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Research for a Sustainable Future: The Social-Ecological Systems Institute

In its first annual report, the recently founded Social-Ecological Systems Institute (SESI) introduces itself. The institute is part of the Faculty of Sustainability of Leuphana University Lüneburg in Germany. It was created in 2020 to provide a space for like-minded faculty members with a shared interest in links between social and ecological phenomena. SESI members are engaged in diverse research projects as well as in teaching and supervising students. Many of their latest publications were featured over the last few months on this blog.  

The SESI logo was inspired both by an unfolding fern leaf and by the Celtic double spiral – which symbolises the balance between opposing forces (© SESI, Jan Hanspach).

SESI researchers share a common vision: a fair world where the benefits generated within social-ecological systems are shared sustainably with other species, both within and across generations. The implementation of this vision requires transformative change. To this end, SESI researchers adopt inter- and transdisciplinary approaches, and use place-based social-ecological systems thinking to understand and resolve sustainability challenges. Diverse knowledge systems are integrated, and a wide range of methods are developed and applied to bridge multiple scales and governance levels.  

The different research groups and projects in SESI cover diverse aspects of social-ecological systems all over the world. For example, the ETH-Coffee project aims to identify environmental and socioeconomic outcomes of ecosystem service flows in southwestern Ethiopia. The project facilitates the engagement of local stakeholders by together envisioning scenarios for the area’s future. Another example is the junior research group BioKultDiv. Its five members explore biocultural diversity in farming landscapes of the Global South and aim to generate a holistic understanding of how biocultural diversity can contribute to sustainability. 

Left: One of the four scenarios the ETH-Coffee research group developed together with local stakeholders in southwestern Ethiopia. Right: Picture taken in one of the study areas of the BioKultDiv project.

You can find the 2020 annual report here, visit the official SESI website, or just explore this blog to dive deeper into the research done by SESI members. 


Published by Marina Frietsch

Social-ecological systems researcher.

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