Challenge Lab: A transformative and integrative approach for sustainability transitions
Paper in proceedings, 2015
We present a model where master students act as change agents, inducing sustainability transitions in
socio-technical systems by applying backcasting.
Creating transitions in a complex socio-technical system, where universities need to collaborate with the
public- and private sector (the triple helix) is often hindered by various kinds of lock-ins.
In Sweden, previous attempts to solve this include companies, governmental bodies and researchers
acting individually to bring together stakeholders to dislodge these lock-ins. To complement this, a neutral
“Challenge Lab” arena was created, where master students run transformative backcasting projects.
Interviews with triple helix stakeholders were conducted. Industrial stakeholders claim the students were
in a unique position as unthreatening, yet challenging. Academic stakeholders highlight students as
unravelling issues and going deeper in the questions resulting in quicker processes and trust in their own
dialogue work. Public sector stakeholders claim dialogue resulted in true personal opinions coming to the
surface and another stakeholder modified their overall climate strategy as a result of the change agent
The study indicates that students are unthreatening yet challenging change agents, catalysing trust on
various triple helix system levels. Other universities can adopt this model for engaging in sustainability
challenge lab learning leadership sustainability transition