Collective Action for Sustainability Solutions (Part 2): Building and testing theory to catalyze shifts from individual to community mindsets

PI: Nicole M. Ardoin


Solving collective action-sustainability issues requires collaboration, compassion, and innovation at a scale never-before achieved. Given that researchers and practitioners alike have documented the efficacy of design thinking for achieving solutions to wicked problems, using design-thinking abilities in the sustainability context would seem to be a natural fit. Yet during Part 1 of our “Collective Action for Sustainability Solutions” (CASS) project, we uncovered a paucity of research and resources in this area. Therefore, we propose CASS Part 2 to build and test an intersectional theory of design thinking, collective action, and sustainability. For Phase 1 (theory-building), we propose a mixed-methods study, leveraging case studies and ethnography, and building on the literature review, to identify concepts, principles, and variables core to collective action, design, and sustainability. In Phase 2 (theory development), we will draft a theoretical model of collective action for sustainability, drawing on design abilities and verifying the model through an expert-elicitation process. In Phase 3 (theory testing), working with d.school collaborators, we will develop and implement activities drawing on insights from prior phases. This will provide actionable understanding of how to facilitate collective action approaches to sustainability issues; develop climate-design competencies; and envision sustainability challenges as spaces of collective solutions.


Sarah Stein Greenberg, Carissa Carter, Alison Bowers