My research project
Change towards sustainability in higher education institutions
The overarching aim of my thesis is to find effective ways to integrate sustainability thinking and pro-environmental behaviours holistically into higher education institutions and similar polycentric network organisations. Sustainability thinking describes the consideration of environmental and social factors in decision-making, and pro-environmental behaviours are defined as behaviours that consciously or unconsciously minimise negative or enhance positive impacts on the natural environment.
To achieve my research aim I am taking an interdisciplinary approach, drawing on concepts from organisational change, complex systems, and environmental psychology. Working with the Estates, Facilities and Commercial Services Department of the University of Surrey, I use methods from action research to implement, evaluate and critically reflect on sustainability initiatives. This in turn allows me to inform practice in a wide range of areas, including sustainability communications, strategic planning, transport, and waste management.
I also strive to inform effective practices beyond the University of Surrey with my research. For instance, through being involved with regional and global networks, such as the EAUC and UNEP’s Youth and Education Alliance, and by publishing each chapter of my thesis in an open access science or trade journal.
Currently I am writing up two studies which will be published early 2022:
- Implementing change towards sustainability in public bodies and civil society organisations: Insights from UK practitioners
- The Impact of Covid-19 on travel to work and remote working
I am also in the process of writing the Little Handbook of Change Management, which will be published in partnership with the EAUC in the first quarter of 2022.
Affiliations and memberships
In the media
My current research interests are in organisational change towards sustainability, and in particular:
- Organisational change management and sustainability in higher education institutions
- Complex organisational and socio-technical systems
- Environmental psychology and employee pro-environmental behaviours
Past research interest include:
- Climate change adaptation and resilience in urban environments
- Sustainable resource governance and the water-energy-food nexus
- Risk perception and acceptance of new technology
This review summarises and synthesises the academic literature on organisational change management approaches that aim to holistically embed sustainability in higher education institutions.
The literature reviewed puts strong emphasis on change processes and human factors, as well as elements of the institutional framework, such as vision and strategy. The findings highlight the value of strategic and reflective actions, the importance of understanding and actively shaping change processes, and that change towards sustainability requires broad stakeholder input and commitment.
The purpose of this research article is to provide insights on how sustainability practitioners experience and perceive processes of change towards sustainability, what strategies and tactics they use to implement change towards sustainability at their organisation, and what change theories guide these strategies and tactics.
Rather than looking at HEIs only, this study takes a look outside the box and investigates change patterns at public bodies and civil society organisations, such as schools, faith-based organisations, and public health care providers.
The study emphasises the importance of practicing reflexivity, understanding stakeholder perceptions, and adapting change strategy and tactics to organisational contexts.
The aim of this project is to find out whether Covid-19 has changed University of Surrey staff perceptions of and opinions on remote working and travel to work.
This project is funded by Surrey Living Lab and is part of a collaborative project between EFCS, the Sustainability and HR departments, the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, the School of Psychology, and the Centre for Environment and Sustainability. It intends to inform long term decision-making at the University of Surrey, and to shape new working guidelines towards providing better support for remote working and travel to work.
The Little Handbook of Change, to be published in partnership with the EAUC in early 2022, aims to accelerate change towards sustainability in higher education institutions by compiling and condensing academic research and discourse, and in this way expose practitioners to new ideas, concepts, and frameworks.
It provides an introduction to systems thinking, organisational culture, and power politics, and contains numerous practical frameworks, including for identifying leverage points for holistic change, drafting a theory of change, and conducting a power analysis.
Higher education institutions (HEIs) have been urged to integrate sustainability across all their structural and organizational dimensions. A promising area of research and practice that can help to deliver this is organizational change management for sustainability. While this field has received increasing attention over the past decade, a comprehensive assessment is still lacking. Therefore, a systematic quantitative review was carried out to summarize and synthesize the academic literature on organizational change management approaches that aim to holistically embed sustainability in HEIs. Furthermore, this review aims to illustrate what change factors have been observed and how they have been analyzed, and from this highlight implications for practice and pathways for future research. The literature reviewed puts strong emphasis on change processes and human factors, as well as elements of the institutional framework, such as vision and strategy. The findings highlight the value of strategic and reflective actions, the importance of understanding and actively shaping change processes, and that change towards sustainability requires broad stakeholder input and commitment. This review serves as an important reference point for future research and practice.
The database is the foundation for the article “Organizational Change Management for Sustainability in Higher Education Institutions: A Systematic Quantitative Literature Review” published in Sustainability (https://doi.org/10.3390/su13137299). The article summarizes and synthesizes the academic literature on organizational change management approaches that aim to holistically embed sustainability in HEIs. The database contains all papers included in and categories for analysis, as well as definitions of codes, and a list of full-text papers assessed. The theoretical framework underpinning the database and the methods for creating it can be found in the article.