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Six modes of co-production for sustainability

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  • Josie Chambers
  • Carina Wyburn
  • Melanie E. Ryan
  • Robin S. Reid
  • Maraja Riechers
  • Anca Serban
  • Nathan J. Bennett
  • Christopher Cvitnaovic
  • Maria E. Fernandez-Gimenez
  • Kathleen A. Galvin
  • Bruce E. Goldstein
  • Nicole L. Klenk
  • Maria Tengo
  • Ruth Brennan
  • Jessica J. Cockburn
  • Rosemary Hill
  • Claudia Munera
  • Jeanne L. Nel
  • Henrick Osterblom
  • Angela T. Bednarek
  • Elena M. Bennett
  • Amos Brandeis
  • Lakshmi Charli-Joseph
  • Paul Chatterton
  • K. Curran
  • Pongchai Dumrongrojwatthana
  • America Paz Duran
  • Salamatu J. Fada
  • Jean-David Gerber
  • Alan M. Guerrero
  • Tobias Haller
  • Andra-Ioana Horcea-Milcu Beria Leimona
  • Jasper Montana
  • Renee Rondeau
  • Marja Spierenburg
  • Patrick Steyaert
  • Julie G. Zaehringer
  • Rbecca Gruby
  • Jon Hutton
  • Tomas Pickering


Publication details

JournalNature Sustainability
DateAccepted/In press - 6 Jul 2021
DateE-pub ahead of print - 5 Aug 2021
DatePublished (current) - Nov 2021
Issue number11
Pages (from-to)983-996
Early online date5/08/21
Original languageEnglish


The promise of co-production to address complex sustainability challenges is compelling. Yet, co-production, the collaborative
weaving of research and practice, encompasses diverse aims, terminologies and practices, with poor clarity over their implications. To explore this diversity, we systematically mapped differences in how 32 initiatives from 6 continents co-produce diverse outcomes for the sustainable development of ecosystems at local to global scales. We found variation in their purpose for utilizing co-production, understanding of power, approach to politics and pathways to impact. A cluster analysis identified six modes of co-production: (1) researching solutions; (2) empowering voices; (3) brokering power; (4) reframing power; (5) navigating differences and (6) reframing agency. No mode is ideal; each holds unique potential to achieve particular outcomes, but also poses unique challenges and risks. Our analysis provides a heuristic tool for researchers and societal actors to critically explore this diversity and effectively navigate trade-offs when co-producing sustainability.

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited 2021. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details

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