Students guiding societal transitions - examples from Challenge Lab at Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden
Paper in proceedings, 2016
Engaging in sustainability transitions of socio-technical systems, where universities need to collaborate with the public- and private sector (together forming the triple helix) is often hindered by various kinds of lock-ins. Actors are in general divided in silo-settings dealing with one issue at a time having narrow perspectives, vested interests and serve goals of sub-systems (or even individual departments) instead of the system as a whole. Furthermore, established socio-technical regimes are subject to path dependencies and incremental realignments. In Sweden, previous attempts to solve this include companies, governmental bodies and researchers acting individually to bring together stakeholders to address the lock-ins. As a complement, a neutral “Challenge Lab” arena built around master students from Chalmers University was established at one of the science parks in Gothenburg. The students may have a unique role to play in the transitions since they are knowledgeable yet unthreatening fostering dialogue between triple helix stakeholders. Interviews with involved actors indicate that students can act as a bonding medium by building trust between stakeholders yet challenging underlying assumptions. Other universities can adopt this model for educating students and engaging in sustainability transitions, even beyond the triple helix.