Using an S-E Systems Lens to Examine Sustainability Problems

At SESYNC, we have spent over a decade believing that environmental sustainability problems are also inherently social problems. Therefore, to find viable solutions to our most pressing sustainability issues, it is necessary to conceptualize them within a socio-environmental framework. The following resources on this page aim to help researchers by:

  1. Introducing the basics of socio-environmental systems.
  2. Explaining the value of integrating interdisciplinary perspectives into a collaboration to broaden the scope of understanding these problems.
  3. Suggesting some methods and approaches for synthesizing and analyzing the different kinds of data these disciplines may bring. 

The Basics of Socio-Environmental Systems

New to socio-environmental (S-E) systems? Check out the brief, introductory explainer articles and videos below that provide a high-level overview of S-E systems, their main components, and their behaviors.

Explainer What Is A Socio-Environmental System?
Explainer Feedback Loops and Socio-Environmental Systems
Explainer Resilience Theory and Socio-Environmental Systems
Explainer Socio-Environmental System Change and Reorganization 
Video Understanding Environmental Problems through a Socio-Environmental Lens
Video Building the Basics Part 1: Socio-Environmental Systems as Complex Adaptive Systems
Lesson Introduction to Socio-Environmental Systems Lesson: A Lens to Understand Sustainability with a Food Insecurity Exercise

Teamwork: The Advantages of Integrating Different Disciplinary Perspectives

The following resources explain the benefits of integrating the expertise and perspectives of different disciplines in the pursuit of solving sustainability problems. The videos and articles provide evidence for why this type of socio-environmental research is beneficial, introduce some of the core tenets of interdisciplinary team science, and suggest best practices for effective collaboration.

Video The Science of Team Science Part 1: Why Team Science?
Video The Science of Team Science Part 2: Conducting Team Science and Measuring Outcomes
Video Knowledge Integration Across Disciplines Part 1: Introduction to Collaboration Across Disciplines
Video Synthesis Research and Team Science Process to Address Socio-Environmental Problems
Video Building the Basics Part 2: Defining the Problem and Spanning Boundaries
Explainer What Is Interdisciplinary Team Research? Are There Best Practices?
Explainer Building an Interdisciplinary Team
Explainer What Is a Shared Mental Model? Why Are Mental Models Useful for Interdisciplinary Research?

Methods and Approaches for Analyzing Diverse Socio-Environmental Data

Socio-environmental systems can be difficult to study due to their complexity and their tendency to generate both quantitative and qualitative data. The following explainer articles and videos introduce some common methodologies and approaches that researchers can use to model, synthesize, and analyze data to learn more about socio-environmental systems. 

Explainer Quantitative Synthesis Methods: Literature Reviews (Systematic and Meta-Analyses), Expert Elicitation
Explainer Qualitative Synthesis Methods: Critical Interpretive Reviews, Narrative Reviews, Expert Opinions
Explainer Critical Discourse Analysis: What Is It?
Explainer Critical Discourse Analysis: Visual Approach
Explainer Critical Discourse Analysis: Narrative Approach
Explainer Critical Discourse Analysis: Qualitative Content Approach
Explainer Critical Discourse Analysis: Artificial Intelligence, Social Network, & Social Media Analysis
Video Building the Basics Part 3: Choosing a Modeling Approach
Video Approaches and Methods to Integrate Diverse Socio-Environmental Data
Video Use of Systems Thinking Archetypes in Socio-Environmental Modeling