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Helen Avery

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We Can Only Do It Together: Addressing Global Sustainability Challenges Through a Collaborative Paradigm


  • Helen Avery
  • Birgitta Nordén


  • Walter Leal Filho
  • Amanda Lange Salvia
  • Luciana Brandli
  • Ulisses M. Azeiteiro
  • Rudi Pretorius

Summary, in English

Urgent structural change is required in higher education to allow collaboration both within and across
universities so that achieving a rapid sustainability transition can become the overarching and main
purpose of education, research and work in society. A review of the literature reveals that fragmentation,
caused by traditional hierarchical faculty and disciplinary organisation, is a major obstacle to such goals.
Additionally, universities today operate under a competitive paradigm that prevents the transfer and
application of available knowledge, thereby blocking the development of new knowledge and coherent
future-oriented approaches. Fragmentation and competition prevent universities from pooling resources,
understanding major challenges holistically and using systemic approaches to address them. Political
agendas, funding priorities and existing mechanisms of dissemination and evaluation of academic activity
contribute to inertia. Rather than applying fragmented sustainability goals within rigid silo structures,
action for sustainability needs to be coordinated among academic actors both horizontally and diagonally.
This requires spaces for strategic thinking, concertation, open discussion and knowledge sharing. The
insights achieved in strong sustainability research environments need to direct efforts towards achieving a
rapid sustainability transition, and priority must be given to structures, networks and research that already
enable concertation and collaboration


  • MECW: The Middle East in the Contemporary World
  • Centre for Environmental and Climate Science (CEC)
  • Centre for Advanced Middle Eastern Studies

Publishing year





World Sustainability Series

Document type

Book chapter


Springer Nature Switzerland AG


  • Environmental Sciences
  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
  • Educational Sciences


  • Higher education for sustainable development
  • systemic change
  • transdisciplinarity
  • collaboration
  • ethics
  • resilience
  • capacity building
  • global challenges




  • ISBN: 978-3-030-63398-1
  • ISBN: 978-3-030-63399-8