Open Research Europe (Jun 2022)
Facilitating transformative innovations in sustainability education [version 2; peer review: 2 approved]
Educational strategies globally are changing from an authoritative, top-down model to one focused on greater student and stakeholder participation in planning and implementation of research and educational activities. In addition to emphasis on student-centered education, strategies currently evolve to encompass learning organizations and multistakeholder learning networks. These are essential to address the complexity and scope of tomorrow’s challenges, involving issues that could be called ’wicked problems’ not easily addressed by single disciplines nor resulting in solutions that please all the players. In this study we describe how a transformative innovation – the NEXTFOOD educational approach – may contribute substantially to a transition of agricultural and food education and how it can be developed and diffused within and between teaching institutions. The method was action research informed by several workshops organized at annual consortium conferences during the first three years of the project. The findings show that a successful transformation involves learning both within and across innovation projects repeated at various organisations in a network. The action research model presented in this paper may be useful as an instrument to support the facilitation of transformative innovations. The transition process resulted in substantial changes in mindset, educational practices and organisational structures at the teaching institutions. However, scaling-up promising educational initiatives may encounter several barriers that need to be overcome at individual, group and institutional levels, and we provide insight on how this can be accomplished in a multi-national consortium of universities.