CPT-22306 Communicating for Sustainability and Responsible Innovation


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Group work6
Independent study0
Course coordinator(s)prof. dr. P Macnaghten
Lecturer(s)prof. dr. P Macnaghten
prof. dr. ir. AEJ Wals
dr. AJK Pols
Examiner(s)prof. dr. P Macnaghten
prof. dr. ir. AEJ Wals

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

ESA-10309 and ENP-10806 or FNP-11806. Students who do not take part in one of the environmental sciences programmes or forest and nature conservation are supposed to have knowledge on environmental policy. All students are expected to be able to read and evaluate complex social scientific articles, and to participate in groupwork activities. 


Sustainability is the idea that development should not be at the expense of future generations, nor the planet. In this course we examine two challenges governing the implementation of sustainability. First, we examine the challenge of communication, asking why sustainability issues are so difficult to communicate? Through what strategies can we change individual and institutional behaviour? How can we empower people to change fundamentally their behaviour and to participate genuinely in sustainable futures? What is or should be the role of dialogue? To answer these questions, we explore and scrutinise theories aimed at communication for sustainability. Second, we examine the challenge of responsibility, asking how we should make responsible use of science and innovation for sustainability. While science and innovation are necessary to develop solutions, it is clear that they also have the capacity to generate new problems, risks and dilemmas. This double-edged quality of science and innovation is rarely understood. To respond to this challenge, we engage with case studies of responsible innovation examining how innovation can be developed with and for society. This course adopts a ‘learning by doing’ approach in which we encourage students to think creatively and critically through group work. In groups, students learn how to critically evaluate and present a social science article on one aspect of the course. In addition, students learn the practical skills of communicating for sustainability a 'wicked' issue of their own choosing. Specifically, they learn how to develop a researchable question, how to translate this into a focus group design, how to recruit, moderate and analyse a focus group (with fellow students), and how to develop the analysis into a presentation and a write-up on a communication strategy for sustainability. The groupwork constitutes roughly 50% of the course overall.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- explore and scrutinise theories aimed at communication for sustainability;
- evaluate the responsible use of science and innovation for sustainability through case studies;
- develop critical skills in evaluating and presenting social science articles;
- nurture competences of collaborative research and learning in small groups;
- learn the practical skills of undertaking a focus group dialogue project.


- lectures;
- seminars;
- group work;
- group presentations.


The grade will be based on:
- group work (50%);
- 2 individual papers (50%).
The marks of both have to be at least 5.5 for the student to pass the course.


The literature is provided in Brightspace.

Compulsory for: BESEnvironmental SciencesBScA: Environmental Policy and Economics2AF
Restricted Optional for: BBNForest and Nature ConservationBScA: Policy and Society2AF
MESEnvironmental SciencesMSc2AF