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Co-constructing Dynamic thick / Deep Maps for Doing Transformative Transdisciplinary Research (TTDR) in the Context of Complex Sustainability Transitions

Embarking upon sustainability transitions from an unsustainable towards a more sustainable world is a complex undertaking which cannot be approached with one-size-fits-all approaches (panaceas). The social and institutional arrangements necessary for performing this double-movement, inherent in all sustainability transitions, never takes place within exactly the same set of (universal) conditions, but rather under radically different contextual conditions. Ontologically speaking, it is possible to distinguish at least three fundamentally different kinds of sustainability transitions namely: clear, complicated and complex transitions – each with its own internal transitioning logics and dynamics – warranting different methodological approaches. The consequences of approaching all transitions as if they were essentially the same, with one-size-fits-all methodologies, runs the risk of falling into the trap of path-dependency – i.e. becoming (permanently) locked into pursuing certain dominant – single-track – transitioning pathways, regardless of the contexts in which the transitions are embedded. One way of avoiding this is through methodological agility (MA) –a meta-level research strategy which has purposely been developed for knowing when and how to switch between mono-, multi-, inter- and trans-disciplinary research approaches when facing said ontologically different kinds of transitions. The purpose of this paper is to focus specifically on complex transitions and some of the key methodological challenges we face when dealing with the emergence and subsequent fluidity of these challenges. As a starting point, performing the double movement in complex transitioning processes means / implies dealing with multiple non-linear transitioning pathways between ill-defined current and future states as opposed to more linear transitioning pathways between well-defined current and future states when dealing with clear and complicated situations. However, the prospect of facing the complexity of complex transitioning challenges can quite easily be construed as things being overly complex to deal with, especially at a practical level of working with real-world sustainability transitions. Overcoming this concern will be addressed in this paper by introducing the co-constructing of dynamic thick / deep maps as an appropriate practical, research method for being methodologically agile when performing TTDR.

Path-Dependency, Transitioning Pathways, Complexity, Equiprobability, Non-Linearity, Transformative Trans-Disciplinarity, Thick / Deep Maps, Agile Synergic Methods

John van Breda. (2023). Co-constructing Dynamic thick / Deep Maps for Doing Transformative Transdisciplinary Research (TTDR) in the Context of Complex Sustainability Transitions. International Journal of Sustainable Development Research, 9(2), 28-42.

Copyright © 2023 Authors retain the copyright of this article.
This article is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License ( which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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