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Seedbeds of transformation – science with society for SDGs in Africa

Members of the Transformations to Sustainability (T2S) community are well represented at the ‘Seedbeds of Transformation’ conference, which begins on 9 May in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. ‘Seedbeds of Transformation: the Role of Science with Society and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Africa’ aims to provide a collaborative space from which to interrogate transformations in Africa, exploring how working towards the SDGs may help to achieve transformations. It will bring together scholars, practitioners and policy experts to collectively explore strategies for achieving the SDGs and pursuing transformational change in different contexts across Africa.

Representatives of the T2S Transformative Knowledge Networks (TKNs) and the wider T2S community will take part in numerous sessions throughout the conference – catch up with them here:


Opening Plenary: 8.30–10.30

Heila Lotz Sisitka, Professor, Environmental Learning Research Centre, Rhodes University, and Coordinator of the T-LEARNING TKN, will present on ‘The SDGs in Africa: important tensions, contradictions and opportunities’ during the opening plenary.

The Opening Plenary will be chaired by Andrew Kaniki, Executive Director, Knowledge Fields Development, National Research Foundation of South Africa, who sits on the T2S Steering Committee as an Observer.

Parallel Session:  Seeding sustainability I: pathways for change (14:00–15:30).

Transforming African food systems to achieve sustainable food and nutrition security

Laura Pereira, of the PATHWAYS TKN, and ISSC World Social Science Fellow will co-convene an interactive exercise to reflect on how a focus on transforming African food systems can help meet an integrated set of SDGs.

Shaping sustainable urban futures in Africa through a proactive science-practice-policy interface

Coleen Vogel, Rhodes University and the T-LEARNING TKN, will moderate a session to facilitate dialogue between early career researchers, practitioners, city officials and key scientists in order to discuss and unpack the role of science in working towards the SDGs and sustainable urban development in diverse contexts across Africa. These contributions are informed by real world examples from experts and the LIRA 2030 Africa programme, which is led by the International Council for Science (ICSU), in partnership with the Network of African Science Academies (NASAC) and the ISSC.

Dylan McGarry, Rhodes University and the T-LEARNING TKN, will animate a special session on art in the seedbeds conference during the afternoon refreshments (15.30–16.00).


Parallel Session: Power and equity dimensions of the SDGs (11.30 – 13.00)

Innovations in transgressive social learning for social ecological sustainability in times of climate change (T-Learning)

Members of the T-LEARNING TKN will lead an interactive panel exchange session exploring the qualities and processes of T-Learning in transformations to sustainability. This includes inter-alia: (1) creating spaces for building trust, empathy, imagination through changing practices; (2) Working with people’s/communities’ direct matters of concern in participatory and dialogical ways; (3) bringing new knowledge and action to the fore for engaging learning challenges at the climate-water-energy-food security-social justice nexus; (4) encouraging change-oriented learning actions that are critical, expansive and creative and that are generative across multiple levels; (5) using narrative and aesthetic approaches to accommodate multiple ways of knowing and to be transgressive and challenging, yet morally intuitive and empathetic. The session will explore:

Things are not as they seem: Exploring tense links between SDGs

Million Belay, MELCA Ethiopia/ Alliance for food sovereignty in Africa/ Stockholm Resilience Centre, Ethiopia, a member of the T-LEARNING network, is among the speakers for this session examining tensions and surprises between SDG targets using case studies from Ethiopia, Cameroon, Tanzania and Mozambique.


Opening Plenary: 8.30–9.00

Dylan McGarry will introduce the Transformations Forum during the opening plenary on day 3.

Parallel session: Joining the dots: connecting and collaborating (11:00–12:30)

How can research networks of the Future Earth framework effectively contribute to implementation of the SDGs in Africa?

Heila Lotz Sisitka, Professor, Environmental Learning Research Centre, Rhodes University, and Coordinator of the T-LEARNING TKN, and Vivi Stavrou, Senior Executive Manager at the ISSC, are among the speakers of this special session exploring how international sustainability research networks, together with regional partners, can work towards creating the knowledge needed for implementation of the SDGs in Africa, and beyond.

SDG Labs: Applying innovative approaches to addressing sustainability challenges

An interactive session will focus on the thirteen SDG labs linked to the conference.

One of the SDG labs involves early career researchers from the T-LEARNING network:

Citizen Sciences: Strengthening Ecologies of Knowledges, Rhodes University (South Africa): Sheraine van Wyk, Morakane Madiba, Priya Vallabh, Ferrial Adams (Rhodes University)

Download the full conference programme.

‘Seedbeds’ is organized by Future Earth, the South African Government Department of Science and Technology, the National Research Foundation of South Africa, and START. The conference takes place 9 – 11 May 2018 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The T2S programme is supporting the participation of a number of T2S researchers in the conference.

Find out more on the Seedbeds website.


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