Collective and creative consortia: combining knowledge, ways of knowing and praxis

Article written by: Roderick J. Lawrence

This paper is a think piece about planning and constructing built environments and infrastructure for healthy cities and communities founded on combinations of different types of knowledge and ways of knowing that include creative thinking. Hence, different disciplinary skills and competences should be interrelated, synthesized and applied creatively in complementary ways during concerted action between consortia of researchers, practitioners and representatives of civil society. Disciplines and professions should recognize the necessity of collective thinking that creatively combines knowledge, skills and competences in novel ways that respond to persistent problems in cities harmful to planetary health and human well-being. The paper discusses the dialectical and virtuous relations between discipline-based knowledge, profession-based know-how, and the ways of knowing of citizens. Then it advocates a mutual exchange between different types knowledge and ways of knowing by transdisciplinary contributions, because they enable a shared understanding of a problematic situation before it is changed. Creative and imaginative thinking are necessary to synthesize different types of knowledge and ways of knowing. This kind of contribution is illustrated by two large urban projects: the community-led Ringland Project for road traffic in Antwerp, Belgium, and the co-creation of a new housing cooperative in Zurich, Switzerland. Both projects have direct and indirect impacts on health.

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In October 2018 Non Architecture launched its eighth competition, “Learning – Alternative designs for Universities”, asking creative people from all around the world to produce innovative design concepts for Universities. Their work was enriched with the help of the researchers of the Intrepid Cost action on the Future of  Universities. Additionally, visual and written content was gathered with an open call for articles and visuals on the same topic. The results of this process have been selected and rearranged by the Non architecture editorial team, and it is now presented in this book as the result of an open-source research on the universities of the future.

Non Architecture (Ed.) (2019) NON-Architecture & INTREPID Learning Competition, eBook Non Architecture in collaboration with INTREPID, COST Action TD1408, available at:

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With 25 storytellers

Katrin Paadam and Liis Ojamäe Marta Varanda, Olivia Bina, Maria Helena Guimarães Lisbon, 26 March 2019 Final MC Meeting

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NON-Architecture & INTREPID Learning Competition

During Autum 2018 NONARCHITECTURE lauched a “Learning” competition to develop design proposals for the university, intended as a space of higher education, training, and teaching on all levels and disciplines. The participants were asked to create innovative and unconventional projects on this theme, questioning the very basis of the notion of the university.

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The future of universities: can we re-imagine ourselves?

by Olivia Bina ICS-Ulisboa

Presentation at Conference: Realising Just Cities – Comparative Co-Production, 6-7 Nov. 2018, Cape Town

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Universities Must ‘reframe’ Goals And Agendas

Universities must ‘reframe’ goals and agendas

Olivia Bina Keynote addressed at the Mistra Urban Futures Annual International Conference, held in Cape Town, on 7 November 2018.

It’s time for universities across the globe to start becoming an active part of the solution to the multiple social, ecological and economic crises that are leading some scholars to call this the “Anthropocene age”. To do that, they should have the courage and desire to explicitly reframe their goals, systems and agendas towards contributing to human potential for building a sustainable, just future.

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INTREPID Knowledge & Thinking The COST Experience in interdisciplinarity

Bina, O (2018) The Cost Experience in InterdisciplinarityKeynote speaker at: Interdisciplinary Workshop, University of Siena, Certosa di Pontignano, 11thOctober.


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Advances in transdisciplinarity: Epistemologies, methodologies and processes

by Roderick J. Lawrence, Human Ecology Group Institute for Environmental Sciences, University of Geneva, Switzerland

There has been a proliferation of contributions about transdisciplinarity during the last decade. Today transdisciplinarity is known and referenced in the natural and social sciences, and the humanities, as well as numerous professions. Hence it is appropriate to take stock of what has been achieved in both education and research during the last 10 years.

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Deciphering Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Contributions

by Roderick J. Lawrence, Human Ecology Group Institute for Environmental Sciences, University of Geneva, Switzerland

The incapacity of many human societies to deal with contemporary environmental questions (such as climate change, health epidemics, land-use, forestry management, renewable and non-renewable resources, housing, poverty, and urban planning) can be contrasted with the viewpoint of many professionals and politicians who are convinced that they have the \right answers.” However, the lack of consensus about climate change, the stock of renewable and non-renewable resources, and the failure of so-called \model” housing estates and urban planning projects constructed since the 1950s in countries with socialist or freemarket economies clearly show that new ideas, working methods, objectives, and criteria are needed in both scienti c research and professional practice.

