It’s a jungle out there: Navigating the Research Ethics application process at CST | Departmental Ethics Screening Committee

This session was presented by the coordinators of the Departmental Ethics Screening Committee (DESC) for the Centre for Sustainability Transitions (CST) and is dedicated to an overview of the ethics applications (why is it important, what is the process and helpful hints).

This session touches on recurring issues reviewers have picked up in ethics applications and provides some guidance on how to avoid them. The colloquium is relevant to whoever might be starting their ethics applications now or in the near future (in particular many of the CST MPhil students) and is presented by Wendy McCallum, a researcher and Departmental Ethics Screening Committee (DESC) coordinator for CST. Additional notes can be accessed here.

Book launch: The Age of Sustainability – Chapter 2: Ukama: emerging metatheories for the twenty-first century |Prof Mark Swilling

The Age of Sustainability: Just Transitions in a Complex World provides an interpretation of the global economic and ecological crisis from a distinct African perspective. Mark Swilling shares on Chapter 2: Ukama: emerging metatheories for the twenty-first century, the third of the webinar series based on the book.

Book launch: The Age of Sustainability | Prof Mark Swilling

The Age of Sustainability: Just Transitions in a Complex World provides an interpretation of the global economic and ecological crisis from a distinct African perspective. Drawing on a relational epistemology and ontology that emerges from the intersection between contemporary Sub-Saharan African philosophy and western post-humanism, Swilling traverses a vast terrain in order to illustrate his argument that there are multiple transitions already underway at the global, national and local levels. He offers a theory of change that avoids the false promise of superficial reforms (‘greenwash’) and the grandiose claims about ‘structural change’. Instead, he proposes that we need to be radical incrementalists in the way we fuse together real-world experiments and the making of global futures. He argues that the directionality of the global energy transition will shape the way the global political economy evolves beyond the current crisis. The intellectual and operational bankruptcy of neo-liberal economics opens the way for alternative futures, but these alternatives have yet to consolidate themselves at the global and national levels. They are, however, emerging across all world regions at the local level. This is particularly true when it comes to the emerging commons-based peer-to-peer economies that we see at local and global levels. Unless we understand the complex dynamics of the deep transition already underway, and how this is shaping all our choices about governance, economics, well-being, urban living and cultural norms, we will be ill-equipped for the rapidly unfolding future that we all experience on a daily basis.

Inaugural Lecture: Tackling the Anthropocene Challenge | Prof Oonsie Biggs


We live in the Anthropocene, a new geological era where the increasing scale, speed and connectivity of human activities are profoundly changing the functioning of the Earth.

The economic, political and cultural processes underlying these changes are also leading to growing social inequalities and the breakdown of traditional relations that can provide support and meaning in people’s lives. At the same time, they are also creating a variety of social innovations and technological developments, which are opening up exciting opportunities for addressing these challenges.

Resilience is a key concept that has emerged for navigating the novel and turbulent conditions of the Anthropocene and fostering transformations toward more sustainable and just development pathways. Resilience refers to the capacity to navigate change and uncertainty through investing in systemic features such as diversity, connectivity and learning.

One innovative example of the application of a resilience approach is the Seeds of Good Anthropocenes project ( Through a series of transdisciplinary workshops and an online campaign, a wide variety of ‘seeds’ are being catalogued – real initiatives that demonstrate elements of a positive future. Using these seeds, a suite of provocative alternative visions for ‘good Anthropocenes’ have been developed through a novel participatory visioning approach.

This presentation briefly introduces the concept of the Anthropocene and resilience as a strategy for building systemic capacity to navigate change and uncertainty. It then illustrates how the resilience approach is being applied in the Seeds of Good Anthropocenes project to identify actions that have the potential to leverage deep systemic change towards more positive futures.

Encounters with Complexity: An African search for a relational theory of radical change | Mark Swilling

May 2019

Mark Swilling is Distinguished Professor of Sustainable Development in the School of Public Leadership, Stellenbosch University where he is also Academic Director of the Sustainability Institute and Co-Director of CST. He is co-author with Eve Annecke of “Just Transitions: Explorations of Sustainability in an Unfair World” (2012). His new book entitled “Age of Sustainability: Just Transitions in a Complex World” will be published by Routledge in late 2019. His research interests connect global sustainability transitions, theories of change, relational complexity in the African context (Ukama), sustainability-oriented governance, complexity-based development economics, the renewable energy revolution, and urban transitions. His last book was “Shadow State: the Politics of State Capture” (2018).

Encounters with Complexity: Impredicative Relationality – The Heart of Complexity | Jannie Hofmeyr

May 2019

Jannie Hofmeyr is co-founder of the CST and Emeritus Professor of Biochemistry and Biocomplexity,Stellenbosch University. Over the past 35 years, he has conducted his research in the field of Computational System Biology with the regulation and regulatory design of metabolism as his main focus. More recently, his work focuses on describing the functional organisation of the living cell for which he developed a theory of molecular fabrication to inform a theoretical basis for both system biology and nanotechnology. During 2017—18 he was the president of the Royal Society of South Africa (RSSAf).

PECS Policy Dialogue | Oonsie Biggs

An introduction to the programme on ecosystem change and society. We’re living in a new geological era where human activities are shaping planetary dynamics. How do we work towards a new world that satisfies both environmental and social needs?

Forward with Research Impact | Dr Rika Preiser

Forward with Research Impact is a series of lunchtime lectures with a focus on the University’s strategic theme Research for Impact. The series highlights some of the research featured in the annual publication Research at Stellenbosch University.

In this lecture, Dr Rika Preiser discusses the need to rehumanise complexity and looks at the practical and conceptual implications for anticipating new frontiers in complex systems research.

Betrayal Report | Mark Swilling

Betrayal of the Promise: How South Africa is Being Stolen. Mark Swilling talks into the report by the same name compiled by the State Capacity Research Group – a team of academics from different Universities.

The Zuma years and beyond | Mark Swilling

Mark Swilling was interviewed on Fridays with Tim Modise discussing life in SA following the Zuma years.

Attempts to collapse the #StateCaptureInquiry | Mark Swilling

Karima Brown and Peter Bruce of The Fix sat down with David Lewis, Executive Director at Corruption Watch, Adv Stefanie Fick, Head of Lead at Outa as well as Prof Mark Swilling, Author of Shadow State.

Age of Sustainability | Mark Swilling

Lecture on “Age of Sustainability: Just Transitions in a Complex World” in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at Stellenbosch University, South Africa.

Artful Research Cultures | Miche Fabre Lewin, Flora Hardy & Dr Rika Preiser

4 April 2019

The Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR) are driving innovative transdisciplinary research on socially just resilient food and water systems.