Transforming knowledge for sustainability: towards adaptive academic institutions
Author: Miller, T.R., Muñoz-Erickson, T., Redman, C.L.
Title: Transforming knowledge for sustainability: towards adaptive academic institutions
Year of Publication: 2011
Journal: International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education
Volume: 12 Issue: 2
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to argue that the types of and ways in which academic
institutions produce knowledge are insufficient to contribute to a transition to sustainability.
Design/methodology/approach – Reflecting on experiences at the School of Sustainability, the
authors contend that a different kind of knowledge is needed, what we call sustainability knowledge.
A conceptual approach is taken wherein the authors propose several characteristics of sustainability
knowledge and offer some proposals on how academic institutions must be structured to produce it.
Findings – Sustainability knowledge has several characteristics including social robustness,
recognition of system complexity and uncertainty, acknowledgement of multiple ways of knowing
and the incorporation of normative and ethical premises. In order to produce sustainability knowledge, the knowledge production process itself must be changed to be more adaptive and engaged with society. Two organizing characteristics for institutions seeking to produce such knowledge are proposed – epistemological pluralism and reflexivity. The adaptive cycle from resilience theory is then used as a heuristic to illustrate how these design characteristics play out in making the institution (and individual) more adaptive.
Practical implications – As more academic institutions move to address sustainability, this paper
does not offer a roadmap; rather, it raises important issues that must be addressed in performing
research and education for sustainability.
Originality/value – The paper shows that type of knowledge that academia must produce and how it
might produce it are redefined for sustainability problems.