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Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research: finding the common ground of multi-faceted concepts

Authors: Henrik von Wehrden, Maria Helena Guimarães, Olivia Bina, Marta Varanda, Daniel J. Lang, Beatrice John, Fabienne Gralla, Doris Alexander, Dorit Raines, Allen White, Roderick John Lawrence

Inter- and transdisciplinarity are increasingly relevant concepts and research practices within academia. Although there is a consensus about the need to apply these practices, there is no agreement over definitions. Building on the outcomes of the first year of the COST Action TD1408 “Interdisciplinarity in research programming and funding cycles” (INTREPID), this paper describes the similarities and differences between interpretations of inter- and transdisciplinarity.

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As If U And Sustainability Mattered: U-you, U-niversity, U-theory, U-topia

As if U and sustainability mattered: U-you, U-niversity, U-theory, U-topia

By Olivia Bina

U for you

When was the last time you sat with two strangers and told them the story of your life, in three minutes?

Mine was eight weeks ago. It is harder than you think. And not just because of the embarrassment factor, but because one too rarely thinks of one’s whole life, let alone presenting it in three minutes. But it does achieve something precious: it tears down silos. Silos of me and you, of all those ideas of what makes us different, of what divides us, of the ‘what I do’ identities. It leaves you with something simpler, something about a shared humanity and a sense of what probably does matter and what probably does not (at least not that much).

U for University

It is from within this space that thirty-two people from fifteen countries began a journey to explore ‘The Future Of Universities, as if Sustainability Mattered’: a training programme centred around the question of how universities can be a positive force for transformation and change towards a more sustainable future.

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Using Ostrom’s social-ecological systems framework to set context for transdisciplinary research: A case study

by Maria Helena Guimarães

How can Elinor Ostrom’s social-ecological systems framework help transdisciplinary research? I propose that this framework can provide an understanding of the system in which the transdisciplinary research problem is being co-defined.

Understanding the system is a first step and is necessary for adequate problem framing, engagement of participants, connecting knowledge and structuring the collaboration between researchers and non-academics. It leads to a holistic understanding of the problem or question to be dealt with. It allows the problem framing to start with a fair representation of the issues, values and interests that can influence the research outcomes. It also identifies critical gaps as our case study below illustrates.

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New Open Access Book: Urban Planet

New open access book: Urban Planet

from David Simon and Sue Parnell (members of our International Advisory Board)
New open access book: Urban Planet, has now been published by Cambridge University Press is available for free electronic download from It includes several reflections on the types and ways of knowing needed to pursue urban research and urban policy making.
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Management of sustainability transitions through planning in shrinking resource city contexts: an evaluation of Yubari City, Japan

By  (one of our Barcelona Training School participants)

This paper evaluates the planning competences required to enact a managed transition to sustainability at the municipal level for cities facing population, economic and employment decline. Drawing on the ‘shrinking cities’ literature, we argue consolidation of the built environment can become a focal point for sustaining citizen welfare when transitioning cities that are facing decline, especially those previously reliant on resource industries. We evaluate the former coal mining city of Yubari, Japan, which is developing a consolidated urban form with the aim of creating a ‘sustainable’ future city. Findings from interviews and content analysis of Yubari’s planning policy indicate, however, that to translate ‘shrinking’ a city into a managed transition, spatial planning must be accompanied by a wider range of social policy measures and strong cross-sectoral engagement. We also caution that the unique geographical and political context of Yubari mean its model may not be directly replicable in other contexts.

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How transdisciplinary projects influence participants’ ways of thinking: a case study on future landscape development

Our COST INTREPID project “Exploring stakeholders’ perspectives to improve transdisciplinary projects in urban development” has  published its first paper:

Tobias, S., Ströbele, M.F. & Buser, T. (2018): How transdisciplinary projects influence participants’ ways of thinking: a case study on future landscape development.  Sustainability Science.


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Mission Report: 2nd International Conference On ‘Future Education. Effective Learning In An Age Of Increasing Speed, Complexity And Uncertainty’

Mission Report: 2nd International Conference on ‘Future Education. Effective learning in an age of increasing speed, complexity and uncertainty’

By Giulio Verdini

Rome, 16-18 November 2017.

