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Exploring pathways for transformation to sustainability using the safe and just operating space concept at the regional level

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SUccESS (Exploring pathways for transformation to sustainability using the safe and just operating space concept at the regional level)

Reporting period: 2019-02-01 to 2021-01-31

SUccESS aimed to identify transformation pathways towards sustainability that are both safe, in terms of being within the ecological boundaries of a place, and just, in terms of being socially just. In this context, we developed a conceptual framework of four operational steps for identifying the challenges and opportunities in operationalizing SJOS for regional Social-Ecological Systems (SES). This integrative approach is an innovative way to address the sustainability of social-ecological systems (SES) and their transformation options in a globalized context. This will also help to develop methodology aimed at defining boundaries for sustainable development that can be applied to identify tipping points across various world regions. Activities such as participatory workshops planned to collect local-level data to feed into a system dynamics modelling was postponed due to the COVID-19 lockdown and early termination of the project as the ER secured a permanent position. Despite these changed contexts, most of the milestones have been achieved and it is planned to continue collaboration for the final paper. In general, the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant has helped to support the career development and training of the ER by providing opportunities to acquire and transfer new knowledge both within and outside Europe and extending his network and professional maturity, which ultimately helped to secure a permanent lecturer position
Despite early termination of the project due to the fellow securing a lecturer position (permanent position) and the impact of COVID-19, multiple deliverables have been completed within the SUccESS Project.

1)The first paper has been published in a peer-reviewed journal. In this paper, we reviewed empirical studies and developed a conceptual framework of four operational steps for identifying the challenges and opportunities in operationalizing SJOS for regional social-ecological systems (SES). Overcoming these challenges offers opportunities for identifying transformation pathways to sustainability within the limits of SES across different scales. The operational framework can thus be used for assessing the sustainability of SES.

2)The output of a PhD co-supervision has also been published in a peer-reviewed journal. This paper utilized the core concept (social-ecological systems - SES) of the SUCCESS project and explored and synthesized the use of SES in both the global and Australian contexts, before making the first attempt to develop a conceptual SES framework for soil carbon management.

3)The SUccESS project collaborated with another European Union funded project in order to advance the knowledge of SES in coastal areas of the world. This collaboration delivered two peer-reviewed articles. Using the core concept (SES) of the two projects, the first paper defined the coastal area, and the second paper developed the normative-theoretical characteristics of SES for incorporating into water paradigm approaches. This collaboration was highly valuable, considering the postponement of fieldwork and other deliverables due to the COVID-19 pandemic situation. In both publications, the support from the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant was acknowledged.

4.The ER has attended the following courses in order to gain new knowledge and strengthen his future career and proposed research on modelling complex SES and sustainability challenges: 1) Agent-Based Modelling for Social Scientists and ; 2) Storytelling & Storyboarding Science at Global Science Film Festival 2019.

5. According to the project proposal, the ER was engaged in developing and delivering a new course on “System dynamics for understanding the sustainability challenges of SES” at the University of Bern. It was ultimately a successful initiation and great learning experience for the ER, and helped to secure a lecturer position.

6. From the beginning of the project, the ER was highly active in disseminating and communicating the project and output to a scientific and general audience. As part of this initiative, he presented a poster and offered an online webinar on system dynamics modelling to the host unit in 2020. In 2019, he attended the Global Land Programme: 4th Open Science Meeting at the University of Bern. This international conference provided him with a good networking opportunity to meet researchers working on social-ecological systems modelling and other sustainability challenges. He offered a day of training on an introduction to system dynamics for understanding the sustainability challenges of land system transformations.

It was also planned that, as part of this project, a session on “Analysis and Modelling of Social-Ecological Systems for Sustainable Development: Challenges and Opportunities”, would be organized at the conference Ecosummit 2020 However, due to COVID-19, the conference has been postponed to 2021. SES analysis and modelling was the main thematic and methodological focus of the SUccESS project. In order to contribute to this research, the ER chaired the session, presented his work and co-organized this international workshop on modelling risk and resilience in social and ecological systems. This three-day international workshop not only provided knowledge about modelling the resilience of SES, but also offered the opportunity to create a network among the leading ERs in this research field.

In addition to the above-mentioned deliverables and milestones, further work has been carried out to achieve the rest of the project milestones. The first fieldwork was done in June 2019 in order to understand the context of SES (WP1) and to build a network among local stakeholders (WP2) in Kenya. The conceptual model was developed (WP3) in order to consult the stakeholders (WP2) and to operationalize it using time series and cross-sectional data. However, secondary data collection was postponed due to the lockdown in Kenya. COVID-19 also heavily impacted the SUccESS project, as the planned workshop in June had to be postponed.
• We made a first approach to develop a conceptual framework of four operational steps for identifying the challenges and opportunities in operationalizing SJOS for regional Social-Ecological Systems (SES). Overcoming the challenges offers opportunities for transformation to sustainability within the limits of SES across different scales. The operational framework can thus be used in assessing the sustainability of SES.
• We explored and synthesized the use of SES in both the global and Australian contexts, before making the first attempt to develop a conceptual SES framework for soil carbon management.
• Using the core concept (social-ecological systems) of the project, we advance the knowledge of social-ecological systems in coastal areas of the world.
• The viewers of the YouTube channel are increasing in number, and this will help a wider audience learn about system dynamics modelling. Ultimately, this will ensure the long-term visibility of the project, even after the end of the project period.
• In general, the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant has helped to support the career development and training of the ER by providing opportunities to acquire and transfer new knowledge both within and outside Europe and extending his network and professional maturity, which ultimately helped to secure a permanent lecturer position.