At the 2019 World Economic Forum, the Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab presented the audience with a defining question: “What kind of capitalism is needed to sustain economic systems for future generations?” With this intervention, the notion which prompted the ‘Davos Manifesto’, a firm’s principal responsibilities toward its stakeholders for not just being a profit-seeking entity, but also a social organism, were declared. In view of this revelation the manifesto called for a new measure of ‘shared value creation’ across environmental, social, and governance or ESG, which set out the criterion and linkages toward achieving the United Nations 2030 ‘Sustainability Development Goals’ (SDGs). Despite the rapid growth of ESG investment funds in recent years, the United Nation’s latest Sustainable Development Report (United Nation, 2022) brings to light the mounting challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in the Ukraine, and climate change– a “crisis multiplier” effect, which may well put the 2030 Agenda in jeopardy (UN, 2022, p.2). Such are the existential threats to humanity that transformation of societies depends upon active stewarding of socio-technological change, which scholars have proffered, requires entirely new approaches to designing systems that are more collaborative, inclusive of different forms of knowledge, and capable of working with complexity, values, and diverse human and non- human interests to be effective and supportive of societal transformations (Fazey, et al., 2020). Here, theories of transitions have been developed pointing to the complex, multi-perspectival processes of change across society (Schot and Geels, 2008; Geels, 2010; Hebink et al, 2022).

Globally, leaders of governments and businesses are united in the view that their primary objective must be to stimulate economic growth following the 2008 financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic. Scholars of market and state capitalism theory, however, highlight that the challenge for debate is more fundamental and paradigmatic than just reinvigorating an old capitalism system that has not worked for everyone (cf. Alami, Dixon, and Mawdsley, 2021; Carroll and Jarvis, 2022). Against this economic-political landscape, meanwhile, substantial scientific consensus exists that the emergence of real global biophysical limits brought about by the combined exponential increase in population and consumption, are the causes of significant global environmental threats (Dunlop, Kanninen and Aaltonen, 2015).

So far, the scientific community has been largely unsuccessful in its attempts to persuade government and business leaders to make costly policy changes and limit economic growth. The challenge for all actors in the innovation system is to recognize the emergence of an innovation paradigm built on the expectations of involving societal and cross-functional stakeholders (c.f. Quadruple Helix Model), which will help to align research with sustainable innovation solutions, leading to positive public impact. Moreover, the only way of dealing with such complexity, contradictions and chaos, indeed, coping in post-normal times, requires imagination and creativity to the extent it unleashes the diversity of human cultures in ways of imagining alternatives to the conventional being and doing (Sardar, 2009, p. 9). To this end, science, government, industry, and civil society rely on critical interactions, direct and indirect social, political, environmental, and economical influences, and the assumptions made to inform strategic, tactical, and practical innovation decisions. Additionally, the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA) of the world (environment) poses new challenges for all organizations to anticipate and analyse possible new situations that have emerged or may arise in the future (Buehring and Liedtka, 2018).

Fundamentally, with the Environment in a steep state of decline, such that no strategic planner in any type of enterprise worldwide can afford to dismiss it, new innovation strategies are needed in topics such as emissions, water, human rights, diversity, and ethics. In business these concerns intersect with energy, raw materials, logistics, supply chain, work force, finance, plus ESG as part of financial reporting. EU regulation, national policies and financial markets drive the change and transformation together with global commitments to the Paris Agreement. Global initiatives SDG, TCFD, CDP, SBTi and others draw our attention, too.

With an undeniable sense of urgency to bring into being an innovation paradigm in the face of just Earth Systems Governance, we have entitled the JIM Special issue Request for New Approaches to Sustainability and Growth:

This special issue:

  • Encourages both conceptual, imaginative, and empirical work from multiple perspectives in the context of sustainable innovation, design, transitions studies and strategic foresight thinking and practices (processes, methodologies, methods, strategies, and futures).
  • Welcomes interdisciplinary research that integrates several aspects into the strategic innovation process, and sustainability by design; this may include transitions studies, systems thinking, complexity research, futures research, capability building, environmental sustainability technologies, model-based sustainable product development approaches, and tools that address the wider inclusions of environmental, social, economic consequences.
  • Recognizes the critical leverage points in the form of technology evolutions, emerging new technologies, changing market demands, collective consciousness toward the environmental impacts of consumerism and energy consumption, and the need for increased collaborations between governments, scientists, civic society, and innovators – collectively learning about the intractable challenges ahead.
  • Seeks new evidence-based approaches and productive forms of collaboration and interaction between science, policy and government, industry, and civil society (Quadruple Helix Innovation Systems).
  • Includes within the call invitations to submit a range of formats such as short positioning papers, future scenarios or creative visions from academia and industry, illuminating transition concepts and case studies substantiating the ‘New Approaches for Sustainability and Growth’ – at the heart of our inquiry.

Considering the above perspectives, our ‘call for papers’ centres on the broader topic of sustainability within innovation and transition management processes in both public and private organizations.

