Challenging unsustainable development through research cooperation

Levidow, Les and Oreszczyn, Sue (2012). Challenging unsustainable development through research cooperation. Local Environment, 17(1) pp. 35–56.



Although the concept “sustainable development” has scope to open up societal futures, this opportunity has been limited by dominant agendas promoting capital-intensive innovations. Civil society organisations (CSOs) have criticised these agendas, especially through campaign activities, while also intervening in these issues through research activity. Such interventions were extended by our project, “Co-operative Research on Environmental Problems in Europe”, which brought together CSOs and academics as partners to carry out joint research. Focusing on agricultural practices and innovations, the project analysed divergent accounts of sustainable agriculture. Through academic-CSO cooperation, critical concepts from CSOs (e.g. agrofuels and agroecology) became perspectives for research and for wider stakeholder
involvement. These concepts helped to deepen critical analysis of the EU’s dominant innovation agenda, which is seen by many CSOs as unsustainable development – perpetuating sustainability problems in the name of addressing them. Itself a societal intervention, the research process also strengthened CSOs’ efforts to intervene in EU policy frameworks, to challenge dominant innovation agendas and to promote alternatives.

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