A systemic issue: overview, coordination, integration | Simplified representation of the system by spheres of action | Cross-cutting themes

A systemic issue: overview, coordination, integration

As a reminder, research within the STRIVE programme aims to study the processes of change required to reduce the direct and indirect environmental impact generated by Switzerland's socio-economic activities by around two thirds in less than three decades, while respecting the minimum social standards necessary for the well-being of all members of society. The aim is to gain a better understanding of the dynamics of change, to identify the obstacles standing in the way of transformation, and the leverages that can be used to overcome them.

The complexity, uncertainty and unpredictability which characterise unsustainability issues call for a systemic perspective, i.e. a focus on the interrelationships between the different elements that make up the system, as well as putting contemporary challenges in their historical context and in relation to their future prospects.

To organise research and questionings relating to the transformation towards a sustainable Switzerland in a systemic, interdisciplinary and coordinated manner, STRIVE relies on:

  • A simplified representation of the socio-economic system and its spheres of action.
  • Three cross-disciplinary research axis.

These two elements will help structure the project and its sub-projects, offering a common framework and enabling the interaction of the different types of knowledge acquired to be linked together.

Simplified representation of the system by spheres of action

To provide a systemic representation of the transformation’s challenges, while going beyond the traditional approach by sector or discipline, STRIVE will mainly focus on the interactions between the three main spheres of action listed below (see figure 2). More specifically, it is the mutual influences of these spheres that constitute potential obstacles and leverages on the path to transformation, and largely define the dynamics of change. These spheres also allow for the characterisation and questioning of the worldviews, attitudes, values and actions of the various stakeholders within them, and to examine their contribution, positive or negative, to the ecological and social transformation. These spheres of action should not be seen as monolithic or watertight categories, but simply as means of situating the various themes and issues addressed by STRIVE within a broader conceptual framework.

  • Individuals and civil society (behaviour, social norms, etc.);
  • Institutions and the public sector (democracy, law, public policies, etc.);
  • Economy and businesses (macroeconomics, finance, business models, etc.).



Cross-cutting themes

To enable a cross-cutting approach to the identified issues, common research axis to all sub-projects will guide the structure of the research.

The choice of these axis is the result of a process of emergence and maturation built over approximately six months. An initial reflection was conducted, taking into account (i) a systemic vision of the transformation (based on the programme direction members’ expertise and the academic literature), and (ii) a preliminary study of the possible contributions of the various disciplines to the study of transformation (based on discussions within the scientific council whose members represent a wide diversity of disciplines). This led to the definition of preliminary cross-cutting themes. Secondly, an interdisciplinary conference on the ecological and social transformation research was organised in February 2023 at UNIL, bringing together researchers from within UNIL and several invited external researchers. The two-day conference, a summary of which is available here, resulted in the following three cross-cutting themes to be chosen:

  • Governance for change and leadership;
  • Social justice and equity in the transformation;
  • Communication, narratives and storytelling.