The research behind this project


The ideas and approaches used in the cCHALLENGE are based on research on the social and human aspects of climate change.


To limit climate change and other environmental challenges, we know that major and rapid societal changes are needed. This includes behavior change, technological innovation, and political, economic and cultural changes. But it also includes changes in how we see ourselves in relation to nature, changes in what values we emphasize, and changes in narratives about change. These changes are well described in research, in countless reports and news items.


The big challenge, however, is to understand how we as individuals fit into this, and what the relationship is between individual decisions and influence, and changes in society.


The goal of cCHALLENGE is to stimulate thoughts and reflections around the process of change – especially what role individuals can play in driving culture and system change.


There are many theories about social change processes. These theories differ from each other, among other things, in how they explain people’s ability to act in the face of the larger social and political structures of which individuals are a part. They are also different in how they describe the relationship between humans and nature.


When it comes to climate change, individual behavior change is often promoted as the most important tool for curbing greenhouse gas emissions. History is full of examples of attempts to understand, influence, manipulate, and ‘nudge’ behavior in a sustainable direction. We are often told that «this is good for the environment» or «this is bad for the environment». It can be difficult to navigate all the information we receive. Especially when the information endorses different things. It’s easy to develop a bad conscience for the choices you make in everyday life.


But is the solution to change individuals and their attitudes, actions and choices? Those who research social practice think this is wrong. They believe that underlying systems and structures are often overlooked when focusing solely on what the individual can do. In many ways, norms, rules, culture, regulations, and institutions set the framework for what we as individuals do in everyday life. The systems and culture around you help determine what is easy and what is difficult to do in your own life.



Another direction in research, referred to as socio-technical transformation, emphasizes the need to change large systems. These can be energy systems , agricultural systems, or education systems. Within this research, emphasis is placed on the importance of learning processes, adaptive management, innovation, and experimentation for transformation to take place.

This research points to the limitations of rapid societal change due to deep structures and entrenched technologies. Innovation is seen as something that comes from entrepreneurs and managers. Most people are considered to have limited opportunities to contribute to system change. Often one ignores the role of politics and power in maintaining «business as usual» – or the potential this has to create sustainable alternatives. And when you do not include these political aspects of sustainability, then we underestimate the importance of dialogue, discussion, and disagreement.



In recent years, there has been a shift in how people are described in climate and sustainability work. People are now constantly being placed at the center of the solution. The big question is WHY and HOW are they the solution? The danger is that people are reduced to «someone to be changed» instead of people «being the change». There is a big difference between being the object or the subject in climate work. If people are the object of climate work, they are deprived of the opportunity to imagine and realize fair and sustainable alternatives in their lives and in the society of which they are a part. Climate work will accelerate when people themselves are allowed to drive climate work from their own point of view, their own motivation, their own creativity, and their own sphere of influence.



There is no doubt that transformative solutions to the climate challenge require a combination of technological innovations, institutional reforms, cultural change, changes in economic and political systems, behavior change, and changes in attitudes and values. But to make these pieces work most efficiently, sustainably and fairly together, you need people who question how things are and see the possibilities for something else. 


This is exactly where cCHALLENGE comes in. Through a small change experiment, it becomes possible to see the big picture, and to find new ways to approach change. It is only when we recognize that we are part of these systems, that we will realize that each of us means much more than we think!


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