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Anatomy of a 21st-century sustainability project: The untold stories

Edited book
Authors Mirek Dymitrow
Karin Ingelhag
ISBN 978-91-984166-3-3
Publisher Mistra Urban Futures
Place of publication Gothenburg
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Economy and Society, Unit for Human Geography
Mistra Urban Futures
Language en
Keywords projects, sustainability, 21st-century, autoethnography, individual perspective
Subject categories Practical philosophy, Technology and social change, Work Sciences, Social Sciences Interdisciplinary, Ethnography, Human Geography

Abstract

What does a sustainability project look like in the 21st century? Not the glossy version, but the naked truth? Tired of manicured, over-theorised accounts of the ‘musts’ and ‘shoulds’ of sustainability transitions, we got to the bottom of things; actually, to the very bottom of the project hierarchy: the individual. Our point of departure is that projects are nothing but temporarily interconnected people. This means that if we don’t know what people do and what they think about their work, we will never be able to create a deeper understanding of the project, its rationale and future impact. Making use of the autoethnographic method, this book provides critical insights into what it’s like being part of a 21st-century project. Building on unfiltered first-hand contributions from 73 authors representing the five organs of a project’s anatomy – the brain (theoreticians), the skeleton (leaders), the limbs (strategists), the heart (local stakeholders) and the lungs (researchers) – the book covers all the important aspects of contemporary project-making: (1) projectification as a societal phenomenon; (2) sustainability as the main project buzzword; (3) transdisciplinarity as a hot working method; (4) economy as the invisible project propeller; (5) space as the contextual project qualifier; (6) gender and integration as the obstinate orphans of project-making; (7) trends as the villains of thoughtless project mimicry; (8) politics as the necessary evil of projects; and (9) knowledge production as the cornerstone of all project work. The book ends with an extensive critical analysis of what makes a project tick and how to avoid project failure. We infer that talking about project outcomes and impacts is just that… talking. What makes a difference is what can be done to the project in itself. Three important virtues – the ABC of project-making – emanate from this book’s 40 chapters: building good relationships (Affinity), having the guts to make a change (Bravery), and showing willingness to learn (Curiosity). These are the basis for the successful execution of future sustainability projects, where complexity, unpredictability and desperation will become a staple force to recon with. The original contribution of this book is shedding light on the silent triumphs and hidden pathologies of everyday project-making in an effort to elevate individual knowledge to a level of authority for solving the wicked – yet project-infused – problems of our time.

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