Sustainability governance in Swiss cantons – making sense of principles and practices (SusGovPrincPrac)


Project C1-38


Sustainability governance (SG) is supposed to be integrative, adaptive, reflexive and participatory – just to name a few of the principles that are currently discussed by scholars. These principles imply fundamental changes in the way policy makers and public administrators approach and solve societal problems in terms of governance. However, the concrete practical implications of SG principles remain mostly unclear. Instead of systematically reflecting on the precise meaning of these principles, practitioners tend to operate in a “learning-by-doing” manner when they “do” SG in their everyday practice. Conversely, scientists mostly focus on formal institutional settings and instruments when they analyze SG, but do not take account of actual SG practices and practical settings.
Our project aims at a more reflected scholarly discourse and a more effective practice of sustainability governance in Switzerland. It starts from the assumption that science and practice can learn from each other to improve both the practical effectiveness of SG and the quality of scientific analysis. For this purposes, we will launch a transdisciplinary dialogue on SG-related principles and practices in Swiss cantons. Through “transdisciplinary meaning making”, we will develop a framework of SG understandings that juxtaposes scientific perspectives with practical understandings of cantonal administrators. This framework will be used to facilitate a process of “transdisciplinary problem framing”, which will set the agenda for a larger follow-up research project, which will comprehensively analyze the political-administrative practice of SG.

Project leader
Dr. Basil Bornemann
University of Basel
Department of Social Sciences, Sustainability Research Group

Involved universities
University of Basel

Project duration
1.7.2015 - 30.9.2016


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