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Seedbeds of Transformation Conference explores tensions and opportunities towards sustainability in Africa

Conceptualized as an innovation marketplace, this three-day conference brought together innovators from research, government, industry, NGOs and the media towards action-oriented outcomes.

The Seedbeds of Transformation: The Role of Science with Society and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Africa was hosted by Future Earth, the South African Government Department of Science and Technology, the National Research Foundation of South Africa, and START. It took place from 9 to 11 May 2018 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa at the Boardwalk Hotel.

The conference provided a collaborative, action-based meeting space for people with diverse backgrounds such as researchers, practitioners, industry leaders and policy makers. It drew on a wide range of knowledge and regional contexts to look at different aspects of Africa and that speak to the breadth of experience in the African context.

The Opening Plenary was a key highlight that featured a panel discussing the UN Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR) and the work being done globally, connecting it to Africa. Another highlight of the conference was the exploration of tensions and opportunities to achieve the SDGs, which will bring the focus to the afternoon plenary sessions in day 2 and day 3.

See all conference highlights.

The conference explored new ways of incorporating art into storytelling, as local street artists used their artwork to interpret transformations towards a sustainable society. The conference brought together a diverse audience through funding travel grants as part of the ‘Africa-Innovators’ program. This program enabled individuals working on technical, social and knowledge innovations towards sustainability to share their ideas and products, and featured at the conference. It brought together Early Career Researchers and changemakers for workshops, networking events, and to lead sessions.

Another highlight of the conference were the SDG labs – prototyping solutions to complex problems related to the Sustainable Development Goals. They are multi-stakeholder processes where research meets local practitioners and traditional knowledge-holders. At the conference, 13 SDG labs were selected, proposing solutions on issues such as food security, water resources management, marine pollution, and citizen sciences.

The conference connected people, allowing for knowledge sharing and learning, and created new opportunities to engage across countries and issues. Recommendations from the conference and its participants will feed into the United Nations’ high-level forum, and towards regional decision makers and groups. A set of action points are being developed that conference participants can work on collectively, that are owned by African members, and better engages in with the African context.

Major Conference Themes:

  • Understanding trajectories of change: exploring the current knowledge of trends and future trajectories of global change and what knowledge sources can be further developed and used while what knowledge is still lacking to help us achieve transformations toward greater sustainability and equity.
  • Traversing critical challenges: examining the tradeoffs and barriers towards the implementations of SDGs, what SDGs mean in the diverse contexts of Africa, and what deep transformational changes are needed in the African continent.
  • Creating momentum:  how to incorporate African perspectives to inform and gain traction for global sustainability frameworks such as the SDGs and the Paris Climate accord, what social-technical innovations and research approaches are advancing in the continent, and what alliances are needed towards a more sustainable and equitable future.