Pathways of organisational transformation for sustainability: a university case-study synthesis presenting competencies for systemic change & rubrics of transformation

Alex Baker-Shelley*, Annemarie Van Zeijl-Rozema, Pim Martens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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This research article presents a diagnosis and synthesis of three case studies of universities that have transformed themselves as organisations towards sustainability with signature pathway approaches. These took place in 2016 at Leuphana Universitat Luneburg, Arizona State University, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. These universitiesfirstinvested significant time, energy, and human resources in learning about and researching themselves,beforeembarking along differentiated pathways of transformation, in turn, made up of common patterns of rubrics in specific action strategies. The common patterns delineated by the action strategies can be understood as intrinsic competencies for systemic change. These describe the assets of, for example, actors researching, learning about, and diagnosing their own organisations, their awareness of system boundaries and qualities, and the relationship and interdependency between the organisation and its surrounding society and ecosystems. Any blueprint of organisational transformation for sustainability should, therefore, be rooted in the intrinsic logic of the organisations in question. 33 tangible systemic rubrics of transformation also emerged which could be useful for actors (whether student, administrative, academic, entre/intrapreneur, leadership or activist) to prioritise asset development within their organisations, and which might act as pragmatic design aspirations, guiding and encouraging university actors along transformation pathways.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)687-708
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology
Issue number8
Early online date3 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2020


  • Socio-ecological systems
  • organis(z)ational transformation
  • sustainability science
  • universities
  • systemic change
  • organis(z)ational development

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