Organisers: Roma 3, WAAS, WUC.


This conference is designed to serve as an open, active platform for participants to share, collaborate and co-create new ideas, approaches, methodologies and best practices. The multi-stakeholder approach and structure of the conference will make it possible for participants to organize or participate in special sessions dedicated to in-depth exploration of specific topics ranging from subject content, pedagogy and learning technologies to social and economic impact on issues such as employment, skills development, business development, innovation, social power, citizenship, cultural diversity, personal development and individuality.

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Thinking about the Future of Universities

Highlights from our discussions at the TD Net conference

Olivia Bina
17 November 2017

Background to the workshop
Across Europe, the future societal roles of Universities as producers of knowledge are in question, and the increasing demands for interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary modes of knowledge, including co-production are placing new demands on the existing structures, culture and governance. The perceived needs of the knowledge economy have generated instrumental pressures to build skills for employability and act as anchors for regional economic competitiveness and innovation. In this context, alternative understandings of higher education as core to building citizenship, social justice and environmental sustainability seem to be marginalised.

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Three tasks for transdisciplinary bridge builders

Community member post by Roderick J. Lawrence

Human groups and societies have built many kinds of bridges for centuries. Since the 19th century, engineers have designed complex physical structures that were intended to serve one or more purposes in precise situations. In essence, the construction of a bridge is meant to join two places together. What may appear as a mundane functional structure is built only after numerous decisions have been made about its appearance, cost, functions, location and structure. Will a bridge serve only as a link and passage, or will it serve other functions?

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O futuro da Universidade: precisamos de uma mudança?

Por Lavínia Pereira e Olivia Bina

“Não se pode conceber a educação sem o pensamento de um futuro.” É Clément Rosset quem o diz numa entrevista concedida a Anita Kechichian publicada em 1985 no Le Monde de l’Éducation. Historicamente, a Universidade e a função educativa têm na Modernidade o seu momento alto: o projecto iluminista entende o conhecimento como fonte de emancipação do ser humano, finalidade associada a uma ideia redentora de futuro.

Como podemos conceber o projecto educativo no momento posterior àquele em que o ideal da Modernidade foi conduzido ao seu limite por auto-refutação? Um momento em que o risco e a incerteza alteraram a experiência humana do tempo: o futuro vem agora ao nosso encontro, interrogando-nos, interrompendo permanentemente o fluir do tempo presente?

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Wanted: a Transdisciplinary Knowledge Domain for Urban Health

By Roderick J. Lawrence & Franz W. Gatzweiler

Abstract The current disconnection between access to increasing amounts of data about urbanization, health, and other global changes and the conflicting meanings and values of that data has created uncertainty and reduced the ability of people to act upon available
information which they do not necessarily understand.

We see a disconnection between increasing data availability and data processing capability and capacity. In response to this connection, modeling has been attributed an important role in international and national research programs in order to predict the future based on
past and recent trends. Predictive models are often data heavy and founded on assumptions which are difficult to verify, especially regarding urban health issues in specific contexts.

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Transformative Knowledge for an era of Planetary Urbanization? Questioning the role of social sciences and humanities from an interdisciplinary perspective

Position Paper Prepared by Simone Tulumello, Andy Inch and Olivia Bina (ICS-ULisboa)

A few decades ago, Henri Lefebvre (1970) prophesied that human society, under capitalist organisation, would inevitably become entirely urbanised. If, as many argue, that moment has arrived and we live an age of ‘planetary urbanisation’ (Brenner, 2013; Buckley and Strauss, 2016), the problem(s) of the urban – the ‘urban question’ (Castells, 1972; Merrifield, 2014) – are amongst the central challenges facing the world. From a different perspective, the concept of the ‘Anthropocene’, has popularised the idea that mankind has become a planetary force (Crutzen and Stoermer, 2000). Given its dominant urban form, the Anthropocene’s sustainability becomes increasingly a matter of urban sustainability, and that is a major 21st century challenge. The New Urban Agenda by UN-Habitat (2016) summarises the main obstacles to sustainable urban development as: ‘the persistence of multiple forms of poverty, growing inequalities, and environmental degradation […], with social and economic exclusion and spatial segregation often an irrefutable reality in cities and human settlements’.

