Co-productive agility and four collaborative pathways to sustainability transformations

Josephine M. Chambers, Carina Wyborn, Nicole L. Klenk, Melanie Ryan, Anca Serban, Nathan J. Bennett, Ruth Brennan, Lakshmi Charli-Joseph, María E. Fernández-Giménez, Kathleen A. Galvin, Bruce E. Goldstein, Tobias Haller, Claudia Munera, Jeanne L. Nel, Henrik Österblom, Robin S. Reid, Maraja Riechers, Marja Spierenburg, Maria Tengö, Elena BennettAmos Brandeis, Paul Chatterton, Jessica J. Cockburn, Christopher Cvitanovic, Pongchai Dumrongrojwatthana, América Paz Durán, Jean-David Gerber, Jonathan M. H. Green, Rebecca Gruby, Angela M. Guerrero, Andra-Ioana Horcea-Milcu, Jasper Montana, Patrick Steyaert, Julie G. Zaehringer, Angela T. Bednarek, K Curran, Salamatu J. Fada, Jon Hutton, Beria Leimona, Tomas Pickering, Renee Rondeau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Co-production, the collaborative weaving of research and practice by diverse societal actors, is argued to play an important role in sustainability transformations. Yet, there is still poor understanding of how to navigate the tensions that emerge in these processes. Through analyzing 32 initiatives worldwide that co-produced knowledge and action to foster sustainable social-ecological relations, we conceptualize ‘co-productive agility’ as an emergent feature vital for turning tensions into transformations. Co-productive agility refers to the willingness and ability of diverse actors to iteratively engage in reflexive dialogues to grow shared ideas and actions that would not have been possible from the outset. It relies on embedding knowledge production within processes of change to constantly recognize, reposition, and navigate tensions and opportunities. Co-productive agility opens up multiple pathways to transformation through: (1) elevating marginalized agendas in ways that maintain their integrity and broaden struggles for justice; (2) questioning dominant agendas by engaging with power in ways that challenge assumptions, (3) navigating conflicting agendas to actively transform interlinked paradigms, practices, and structures; (4) exploring diverse agendas to foster learning and mutual respect for a plurality of perspectives. We explore six process considerations that vary by these four pathways and provide a framework to enable agility in sustainability transformations. We argue that research and practice spend too much time closing down debate over different agendas for change – thereby avoiding, suppressing, or polarizing tensions, and call for more efforts to facilitate better interactions among different agendas.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Early online date14 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd.


  • Co-production
  • Impact
  • Power relations
  • Social-ecological relations
  • Tensions
  • Transformative processes

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