Co-creation research for transformative times: Facilitating foresight capacity in view of global sustainability challenges


This article reflects on experiences from the ongoing Mistra Geopolitics research program, which explores the intersections between geopolitics and sustainable development, and where co-creation has been at the core since the start of the program. Co-creation processes aim to ‘improve research design and ensure that both theoretical perspectives and empirical research are relevant for the people who will translate them into policy and action’ (Mistra Geopolitics, 2019: 5).

Authors focus on exploring the potentials and limitations of transdisciplinary research, having co-creation processes at its center. In addition, they examine the role of non-academic partners, the role of knowledge brokers and facilitation, and the need for flexibility, adaptability and reflexivity throughout the process. Results may shed light on the roles that researchers may play in shaping the research process.


Co-creation can help seeing emerging challenges in sustainability transformations. Photo: Saketh Garuda / Unsplash.


Key messages

  1. In research for sustainability transformations, transdisciplinary approaches that take multiple perspectives and ways of knowing into account are crucial. This highlights the importance of collaboration between a wide range of state and non-state actors, experts and citizens engaging in research, transformative learning, policy and action. Thus, this paper builds on reflections on the design and implementation of co-cration approaches in the MistraGeopolitics programme using in-depth interviews and other publications.
  2. Transdisciplinary projects need a large degree of flexibility and adaptability in order to be successful. Partnering with non-academic actors enables the program consortium to keep an ear to the ground, responding rapidly to geopolitical changes in the surrounding world. There is thus a need to continuously assess and reflect upon the approaches taken to stakeholder involvement and be prepared to make adaptations if needed.
  3. Another lesson learnt from the Mistra Geopolitics program concerns the benefits of academic partners daring to present ongoing work and obtain input that might change the path in terms of research priorities. Authors highlighted the role of co-dissemination, explained as a ”sense a continuous endeavor rather than the last of three consecutive steps of a co-creation process (Mauser et al. 2013)”. They deem co-dissemination to be a way of fostering skills sustainability leaders need, such as the ability to evaluate situations and ‘understand how to navigate complex systems.



We conclude that co-creation processes can contribute to enhancing foresight capacity among both academic and non-academic participants, such as in preparing for future scenarios and help academic partners to identify emerging topics and challenges for future research. However, during the designing co-creation processes, it is key to do systematic assessments, for instance through ‘check-points’ during a transdisciplinary research program like Mistra Geopolitics and to support self-reflexivity among the participants of co-creation processes to feed insights back into the programme.



Wibeck, V., Eliasson, K., Neset, T.S., 2022. Co-creation research for transformative times: facilitating foresight capacity in view of global sustainability challenges. Environ.  Sci. Pol. 128, 290–298.

Authors of this publication

Karin Eliasson , Tina-Simone Neset , Victoria Wibeck ,