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19th European Roundtable on Sustainable Consumption and Production – Circular Europe for Sustainability: Design, Production and Consumption

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The Strategic Conditions for Sustainable Lifestyles as a tool to facilitate backcasting processes towards co-designing and implementing sustainable social innovations

In order to enable transitions towards sustainable consumption and production, it is important to understand that individuals, their behaviors and aspirations are product of their context and that today’s social systems are “glocal”, “glocal”, meaning that local actions have global impacts. Social innovations, understood as narratives of change, reflect the elements of co-creative approaches to problem solving and are re-shaping the relationship between social actors; citizens are increasingly active, encouraged by their own motivations and conviction of their potential to drive change either by their personal actions or in collaboration with alike-minded others. Co-creating visions of desirable futures, helps to influence today’s decisions regarding lifestyles, understanding they are the result of a series of internal and external factors that enable individuals to choose how to behave, consume and interact with nature and other people. To recognize these factors, this research started in 2012 with the premise that social innovations can provide Glocal approaches to lead transformations. The project focused on finding a “common denominator” across societies and geographies. Represented by the Fundamental Human Needs and the possibility of identifying a set of conditions that can drive the agenda of transformations towards Sustainable Living anywhere in the world; a human-centered approach to understand the role that social innovations play to lead transformative behaviors was used to design and implement several co-creative backcasting activities. This process consisted of: creating a qualitative tool for understanding the nature and impacts of social innovations, building a framework based on the Human-Scale Development, analyzing over 150 promising social innovations worldwide; conducting research on consumption patterns and consumers’ aspirations in 5 countries thus identifying their consumption “hot spots”; engaging local stakeholders in backcasting processes to find local drivers of lifestyles and influencers of change, among them the Circular Economy and technological innovations; and, co-creating action roadmaps to define Glocal strategic conditions for sustainable living (SCSL). The visions crafted on each of the country-specific sessions have many commonalities, mainly in the areas of health, mobility and use of natural resources; the areas of opportunity for social innovations are the local challenges that participants consider the most important to address today in order to live sustainably by 2050 i.e. Colombians emphasized the need of education while Ghanaians wanted infrastructure improvements. Due to their potential to drive systemic change and enable transitions through design practices, the conditions support visioning and backcasting processes by presenting a flexible framework and contribute to the harnessing the potential of visioning, particularly in backcasting contexts. Building upon the results of the conditions’ creation and validation processes, the ongoing research takes the fulfilment of the SCSL as the desired vision of sustainable lifestyles and zooms into the tools and methods to enable visioning interactions with long-term impacts, opening the door to bring sustainable lifestyles into the realm of new disciplines, like meaningful gamification.

Georgina Guillen-Hanson
Tampere University


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