A Co-evolutionary, Transdisciplinary Approach to Innovation in Complex Contexts: Improving University Well-Being, a Case Study

Mieke van der Bijl-Brouwer*, Giedre Kligyte, Tyler Key

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
93 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Complex societal challenges cannot be resolved with quick fixes, nor can they be successfully addressed from disciplinary or institutional silos. In this article we propose an innovative approach to tackling contemporary societal challenges based on complexity theory and transdisciplinarity. The lens of complexity reveals that such challenges emerge within complex contexts. Complex challenges cannot simply be resolved, due to their dynamic, non-linear nature. Instead, the complex context itself can be steered in a certain desired direction through iterative action and learning cycles. Transdisciplinary approaches help us understand how different perspectives and ways of knowing held by relevant actors can be combined to serve effective action in complex contexts. We have integrated complexity theory and transdisciplinarity to create a co-evolutionary model of innovation illustrating that who we work with, how we work, and what we learn and create co-evolve over time. We show how an innovation approach based on building a vision and including a reflexive social learning method can provide a guiding structure to this co-evolutionary process. We illustrate this approach with a case study focused on improving the well-being of staff and students at a university. We conclude the paper with implications for design.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)565-588
Number of pages24
JournalShe Ji
Volume7
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Co-evolution
  • Complexity
  • Innovation
  • Reflexivity
  • Transdisciplinary innovation
  • Well-being

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