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Reflecting on Collaborative Research Into the Sustainability of Mediterranean Agriculture: A Case Study Using a Systematization of Experiences Approach

Main Contributors: Maria Helena Guimarães, Cecilia Fonseca, Carla Gonzalez and Teresa Pinto Correia

This article describes how a research institute went about reviewing the relationship between its members and external research partners in engaging in collaborative research. A systematization of experiences (SE) process was implemented to enable such review and draw implications for the institute’s strategy regarding research into the sustainability of Mediterranean agriculture.

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Inter and Trans-disciplinarity: Implications for European research programming and universities

By Olivia Bina

PDF Presentation used at the ICS-Ulisboa III Fórum ICS, 5 June 2017

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Creative Small Settlements Culture-based solutions for Local Sustainable Development

Editors: Giulio Verdini & Paolo Ceccarelli

Main Contributors: Karina Borja, Paola Ferrari, Françoise Ged, Pilar Maria Guerrieri, Alain Marinos, Maria da Graça Moreira, Etra Connie Occhialini, Min Zhang, Li Zhen.

This research report aims to show ways to understand culture and creativity in small settlements, by collecting a series of international case studies that form the backbone of the chapter 10 of the UNESCO Global Report on urban-rural linkages and titled ‘Culture as a tool to achieve harmonious territorial development’. This can allow a wider dissemination of the theoretical underpinnings and the comparative findings of a research conducted during 2015 and 2016 by several research units all over the world.

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The value of co-design /co-production as a methodology for promoting sustainable and just cities

By David Simon

“There are diverse approaches to transdisciplinary co-production/co-design/co-creation, which all share the key features of deep and extended participation.”

(Article based on the INTREPID Winter School training session on 16th Feb 2017)

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Enseigner l'interdisciplinarité: défis et réponses

R. Lawrence (2016). Enseigner l’interdisciplinarité : défis et réponses. IN: “Interdisciplinarités entre Natures et Sociétés” (B. Hubert et N. Mathieu [Dir], 2016, éditions  Peter Lang, pp.241-252).

Les problématiques environnementales auxquelles sont actuellement confrontées les sociétés ont pour caractéristique principale leur complexité. Cette complexité est inhérente à des enjeux qui dépassent désormais les frontières géographiques et disciplinaires. Une réforme majeure de l’instruction publique, de l’école primaire au cursus post-obligatoire, est indispensable pour remettre en question notre apprentissage de l’analyse et de la compréhension de ces phénomènes. Aujourd’hui, si la plupart des sujets relatifs aux problématiques environnementales sont structurés dans le cadre des limites disciplinaires et professionnelles conventionnelles, envisager des contributions interdisciplinaires et transdisciplinaires, plutôt que des contributions disciplinaires et multidisciplinaires, permettrait
d’appréhender la complexité des problématiques environnementales et pourrait servir de base à des recherches et à des pratiques professionnelles innovatrices.

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Interdisciplinarity in action: philosophy of science perspectives

by Uskali Mäki and Miles MacLeod

The present collection of studies aspires to promote this line of philosophical inquiry in terms of case studies on various aspects of interdisciplinarity in science, and to bring philosophical concepts and principles to bear in its analysis. While much current philosophical work has focused on the possibility of conceptual and methodological unification and integration amongst specific fields, we aim to widen the scope of philosophical treatment of this issue by mapping out the broader landscape of philosophical issues that emerge from interdisciplinary interactions, and by identifying the points where philosophical analysis can make important and relevant contributions. The guiding observations and principles in this endeavour include the following.

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LERU’s Interim Evaluation of Horizon 2020


This paper is LERU’s contribution to the Horizon 2020 Interim Evaluation. It is structured according to what is expected to be the structure of the Terms of Reference for the Interim Evaluation. The paper focuses very much on Horizon 2020 itself. LERU will publish a paper on the future, the next framework programme for research and innovation, in the first quarter of 2017

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Interdisciplinarity: how universities unlock its power to innovate, League of European Research Universities (LERU)

By Wernli, D. and Darbellay, F. (2016)
Modern universities were invented in Europe in the 18th century with an emphasis on research, the provision of high level education to each student, the unity between research and teaching, equality in status for each discipline, and academic freedom. This system led to remarkable scientific, technical, cultural, and societal progress.
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HABITAT III messages to the INTREPID process

