GRBR Transects

Garden Route Biosphere: an international partner honing students’ skills to tackle global sustainability issues

11 July 2022

Dr Bianca Currie, the Chief Executive of the Garden Route Biosphere Reserve is part of an international team of colleagues who are working towards transforming the mentorship of sustainability scholars and practitioners — the people who tackle issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss, poverty, and water security.  Dr Currie has been involved in the development of the training program and will play an important teaching and mentorship role at the first offering of a pilot Transdisciplinary International Learning Laboratory taking place in Germany in August of this year.

The international program, TRANSdisciplinary Education Collaboration for Transformations in Sustainability (TRANSECTS), offers flexible and accessible pathways for training, professional development, mentorship, and networking for the next generation of sustainability change makers internationally. Presently, academic hubs are in Canada, Germany and South Africa, with partners from all three countries and Ghana and Ukraine.  Importantly, the training will engage a diversity of scholars and practitioners from the Global North and Global South to deepen understanding of sustainability challenges and build skills to tackle these challenges by learning from one another.

TRANSECTS will train about 250 highly qualified personnel across Canada, Germany, and South Africa. Partners in the project will include representatives from academia, Indigenous and rural communities, UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, governing agencies, international networks, and private and civil society organizations and foundations. Intercultural learning about how to reconcile relations with one another and with the natural world is important if we are to address the sustainability challenges before us.

Dr. Bianca Currie who is also a research associate with the Sustainability Research Unit at the Nelson Mandela University said that TRANSECTS will be training up the next cohort of biosphere leaders who will be able to work sensitively across, and with a diversity of shared responsibility holders, and to be able to tackle complex challenges in social ecological systems.

During the pilot Transdisciplinary International Learning Laboratory offering taking place in Germany in August, Dr Currie will be accompanied by a group of post graduate students from South Africa. One of the students is Mr Micheal Klaver who holds one of the youth portfolios on the Garden Route Biosphere Reserve’s board of directors. Mr Klaver said he is excited to be a part of this international gathering of students and is keen to meet with others from different parts of the world to share stories, knowledge, and experiences around sustainability science.

Dr. Maureen Reed, a researcher from the University of Saskatchewan’s School of Environment and Sustainability and UNESCO Co-Chair in Biocultural Diversity, Sustainability, Reconciliation and Renewal, is one of the leaders of the project. She said the novel approaches to learning and sharing knowledge among students, academics, and partners will set them up to become sustainability change makers.

Reed said employers can teach workers the technical skills required for employment, but employers are now looking for people with demonstrated professional and relational skills such as effective and compassionate communication, critical thinking, teamwork involving diverse groups, complex problem solving, and continuous learning and adaptation. The new program aims to provide those skills to graduates. Additionally, TRANSECTS will work with universities to help them develop new policies that welcome this kind of scholarship and practice.

The team hopes that the benefits of TRANSECTS reach beyond students and program participants. They believe academia and funding institutions need to find new ways to support novel forms of research and training.