You are here

Transdisciplinary Collaboration Is The Answer

University of Melbourne researcher, Dr Idil Gaziulusoy contributes her thoughts on the CRC's October workshop, and decides that the secret to finding the solutions we are looking for, will mean translating capabilities between the many specialist fields.

I started my role as a researcher at Victorian Eco-innovation Lab (University of Melbourne) in early September to work on one of the CRC’s flagship projects;Visions, Scenarios and Pathways for Low-carbon Living in Built Environment.

Participating in the CRC Forum on 24-25 October in Sydney was a great opportunity for me to meet with the broader CRC stakeholder group and learn about the other projects that have got off the ground in the first year of the CRC. On the first day of the forum, as a result of such exposure, I have become very excited with the prospect of taking part in a large research consortium with a highly challenging and ambitious research agenda comprising of three overarching research streams.

My long-term personal and professional purpose is to create a culturally acceptable, socially desirable and technologically possible sustainable future for humanity. This purpose is shared by many people all over the world and the ongoing and growing action towards achieving this purpose has been identified as the largest social movement in human history by Paul Hawken. The size of the challenge associated with achieving this purpose and the quantity of people involved in this movement calls for well-coordinated, well-directed collaboration at all levels and sectors of the society.

As a transdisciplinary researcher working in the broad area of innovation for sustainability, I am fascinated with the potential power of transcending and transforming disciplinary boundaries and including non-academic stakeholders in the process of research in search of solutions for highly complex, socially relevant, real-life problems. On the other hand, being aware of the multitude of challenges associated with facilitating trandisciplinary research groups, on the first day of the forum I kept wondering about how the CRC would be able to generate alignment and a sense of common purpose among more than a hundred and fifty participants from three different sectors (i.e. research, industry, government) all of which having different primary “existential” goals (i.e. generation of new knowledge, business innovation and growth, development of public policy).

The second day, on the contrary to the first day, which consisted primarily of interesting presentations by select participants and panel discussions, we participated in a full-day interactive workshop. The process, on a step-by-step basis, carried us from reflecting on our individual motives of participating in and skills and knowledge we can contribute to the CRC to how all of this could be directed towards collective creation of a sustainable society beyond the CRC. We were facilitated through an ideation session to identify desired impacts of the CRC, which was then followed by formulation of new project ideas which can be developed into proposals.

As soon as the physical space was transformed from a lecture-room to a conversation-room, direct interaction among participants was enabled. The well-designed workshop process facilitated transformation of such interactions into well-framed new project ideas. As the day progressed, the brain energy in the room grew and become almost visible. Every direction I looked in the room, I could see groups of people discussing ideas with a lot of excitement and ownership. I witnessed insightful exchanges between the young and the more experienced. I also overheard some discussions between policy makers, industry representatives and researchers, which started with a certain level of conflict and evolved towards a resolution through formulation of new project ideas which satisfied and excited all involved and a sense of empowerment emerged.

The project ideas presented at the end of the day attracted a lot of interest among all participants. Reflection sessions carried out all together enabled ideas generated within smaller groups to be shared with everyone and therefore further refinement and buy-in became possible. During the process in the room, the energy and ideas also leaked into the outside world through several tweets of the social-media savvy participants. This possibly marked the very beginning of embedding the CRC outputs into the broader community in the world working towards achieving low-carbon visions in many different localities.

The Friday workshop definitely created a lot of momentum among the participants. Many new connections were made, many ideas generated, maybe some new proposals are on the way. Nevertheless, group work is tricky when the group leaves the room and individuals go back to their respective daily lives and responsibilities. Now the question is how to keep the “group” together and the momentum alive. It was announced during the forum that the CRC is preparing to hire a communications manager. This will undoubtedly help with communication between the CRC and the public as well as the communication between the CRC management and the participants.

But we participants can keep on interacting with one another, continue the many intriguing conversations we started at the forum and tap into the broad and wide knowledge and expertise base available within the CRC to start, grow, deepen our projects and progress towards achieving the overarching vision of the CRC low-carbon living.

Dr. Idil Gaziulusoy

Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab

Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning

University of Melbourne