Understanding sustainable development in the voluntary sector: a complex problem

GILLIGAN, Christine (2013). Understanding sustainable development in the voluntary sector: a complex problem. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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Sustainable development, a concept that emerged as we began to understand the negative impacts of environmental challenges, such as pollution and climate change, on human prosperity and social equality, was seen as offering a way of preserving the natural systems that sustain human life on Earth whilst continuing to support economic and social development. As a concept, however, it presents many challenges, both in its interpretation and in its application and one of the challenges is the requirement for behaviour change from all sectors of society, including the voluntary sector. There is an assumption by the UK government that voluntary organisations, as trusted agents of change, are well placed to help the poorest cope with the disproportionate impacts of economic and environmental unsustainability and that the voluntary sector should be working with local stakeholders to promote behaviour change at a local level. This research identified that limited understanding of the concept of sustainable development and inappropriate communication and interaction with the UK government, both nationally and locally, acted to inhibit voluntary sector engagement in change. Part of the problem could be that traditional linear approaches to behaviour change, based on clear cause and effect relationships and pre-determined outcomes, are not appropriate when addressing complex problems like sustainable development, which involve multiple stakeholders, both human and non human. The encouragement of behaviour change for sustainable development may require a new and different approach. This thesis concludes that Communities of Practice, a change approach that is sympathetic to the principles of complexity thinking, offers an alternative approach to behaviour change that could accommodate the complexity of sustainable development and additionally, has many features that would overcome the barriers to voluntary sector engagement. This type of non-hierarchical approach has the potential to encourage not only the voluntary sector but all stakeholders in a local community to work together to develop sustainability initiatives that are appropriate to the local circumstances.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Sheffield Business School Research Institute > Marketing and Strategy
Depositing User: Christine Gilligan
Date Deposited: 28 Jan 2016 15:23
Last Modified: 19 Oct 2016 16:37
URI: http://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/9712

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