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Sustainability 2017, 9(4), 594;

Implementing Sustainability Co-Creation between Universities and Society: A Typology-Based Understanding

Graduate School of Environmental Studies, Tohoku University, Sendai 980-0845, Japan
Department of International Development, Community, and Environment, Clark University, Worcester, MA 01610, USA
Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability, United Nations University, Tokyo 150-8925, Japan
Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, University of Tokyo, Chiba 277-8561, Japan
National Cheng Kung University Museum, National Cheng Kung University, Tainan 70101, Taiwan
Hakuhodo Inc., Tokyo 107-6322, Japan
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Japan, Tokyo 105-0014, Japan
World Vision Japan, Tokyo 164-0012, Japan
Oraga Otsuchi Yume Hiroba, Iwate 028-1131, Japan
Accenture Japan Ltd., Center for Innovation in Fukushima, Fukushima 965-0006, Japan
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Japan, Tokyo 105-0014, Japan
School of Energy and Environment, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy, University College London, London W1T-6EY, UK
Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Tokyo, Tokyo 113-8656, Japan
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Barbara Aquilani and Marc A. Rosen
Received: 24 October 2016 / Revised: 27 March 2017 / Accepted: 30 March 2017 / Published: 12 April 2017
(This article belongs to the Section Economic, Business and Management Aspects of Sustainability)
Full-Text   |   PDF [545 KB, uploaded 13 April 2017]   |  


Universities are under mounting pressure to partner with societal stakeholders and organizations to collaboratively create and implement sustainability-advancing knowledge, tools, and societal transformations. Simultaneously, an increasing number of societal organizations are reaching out to partner with universities to achieve organizational objectives and increase the effectiveness of strategies to further societal sustainability. Using a conceptual framework of “sustainability co-creation”, this study empirically examines the historical and ongoing experiences of five organizations in Japan that actively partner with universities to enhance sustainability activities and strategies to transform society. We examine motivations for partnering with universities, innovative models of practice, factors hampering the co-creative potential of the university, and desired changes to overcome these. Our empirical study leads to the proposal of a typology that might assist in categorizing and understanding key attributes of differing types of sustainability co-creation. We build our typology from two perspectives: First, in terms of the primary objective of the co-creation (ranging from knowledge production to the transformation of society), and second, in terms of the approach taken (ranging from either socially or technologically-centered). We then reflect on the organizations’ experiences to offer several strategies that could increase the effectiveness of the university when partnering with stakeholders in sustainability co-creation. We also highlight several factors effecting the university’s capacity to move beyond knowledge production towards implementation measures to transform society with external stakeholders. View Full-Text
Keywords: co-creation; sustainability; university; partnerships; collaboration; transformational science; knowledge co-production; societal transformation co-creation; sustainability; university; partnerships; collaboration; transformational science; knowledge co-production; societal transformation

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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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Trencher, G.; Nagao, M.; Chen, C.; Ichiki, K.; Sadayoshi, T.; Kinai, M.; Kamitani, M.; Nakamura, S.; Yamauchi, A.; Yarime, M. Implementing Sustainability Co-Creation between Universities and Society: A Typology-Based Understanding. Sustainability 2017, 9, 594.

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