Earlier this week, I posted an article about how to approach sustainable development on a community level (click here for the article). I contended that sustainability must be a “bottom-up” approach, firstly asking about the people’s own demands, desires and capacities. It is then important to combine different knowledges in order to find ideas for the community to stay a dynamic and prospering place where people enjoy living and can advance.

I recently read an article by Toomey et al. about inter- and trans-disciplinary research from the UN Global Sustainable Development Report (the article is available here). It gives a pretty clear distinction between these two approaches, saying interdisciplinary research connects methods and ideas of different disciplines to grow further than the limits of single-disciplinary academic research, whereas trans-disciplinary research adds a societal impact to synthesizing disciplines. This means that trans-disciplinary work aims at social justice and so at balancing power differences – also relating to existing discipline hierarchies. The authors also emphasize the importance of a critical consciousness throughout the whole research work, also called “conscientization”. It is crucial to permanently being critical and reflecting actions of one’s own as well as reflecting what is in front of one. This is exactly what I meant in an article I uploaded in August (see here), talking about the fact that one should try to look further than one can actually see.

The authors summarize important steps necessary to be taken in research work in four recommendations, one of them being the appealing to the importance of the whole research process itself. This would help deepen the research work and enable everyone involved in the process.

So I think, starting from these assumptions of a transdisciplinary approach – of course with a continious critical consciousness – would really support a sustainable outcome. It is a holistic approach focusing on sustainable social justice responsive to societal needs.