Leaders are emerging in localities the world over to face climate change impacts (e.g., sea level rise,
desertification, etc.), cultural homogenization through globalization, and other locally-defined sustainability
and social change challenges. There is much that these leaders, and the local efforts, communities and social
movements from which they emerge, can learn from each other, whether they be in Africa, Latin America or here
in Canada. In contrast to a stalled global effort to deal with these same challenges, a trans-local effort,
linking localities as part of a broad, non-hierarchal movement, holds real promise in redefining how
sustainability is understood in local ways, and contending with its challenges through knowledge exchange,
and sustainability and social change learning leading to local action. Constituting spaces for this knowledge
exchange and learning, and the actions it generates, as well as documenting its processes, is the ultimate
focus of this Canada Research Chair in Sustainability and Social Change Leadership. With this goal in mind,
there are three objectives to this research chair:
- Developing trans-local leadership: while local community leaders focusing on sustainability
issues have emerged in many localities, by connecting them to each other this CRC contributes to
developing trans-local leadership. At the same time, experiential and research training engagements with
students will also help inculcate the leadership abilities of a new generation of trans-local leaders.
- Developing processes for sustainability & social change learning: the central component of this
CRC is sharing how these trans-local leaders and movements conceive of sustainability, as well as identifying
mutual areas of contending with threats to, and challenges of this sustainability. Documenting this process
as a case study of social movement learning provides an ability to disseminate these learnings in academic
and wider contexts. Social movement learning highlights incidental and informal learning from social action
that enables collective learning through contending with such challenges as sustainability (Foley, 1999).
These processes also include drawing on such learning emerging from the work of colleagues at St. Francis
Xavier University, as well as in other Canadian contexts, through connections to current and former CRCs,
to share with these leaders and their efforts.
- Constituting trans-local contexts for knowledge exchange: using an online-networked collaborative,
and participatory approach, create an opportunity for social change and sustainability efforts to be
documented, and exchanged between trans-local sites. Student research assistants working with these diverse
efforts offer another layer of experiential training and their on-location engagement enables deepened
documentation of learning. At the same time, and with student involvement, work with localized community
media, such as community radio, in each location to broaden and democratize this knowledge exchange.
The Trans-Local Sustainability & Social Change Learning & Collaboration Network
As part of this Chair, a Trans-local Network infrastructure project connects these localities, providing a
platform for communities in Canada to learn about how communities in Ghana or Guatemala are contending with
culture or livelihood loss, or adapting to climate change. At the same time, Canadian communities can share
their struggles and learning facing similar issues. Thus, the learning and sharing that emerges from this
trans-local network will help enrich Canada's efforts at contributing to a more socially, economically and
environmentally sustainable world.