In the run-up to COP28, the University of Sussex Business School features some of its most relevant climate-related research. One such research output is the action-driven Transformative Outcomes framework of the Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium (TIPC). The rationale of TIPC’s work, in the past 5 years, has been placing experimentation, learning and formative evaluation at the core of policy making for system change and long-term transformation. The ‘Twelve Transformative Outcomes’ were proposed in a publication in the Science and Public Policy journal, as goals that policy experimentation might want to achieve for addressing social and environmental problems. What makes this approach relevant for tackling global challenges and how does it link to COP28? Read all about it in this blog article by Bipashyee Ghosh.
COP28 marks the halfway point between the Paris Agreement, signed in 2015 at COP21, and 2030 – the crucial point in time when efforts to limit global warming to 1.5C must take immediate effect. This year’s “Conference of the Parties (COP)” is seen as a global stocktake of where we stand in the race towards net-zero.
Recognizing the crucial role that research plays in monitoring climate action progress and creating solutions, COP28 has invited the University of Sussex Business School to showcase some of its most relevant climate-related research. In line with the Business School’s ambition to use interdisciplinary research as a vehicle for generating a tangible impact on policy decisions and to achieve long-term systemic changes, one of the research papers featured is that by Bipasyhee Ghosh et al (2021), proposing twelve transformative outcomes for assessing and reorienting experimentation with transformative innovation policy.
Transformative innovation policy for long-term system change
Innovation is at the top of governments’ climate agenda but instead of providing quick-fix solutions, it must be seen as a lever for long-term system change. This is the underlying principle of Transformative Innovation Policy (TIP) – a research area that sees technological innovation, ecological consciousness and social well-being as closely intertwined. TIP aims to guide innovation in directions that drive substantial, in-depth and positive changes in society. A holistic development across the society,the economy and the environment is key, rather than economic growth only.
This approach is mobilised in the Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium (TIPC), a global network of researchers, policymakers and funders. since 2017, through policy experiments and case studies, TIPC members having been building demonstrators that illustrate how to implement transformative innovation policy that has subsequently led to an emerging global community of practice of TIP.
The transformative outcomes framework is an essential element of the TIP methodology. The framework suggests an action-driven approach for breaking open policy silos and placing interdisciplinarity, experimentation, learning and formative evaluation at the core of policy making – all aimed at accelerating system change and long-term transformation. These are a set of conditions or leverage points that policymakers could aim to achieve, in order to accelerate transitions towards net zero societies, that goes beyond techno-fixes and helps avoiding unintended social consequences of climate policy.
The focus of TIP is on system change, rather than on ‘fixing what is wrong’. System change implies that not only do we have to change the unsustainable practices, but the drivers that currently hold unsustainable structures in place must change. It is about addressing the root cause of the climate crisis, rather than the consequences. Transformative outcomes aim to guide policy makers’ actions accordingly, encouraging them to evaluate and reformulate their projects, programmes and policies in directions that could unlock transformative system change.
The transformative outcomes are practical, yet flexible without a fixed set of indicators or metrics, where the process is as important as the outcome. They have been described by policy users as ‘tools that we can use to dig deeper for change’. They are dynamic and can be adopted and modified for different regional and industry contexts. For example, the transformative outcomes framework, as applied in the Deep Transitions Lab, helps to reorient private and public investments towards system change, considering the long-term future impact and returns on current investments in unsustainable food, energy, and mobility systems.
The relevance of TIP and implications for COP28
How to address the global challenges, the differences in contexts and the need for cooperation between the global north and global south will be key topics for discussion at COP28. The transformative outcomes framework and the TIP approach more broadly, can guide some of the discussions such as “Which innovations could policies support?”, “Who to include in policy making of system change?” and “How can transformative change be collectively envisioned?” and “What transformative actions are required at the national, regional and local policy and community levels to recognise, facilitate and accelerate ongoing changes?”.
The focus should be on changing, rather than improving or optimising the systems of energy, health, food and mobility. For instance, addressing food insecurity and access to basic healthcare and public transportation by the less privileged, should be at the core of net-zero policies, which could constitute specific technology implementation, digitalisation or EV diffusion as a part of the solution. Technology is important, but it is just one aspect of the multi-dimensional systems (comprising culture, industry, users, policy and technology) that needs to be transformed.
At TIPC, a participatory and inclusive approach is key to success and leaders at COP28 should adhere to the same metrics. Policies need to be developed in collaboration, with a diverse range of actors, participatory those who are historically marginalised, getting heard.
Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research, where researchers and practitioners get to collaborate and generate impact needs to be promoted through science funding allocated for such kinds of action oriented knowledge and impact co-creation.
Finally, only a just transition can be a sustainable one. Deciding and acting on achieving social justice, human development and well-being as part of climate mitigation and adaptation strategies should be a core focus at COP28. The transformative outcomes and general TIP approach may aid this process and the TIPC team is always happy to help if government departments or innovation funding agencies are willing to unlock system change with this method.