Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Sustainability hacking : conceptual development and empirical exploration
Author: Savaget, Paulo
ISNI:       0000 0004 7968 3990
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Full text unavailable from EThOS. Please try the link below.
Access from Institution:
Systemic humanitarian, environmental, and socio-political problems are impeding current and future generations from meeting their very basic needs. The speed and scope of mainstream responses to the world's most pressing problems are limited by agency failures and by the 'rules of the game'. In this context, this research contributes to theory and practice by formulating and exploring the concept of Sustainability Hacking, a particularly advantageous change driver in situations where information is limited, resources are scarce, stakes are high, and decision-making is urgent. This research was conducted through 3 sequential stages. First, the researcher has systematically reviewed the literature on sociotechnical system change for sustainability. This review exposed and discussed 15 theoretical foundations that shape what changes are perceived as desirable and attainable, as well as how to navigate between all the coexisting pathways to drive positive change. By examining these foundations, it became possible to pinpoint opportunities for future contributions. Among them was the idea of investigating the meaning, characteristics and potential implications of Hacking as a change driver of sociotechnical systems. These were revealed in the 2nd research stage, after interviewing self-declared Hackers and cybersecurity experts to understand how they used the term and how they pursued their desired systemic changes. This stage provided the definition, as well as 9 dominant characteristics of System Hacking. The term refers to exploring unconventional solutions to a problem within sociotechnical systems. 'Unconventional' here means deviating from embedded institutions, i.e. the rules of the game in a society. Institutions represent sources of stability, coherence, and continuity of systems, while simultaneously shaping public expectations of what changes are viable and the heuristics of how they should be pursued. Differently from conventional approaches, system Hackers are not aiming at changing rules, neither are they passively complying with them. Instead, they work around the 'rules of the game' to accomplish 'good-enough' results promptly. The 3rd research stage consisted of investigating and working with Sustainability Hacks, i.e. System Hacks addressing pressing sustainability problems. This was performed through a combination of Action Research and Case Studies. Benefitting from a diverse database of 19 cases, the researcher conducted a cross-case analysis, which provided comprehensive observations on the 15 main similarities and 10 differences that constitute the key analytical variables of Sustainability Hacking. Furthermore, the analysis derived 5 Archetypes that can be used as frames of reference to provide guidance for practitioners evaluating possibilities of addressing pressing sustainability problems, as well as to support future academic contributions in this nascent field of research.
Supervisor: Evans, Steve Sponsor: Gates Cambridge
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Sustainability ; Innovation ; Hacking ; System Change ; Complex Systems ; Sociotechnical Systems ; Sustainable Development