern imperative. This requires transformative changes in the dominant social norms, behaviours, governance and management regimes that guide human responses in areas such as urban ecology, public health, resource security (e.g., food, water, energy access), economic development and biodiversity conservation. However, such systemic transformations necessitate experimentation in public arenas of exchange and a deepening of processes that can widen multi-stakeholder learning. We argue that there is an emergent potential in bridging the sustainability transitions and resilience approaches to create new scientific capacity that can support large-scale social-ecological transformations (SETs) to sustainability globally, not just in the West. In this article, we elucidate a set of guiding principles for the design of a ‘safe space’ to encourage stronger interactions between these research areas and others that are relevant to the challenges faced. We envisage new opportunities for transdisciplinary collaboration that will develop an adaptive and evolving community of practice. In particular, we emphasise the great opportunity for engaging with the role of emerging economies in facilitating safe space experimentation. View Full-Text
Keywords: sustainability; safe space; resilience; transitions; complexity; transformation; learning; reflexivity; knowledge co-production sustainability; safe space; resilience; transitions; complexity; transformation; learning; reflexivity; knowledge co-production
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Pereira, L.; Karpouzoglou, T.; Doshi, S.; Frantzeskaki, N. Organising a Safe Space for Navigating Social-Ecological Transformations to Sustainability. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2015, 12, 6027-6044.

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