In October 2016 the capital city of Ecuador, Quito, hosted the United Nations HABITAT III Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development. Attended by about 45,000 people from 167 countries, the conference brought together high-level politicians, mayors, representatives of local and regional authorities, civil society and community groups, the private sector and urban planners. Thus in a city of 2.5 million inhabitants, at 2850 m above the sea level, they made together a next step on a 40-years-long path (from Vancouver in 1976 and via Istanbul in 1996) towards a common understanding on needed global action to guarantee sustainable urban future for all. Habitat III is estimated to have had the strongest participation of civil society, stakeholders, and local authorities in the history of UN conferences. The New Urban Agenda adopted at the conference confirmed a worldwide commitment to a sustainable urban future thus posing an huge challenge for undertaking effective action at all levels.

Three main messages among the impressive variety of topics discussed and voices heard at the conference could be considered particularly important to INTREPID process:

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Transdisciplinarity is key to sustainable urban futures: David Simon and Susan Parnell

Both members of INTREPID’s International Advisory Board are co-authors in McPhearson et al (2016) Scientists must have a say in the future of cities, Nature, 538, 165-6

“Support transdisciplinary research and synthesis. Communities with relevant knowledge must guide urban-development policy over the short and long term. Transdisciplinary research must be supported through new sources of urban science funding and organizations. Existing knowledge should be synthesized and fed into policymaking at all levels.”

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The use of academic research in planning practice: who, what, where, when and how?

By: Dominic Stead

The use of academic evidence in policymaking is certainly not a new issue – it has been a subject of enquiry for at least several decades. More recent is a trend of greater involvement of policy users in academic research, often based on underlying ideas that this will raise the quality of research, increase the influence of research on policymaking and/or improve the effectiveness of policymaking. Indeed, involving policy users in academic research to promote the co-creation of knowledge is an increasingly encountered requirement of research funding agencies across the world. This requirement not only places new demands and expectations on academics and policymaking professionals in the research process, it also adds to the importance of understanding the utilisation of academic research in practice.


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Interdisciplinary Science: A Coming of Age?

By: Roderick J. Lawrence

The New York Academy of Sciences Magazine

Large global challenges, such as climate change, require a comprehensive approach, part of which should be interdisciplinary research.

Interdisciplinarity is a word à la mode, as shown by the contributions in Nature‘s special issue on the topic (September 2015). However, the collection of articles and the statistics they present confirm that interdisciplinary science is still not mainstream: it is still rarely supported by funders of scientific research despite the increasing number of calls for interdisciplinary projects, it is still rarely taught in higher education curricula, and it is still not recognized by many academic institutions. Indeed interdisciplinary research is considered by many to be contradictory to the basic principles of the production of scientific knowledge.

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New Book: Ways of Residing in Transformation Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Edited by Sten Gromark, Mervi Ilmonen, Katrin Paadam and Eli Støa

book_waysresidingtransformationProfound transformations in residential practices are emerging in Europe as well as throughout the urban world. They can be observed in the unfolding diversity of residential architecture and spatially restructured cities. The complexity of urban and societal processes behind these changes requires new research approaches in order to fully grasp the significant changes in citizens’ lifestyles, their residential preferences, capacities and future opportunities for implementing resilient residential practices. The international case studies in this book examine why ways of residing have changed as well as the meaning and the significance of the social, economic, political, cultural and symbolic contexts. The volume brings together an interdisciplinary range of perspectives to reflect specifically upon the dynamic exchange between evolving ways of residing and professional practices in the fields of architecture and design, planning, policy-making, facilities management, property and market. In doing so, it provides a resourceful basis for further inquiries seeking an understanding of ways of residing in transformation as a reflection of diversifying residential cultures.
This book will offer insights of interest to academics, policy-makers and professionals as well as students of urban studies, sociology, architecture, housing, planning, business and economics, engineering and facilities management.

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Imagine shaping your future

Author: Olivia Bina

An inquiry into how art and science can at times disagree about our future, and why it matters

Science and research agendas are an exercise in future thinking. They help to shape futures by planning to create the knowledge that will bring about desired change and transformation. For this reason, research policy, matters.

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