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Open AccessArticle

Stories of Transformation: A Cross-Country Focus Group Study on Sustainable Development and Societal Change

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Department of Thematic Studies—Environmental Change, Centre for Climate Science and Policy Research, Linköping University, 58183 Linköping, Sweden
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ADAD—Associação para a Defesa do Ambiente e Desenvolvimento (Association for the Defense of the Environment and Development), 7600 Praia, Cabo Verde
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Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado-Boulder, Boulder, CO 80309, USA
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School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing, Massey University, 4410 Palmerston North, New Zealand
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School of Environmental Science & Engineering, Guangzhou University, Guangzhou 510006, China
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Department of Communication and Media, Merrimack College, North Andover, MA 01845, USA
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School of Geographical Sciences, Guangzhou University, Guangzhou 510006, China
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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2427; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082427
Received: 20 February 2019 / Revised: 3 April 2019 / Accepted: 13 April 2019 / Published: 24 April 2019
Societal transformation is one of the most topical concepts in sustainability research and policy-making. Used in many ways, it indicates that nonlinear systematic changes are needed in order to fully address global environmental and human development challenges. This paper explores what sustainability transformations mean for lay focus group participants in Cabo Verde, China, Fiji, Sweden, and the USA. Key findings include: (a) Tightly linked to interpersonal relationships, sustainability was seen as going beyond the Sustainable Development Goals to include a sense of belonging; (b) transformations were framed as fundamental changes from today’s society, but most participants stated that transformation pathways need to splice new structures into the old; (c) new technologies are key engines of change. Yet, the most common drivers were awareness, education, and knowledge sharing; and (d) regardless of whether state-centric or decentralized governance was preferred, personal action was seen as essential. The focus groups displayed a shared understanding across the geographical settings; a common realization of profound sustainability predicaments facing societies across the world; and a desire for fundamental change towards a more sustainable way of life. View Full-Text
Keywords: societal transformation; sustainability; sense-making; focus groups; climate change; sustainable development goals; UN 2030 Agenda societal transformation; sustainability; sense-making; focus groups; climate change; sustainable development goals; UN 2030 Agenda
MDPI and ACS Style

Wibeck, V.; Linnér, B.-O.; Alves, M.; Asplund, T.; Bohman, A.; Boykoff, M.T.; Feetham, P.M.; Huang, Y.; Nascimento, J.; Rich, J.; Rocha, C.Y.; Vaccarino, F.; Xian, S. Stories of Transformation: A Cross-Country Focus Group Study on Sustainable Development and Societal Change. Sustainability 2019, 11, 2427.

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