We aim to make significant scholarly contribution to building a sustainable society by engaging in two main research areas. The first theme focuses on bridging the gap between sustainability theories and practice through an empirical-analytical research approach. In doing so, we identify different problems in the society and analyze how we can provide sustainable solutions. The second research theme is sustainability education where we mainly employ a normative approach. Working under these two overarching themes are researchers coming from various disciplinary and cultural backgrounds hence we do not enforce a specific methodology; instead we let the researcher decide depending on the nature of the research problem he/she is tackling.
Since I was involved in the Graduate Program in Sustainability Science, I have had more chance to think about how the sustainable society looks like. A static society cannot be sustainable. So, the key question is: how to create the incentives to activate the society other than “money” or “economic efficiency” under the society with limited economic development. In other words, how to sustain the dynamics of society is the most important. I hope you may join me in thinking of answers to this question. By the way, I like a diverse society. In order to be diverse, unique and independent individuals must be getting together. I want students to be aware of their own uniqueness and independency. I have a feeling that diversity could be a source of dynamics of the society.
Through different case studies we examine various societal problems around the world and propose sustainable solutions in the form of technological innovations, interventions or policy recommendations. We believe that the search for sustainable solutions cannot be achieved solely by top-down approach hence in almost all our projects we try to involve different stakeholders and work with them closely to ensure that the proposed solution fits the local context.
The growing reality that the world is facing a resource management crisis has driven many scholars in search of the right institutional arrangement for resource governance. Societal transformation towards sustainable development has long been treated as a responsibility of the government. However, there is increasing recognition that citizens, business sectors, NGOs and other actors can also play an important role. Most studies usually focus on a single mode of governance, private, government control or community-based, my research on the other hand explores the interaction between these modes. By analyzing these interactions I hope to make recommendations on how policies can be designed to be more congruent to sustainability goals.
My PhD research examined the challenges of changing the institutional arrangements for managing community irrigation, from a model that is self-governed by the locals themselves to a state-reinforced system. I chose a case study of community-based irrigation in Sagada Philippines to elucidate the process and outcome of institutional change, with the goal of providing policy-makers with recommendations on how to further improve the institutional design of state-reinforced communal irrigation systems.
As part of my research work, I conducted several field visits to interview farmers, community leaders and local government officials. Afterwards, I employed a qualitative research strategy to analyze the empirical data in the form of field notes, audio files, survey data and secondary sources including government reports and project documents. The first step of the analysis was the creation of data transcription, which was later on organized into key themes, categories and patterns. As soon as the themes were identified and the relationships between them analyzed, they were then compared and contrasted with existing theory in an iterative process to gain an understanding of the real situation. Finally, the findings and evidence from various sources were triangulated to ensure research validity.
Systems thinking and interdisciplinary approach are central themes of sustainability research. Hence in order to conform to this paradigm, new ways of education that transcends conventional disciplinary structures and processes is needed. In order to address this need, one focus of the research group is to propose innovative educational approaches that can facilitate cross-disciplinary thinking.
Education has been identified as a key force central to the processes of sustainable development. It is seen as an important vehicle for actively promoting positive attitudes and patterns of behavior that reflects the requirements of sustainable development. Based on the general idea that diversity of student is an asset for all types of education and on the result of my masters research, that class environment with students from various academic backgrounds and cultures do have certain positive influences on higher education for sustainable development, my doctoral research aims to deepen the discussions and to suggest methods for taking the most advantage of this heterogeneity for the sake of sustainability education.
In this research, I have employed a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods. Firstly, a survey questionnaire was sent to a number of lecturers or instructors (within the network of ESDA, ACE, ICSS, IR3S and ProSPER.net) who have certain concern about diversity and/or sustainability. Then upon the given answers, several deep interviews have been conducted with chosen respondents and finally a lesson study is to take place in Vietnam. The methodology is strengthened by the theory of triangulation, which indicates more than two methods used in a study to double check the results, therefore researchers can be assured that the picture they present of the reality of a setting or situation is clear and true.
Conducting the questionnaire is to find out if there is a true linkage between diversity and students’ learning outcomes, especially for SE, from the perspective of teachers. 45 (out of 50 expected) samples have been collected from lecturers of many fields including sustainability science, education, linguistics, and so on. Four deep interviews and a short preliminary field trip to Vietnam were carried out. First-round results show that there is a strong support of teachers for promoting diversity of students and the main pedagogy that has been widely applied is to make the most use of discussion under various forms. Field trips and real experiences are recommended to be applied as a crucial part of higher education in order to get students motivated and advanced in understanding both diversity and sustainability.
Focus group discussion with waste pickers in Delhi, India
Key informant interview with local leader in Sagada, Philippines
Intensive Program on Sustainability (IPOS), Bangkok, Thailand