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Designing Research for Sustainability Solutions



This course will offer you an insight into how sustainability ideas and theories can be put into practice, and how research into sustainability problems can be developed. It will provide you with knowledge of tools and techniques that will help with researching and developing solutions to sustainability problems and is mainly grounded in the concept of systems thinking. The course will illustrate that there is no right or wrong methodological approach to investigating a problem, but that the method should be chosen based on its appropriateness to the problem at hand, the research question, the details required, the knowledge base, the available resources, and the socio-cultural context.

A strong emphasis will be placed on acquiring and/or improving practical skills, particularly communication skills. To help you communicate your research outcomes to your target audience in the most effective way, you will follow workshops in pitching, visualization and English writing. The benefits, and in fact necessity, of multi-disciplinary teamwork in solving sustainability issues will also become apparent during this course.

Next to improving communication skills the course will provide you insights and experience from existing sustainability projects by organizing several excursions and inviting guest speakers around the theme “Sustainable cities”.

Course objectives

The course is intended to provide you necessary knowledge and insights for the Area Study in January 2018 and provide you with knowledge and practical skill for doing research in the field of sustainability.

After completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Apply sustainability theory to practically approach sustainability research;
  2. Apply a systems approach/perspective in addressing sustainability problems;
  3. Obtain relevant information to assess sustainability problems and their potential solutions;
  4. Present information in the most useful manner to the target audience;
  5. Propose a valid and feasible research approach to use in finding sustainable solutions;
  6. Obtain topical additional knowledge for the area study (sustainable cities);
  7. Work in an interdisciplinary team to address a complex sustainability problem;

Teaching methods and exams

This course runs over a period of six weeks, during which there will be lectures and interactive workshops on various topics related to the complexity of sustainability issues, proposal writing, sustainable cities and communicating research.

For the course assessment, you will write, in groups, a research proposal for a sustainability problem in an urban area, and your group will present this proposal in writing as well by oral presentation.

In addition to the scheduled lectures and workshops, every group is expected to have weekly meetings with their assigned group supervisor and to contribute to scheduled plenary presentations.

The final grade for the course consists of three parts:
1. Report grade
2. Potential +1 to report grade as decided by a mystery jury during the symposium
3. Group self-assessment

Timetable and examination dates

The course is from 13 November – 22 December 2017. Contact days are Monday / Wednesday / Friday. Tuesday and Thursday are self-study days for doing group work.


Students have to enroll in Blackboard. All the lecture notes, announcements, the schedule, assignments, etc. can be found there.

Admission requirements

To take part in the course Designing Sustainablity Solutions, students must have followed the previous course Big Issues New Answers.