Published 2019-07-10

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Mistra starts programme on environmental communication

Mistra’s new initiative in Environmental Communication is to be run by a consortium with its hub at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU). Also included as partners are Uppsala and Lund Universities, and also universities in the US, the Czech Republic and Australia. These decisions were taken by Mistra’s Board in June.

Mistra’s Board has chosen the TRANSEC programme — Transformative environmental communication in wicked times: Reframing communication for sustainability — as the Foundation’s programme initiative in the area of environmental communication.

The origin of the call for proposals, and the problem to be solved, is the fact that there is currently plenty of research on climate and environment, but that this knowledge does not always yield benefits and lead to improvements. The new programme is intended to find solutions to this

Work will be directed from SLU, where research on communicating knowledge about the environment is already in progress. Apart from SLU, several major Swedish and international universities are taking part. They include the University of Texas in Austin, Charles University in Prague and the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia.

The decision taken by Mistra’s Board is in line with the review panel’s principal recommendation. The panel maintains that TRANSEC’s application excelled in its degree of preparation, balance between coproduction and sustainability dimensions, focus in its approach and structure of the organisation. They write that the benefit to society is convincing and that the programme offers good value for money.

In its initial phase, the programme is to run for four years and be supported with funding of up to SEK 54 million from Mistra and another SEK 6m in external funding. The name of the programme has not yet been settled, and the task of deciding was entrusted to Mistra’s Executive Director, who is to perform the task in consultation with staff on the new programme. He will also ensure that the review panel’s recommendations are taken into account, and that the requirement of co-funding is met.

‘We’re tremendously pleased to have been given responsibility for Mistra’s research programme on environmental communication. It gives us a unique opportunity to make a difference in the academic community and society at large, and thereby to support Sweden’s transition to a sustainable society,’ says Anke Fischer, Professor of Environmental Communication at SLU and planned as programme manager for TRANSEC.

According to Fischer, the objective of the programme is to investigate how communication is understood and spread in Sweden and abroad.

‘Environmental communication is often regarded as just transfer of information, and the assumption is that if people only had sufficient information, they would change their behaviour.’

Instead, they hope to be able to spread a broader understanding of communication in which the communication is not restricted to those who are traditionally regarded as experts. It also includes, for example, artists, businesses, land users and the general public.

‘We’ve succeeded in putting together a fantastic consortium that, besides academic partners, also includes 28 community stakeholders. They cover a wide range of environmental and sustainability approaches and viewpoints, from climate actions to nature conservation, hunting and agriculture, and from the local to the international level. We look forward enormously to this collaboration!

Text: Thomas Heldmark, Per Westergård