Knowledge Systems for Sustainability


This Collaborative is a formal alliance of major research organizations selected to cover the intersections of energy, water, food and human security linked to a wide variety of private-sector players and public agencies. The goal of this alliance is to open more far-sighted practices related to humanity’s provisioning demands for food, water, energy and materials, to guard the future of those resources and well-being of future generations.

A ‘knowledge system’ brings together data and information from various arenas, through diverse, aligned modeling to provide decision makers with more holistic representations of the sustainability implications of their decisions. The Collaborative has allowed us to leverage design elements, capabilities, insights across these regions nimbly across scales, allowing us rapidly to assemble teams of experts from diverse backgrounds to advance discovery and innovation, and systematically and rigorously assess outcomes related to disaster risk reduction and resilience. Together, the KSS Collaborative is working to identify, align, synthesize and leverage computational resources; climate, energy, and environmental research data; human dimensions and decision processes research; and analytical tools to aid decision makers in improving the sustainability outcomes of their decisions.

The Challenge

The grand challenges of the early 21st century affect every aspect of our existing economic, social and physical fabric. Food, water and weather-related insecurity, diet- and climate-related health threats, large-scale extinctions of species, human-caused and natural disasters, and increasing risks to essential natural resources threaten billions of people and global economic systems. Sustainable outcomes will result from influencing day-to-day decisions at small scales, i.e., individual fields or patches of forest or factories or villages. In the absence of objective, useful, widely accessible information, decision-making tends to default to drivers like money, power, and prejudices and is likely to deliver outcomes that do not balance competing needs now, or in the future. There is a critical need for ways of learning from consistent, repeatable successes and failures related to the interlinked consequences of extracting and using land, water, and energy resources. Environmental degradation and food and water insecurity also have direct impacts on global and national security. Spikes in food prices, for example, have played a large part in the unrest that occurred in many regions across the world. These interrelationships between individual decisions, economics, and natural resources have profound global security implications.

The KSS Collaborative Concept

The KSS Collaborative is a community of practice constructed to gather and link these distinct collections of specific information related to human and ecological needs with new and existing tools to guide decisions about resource use, systematically testing concepts of resilience, integration, theories of change, governance, management, and protection.