Over the course of three sunny days in Stockholm, a group of more than 50 researchers and students came together with one goal: to improve the accessibility of methods related to social-ecological systems.

The Centre for Sustainability Transitions (CST), in collaboration with the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) and Rhodes University, recently hosted a “hackathon” for an exciting new SES Methods website. This new website, expected to be launched mid-2022, is envisioned as a research commons with researchers all over the world working together to create useful resources related to Social-Ecological Systems (SES) methods.

The SES field is very wide-reaching, covering numerous focal topics and so, by necessity, needs a large number of methods for its study. However, many SES researchers are only trained in the select few methods with which they have had direct experience. Many researchers enter the field with either a natural science or a social science background, with little bridging background between the two. This problem was tackled by the Routledge Handbook of Research Methods for Social-Ecological Systems, published last year, which was edited and authored by a number of CST researchers, along with collaborators from around the world. The new SES methods website now aims to extend the reach of this book by making short visual resources such as summary videos of different methods available to all. Improving resources for teaching methods is another key goal of the project, with the website aiming to provide a teaching activity for each of the 28 groups of methods explored in the book. Other exciting components include videos exploring the foundational concepts of SES systems, as well as a list of datasets useful to researchers.

Some content ideas for the SES methods website

The website does, however, need a lot of content, which is where the hackathon comes in. The hackathon was planned with three principal goals in mind; firstly, to bring a wide range of researchers together with dedicated time to create content on the methods with which they work; secondly, to create a space for new collaborations between the CST, the SRC and Rhodes University; and finally, to test run the idea of hackathons as a potential strategy that could be used by anyone who would like to get involved in the SES methods website. More than 20 CST students and staff travelled to Sweden for this event.

We started the first of the three days with an introduction to the concept of the website, looking at why it would be a useful resource and discussing what formats would be best to present these concepts. The participants then split up into groups, each working on a particular set of methods. The rest of the day was spent discussing what type of products the groups would like to make. We ended the day with a garden party, with everyone coming together to get to know each other.

On the second day of the hackathon, the morning began with a presentation by Owen Gaffney, the director of international media and strategy at the SRC. Owen talked through how to communicate your messages clearly and accessibly to all audiences. After this inspiration, everyone got down to work discussing and researching the best way to present products and starting to create the different materials (these ranged from slide presentations to videos to new teaching activity summaries). Our second day ended as socially as the first with a dinner for everyone attending.