Suggested topics for this special issue may include:

  • Development strategies and practices based on direct and indirect social, political, environmental, and economical influences, and the assumptions made to inform strategic, tactical, and practical innovation decisions (cf. Vollenbrock, 2002) and mindful of questions of ethics and equity.
  • Transition design and design for sustainability (cf. Irwin, 2015; Ceschin and

Gaziulusoy, 2020) proposing approaches, frameworks, and methodologies to advance societal transitions.

  • Strategic design and innovation capabilities to anticipate possible new situations that have emerged or may arise in the future (cf. Buehring and Liedtka, 2018).
  • Decision-making environment considering the overall boundary conditions and interactions of systems and between actors, the models currently in use to provide the best data support possible, and what influence the human factor plays in analysing the data and the consequent innovations based on it (Dunlop, Kanninen and Aaltonen, 2015; Kranabitl, et al. 2021).
  • Future forms of policy development, citizen participation and social experimentation to enable transitions to sustainable design and innovations (Fischer and Clausen, 2016; Li et al., 2021; Kimbell, et al., 2022).
  • Such complex global sustainability challenges cannot be solved by new technology and governance alone; they require policy coherence between industry, science, and policy actors to communicate shared perspectives of a future committed to public goals, and broad cultural Innovation needs must go beyond economic objectives to improve quality of life as well as the environment (Barile et. al. 2018; Berners-Lee, 2021; Buehring and Borja de Mozota, 2022; Dhiman and Marques 2016; Fazey. et al., 2020; Johnsson and Wilkinson, 2020; Vollenbrock, 2002; Wamsler and Brink, 2018).

Special Issue Guest Editors: Joern Buehring (HKPOLYU), Mika Aaltonen (SNG Finland), Lucy Kimbell (UAL UK).

Corresponding Author (if you have any questions)

Submissions should follow JIM guidelines and should be done through the platform,

Jörn Bühring is a Ph.D. and Assistant Professor at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, School of Design, where he is advancing a research culture that is cooperative, innovative, and highly impact focused. This collaborative approach (cf. Design Economy, Ignite Innovation, Executive Leadership Education) brings together academia, industry, and policy stakeholders (cf. Triple Helix) to develop high-impact design knowledge, concepts, and forward-looking solutions. His research explores Design Foresight, Vision and Fiction techniques as emerging processes within strategic decision-making, Strategic Design, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation Management. A full member of the “World Futures Studies Federation” (, he also holds an honorary Adjunct Associate Professor position within the College of Business at RMIT University in Australia, a Program Advisory Board Member position at the College of Business, Abu Dhabi University, UAE, and Scientific Council Member at the Alternative Planetary Futures Institute (ApFi) in Washington DC., USA.

Mika Aaltonen is a Ph.D. (Econ.), Associate Professor (Foresight and Complexity), Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Editorial Board Member of European Foresight Journal, Editorial Board Member of E:CO (Emergence: Complexity and Organisations journal), and Co-Founder of Sustainable Nation Group. He has written 16 books and several articles about foresight, complexity and societal change. Amongst them are The Third Lens (Routledge), Robustness – Anticipatory and Adaptive Human Systems (Emergent Publications), The Renaissance Society (McGraw-Hill, with Danish futurist Rolf Jensen) and Crossroads – Transformations on the Road to 2040 (with American analyst Michael Loescher). Mika has also worked as visiting researcher at the London School of Economics (UK), the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers (France) and the Gregorian University (Italy).

Lucy Kimbell (PhD) is a strategic designer and academic. She is Professor of Contemporary Design Practices at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London (UAL) where she researches social design, design thinking and design for public policy. She has been a co-investigator on projects exploring the potential and implications of AI for professional services and smart regulation and previously held an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) fellowship in Policy Lab, in the UK Civil Service. She currently leads a doctoral studentship programme between UAL and Kings College London at the intersection of design and public policy and convenes the Design and Policy Network funded by the AHRC. Her Service Innovation Handbook (2014) drew on her teaching of design thinking on the MBA at Said Business School, University of Oxford between 2006-2019 and where she was on the faculty between 2005-2010.


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Berners-Lee, M. (2021). There Is No Planet B: A Handbook for the Make Or Break Years-Updated Edition. Cambridge University Press.

Buehring, J. H., & Liedtka, J. (2018). Embracing systematic futures thinking at the intersection of Strategic Planning, Foresight and Design. Journal of innovation management, 6(3), 134-152.

Buehring, J., & Borja de Mozota, B. (2022). System Driven Design Industry: The Challenge Towards a Collective Vision for All Stakeholders in Design. In Congress of the International Association of Societies of Design Research (pp. 98-110). Springer, Singapore.

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Kimbell, L., Richardson, L., Mazé, R., and Durose, C. (2022) Design for public policy: Embracing uncertainty and hybridity in mapping future research, in Lockton, D., Lenzi, S., Hekkert, P., Oak, A., Sádaba, J., Lloyd, P. (eds.), DRS2022: Bilbao, 25 June - 3 July, Bilbao, Spain.

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