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Transdisciplinary skills


Admission requirements

Students of the MSc Governance of Sustainability


The governance of sustainability deals with problems that originate from different realms (e.g., nature, human behaviour, economic dynamics, social interactions). The understanding of these often complex problems demands different specific expertise and approaches. To tackle these problems, decision-makers need to go beyond disciplinary boundaries, to find integrated and innovative solutions.

The governance of sustainability engages with almost any kind of disciplinary field (e.g., biology/ecology, geology, physics, statistics, geography, economy, policy, management, anthropology, psychology, communication, computer science etc.). How can we make sure that all these professionals work together and understand each other effectively? To this goal, transdisciplinary skills are needed.

The main goal of this course is to provide students with a conceptual approach and operational skills and tools to connect dots from the different disciplinary fields they are going to encounter during the Master Governance of Sustainability and to bridge these concepts with the world of the practice of governance of sustainability.

Learning goals

At the end of the course, students will have acquired the following contents and skills.

  • Transdisciplinary (TD) Theory: meanings of transdisciplinarity; epistemology and epistemological premises of transdisciplinarity; different types of knowledge and processes of knowledge production: from mono-disciplinary to multi to trans; knowledge brokerage; wicked problems/complex solutions.

  • Collaboration skills: team building and team work: division of tasks and roles, understanding and coping with team strengths and weaknesses, participation and engagement; conflict resolution; learning from each other; meeting deadlines and producing collaborative outputs.

  • TD Tools: problem framing; problem-tree analysis; stakeholder analysis; SWOT analysis; design thinking; theory of change.

  • TD Skills: active listening and nonverbal communication; using different sources of information; understanding context; thinking “out-of-the-box”; use of metaphors; use of “boundary objects” (transferring knowledge from one realm to the other); open to other opinions/backgrounds; debating; strategic communication; collective learning.

  • Communication and presentation: different ways of presenting; use of audio-visual presentation methods; story-telling; policy briefs; elevator pitches; role playing; presenting to a non-scientific audience; presenting to an academic audience and to an expert panel.

Teaching methods / mode of instruction

The course will consist of theoretical plenary lectures, lectures on skills and tools and workgroup assignments. Workgroup outputs will be presented in various ways (video, podcast, policy brief). Students will be asked to organize debates and role plays. Guests, from both academic and civil society organizations, will be invited to present ideas and case studies.

Type of assessment

Peer review of workgroup assignment outputs supplemented by individual assessment by the course lecturers. There is no exam.

Course materials / reading list

See Brightspace

Course load

Total course load: 168 hours
Plenary Lectures: 32 hours
Plenary Workshops: 32 hours
Group assignments: 68 hours
Self-study: 36 hours