As a HELSUS theme, the Global South is vital and dynamic, drawing together a wide range of interests from several diverse research groups. We recognise the plurality of meanings evoked by the notion of the ‘Global South’, ranging from underdeveloped geographies through conditions of marginality, to methodologies sometimes described with adjectives such as ‘Indigenous’, and ‘Southern’ as well as their intersections.
While acknowledging that these conceptions are vigorously contested, we are committed to a holistic interpretation of the Global South, which is part of; rather than apart from, the Global North. In this sense, we are interested in the social, environmental, and economic structures and processes that generated and continue to shape the uneven power relations between the Global South and the Global North. In developing this engaged understanding and plurality of interests, our general objectives are to cultivate the relationships that will make the Global South theme, and HELSUS as a group, cohesive, and to develop the group conditions that will create the social conditions for its members to thrive. Committed to the nurturing of future leaders, we value excellence, diversity, transdisciplinarity, and collegiality, while encouraging individual initiative and effort. We aspire to lead by example while also inspiring individual members’ diverse interests and style. Details of our strategy are echoed in (a) valorising (b) establishing and (c) implementing the vision for the Global South theme in order to collectively develop pathways and solutions towards sustainability transformation.
Developing a positive future for the Global South, detailing the path for achieving it, and actually taking part in the strategy to achieve the vision are crosscutting key goals.
All three aspects require emphasis on first-class personal relationships. A shared vision and the sheer pleasure in working together are attributes that can animate the implementation of the vision.
We have a transparent and open-door policy in decision making, seeking to develop the Global South as a world class theme for impactful transdisciplinary research, education and public engagement seeking to decolonise sustainability science as a field and reconstruct alternatives.
A Shared Vision for the Theme
Through surveys, seminars, and other engaged participatory approaches, we have clarified the ultimate goal of this theme to include developing southern and indigenous understandings of sustainability, deconstructing the sustainable development processes, and seeking to engage the public about the many ways in which the Global South can become exemplars of living well. According to HELSUS, this theme is seeking to transcend how the Global South is studied today to develop ‘transformation pathways’. Doing so, entails putting justice and liberation at the heart of the vision.
Articulating the Vision within the HELSUS and University of Helsinki Frameworks
The more we can ask the right questions, seek answers using effective participatory approaches, and translate our answers to policy and action, the more we can contribute to the University of Helsinki, while developing the position of HELSUS as local and global leader.
Developing a Research Agenda Shared by HELSUS
As our goal is to build a global hub for conducting research, developing research-informed recommendations for policy, and facilitating southern praxis are important, as is deconstructing the process of globalisation. Such emphases require fundamental engagement with various processes in which social structures shape socio-ecological pressures. Some of these questions (located at the centre of the debates on the tensions and contradictions between growth, redistribution, and ecological limits) have been answered, most unsatisfactorily, and others not at all. For those questions which exceed our capacity, we seek partnerships with other themes at HELSUS and elsewhere, both in the Global South and the Global North, as well as across cross-cutting initiatives such as INEQ and EXALT.
Our plan is to concretely develop the theme to disseminate research within the broad ‘HELSUS Approach’.
Doing so include developing our networks in universities around the world (including those networks in Asia-Pacific, Australia, Africa, Europe, the Arctic and the Americas), in learned associations such as, national academies of science, in civil society organisations, and in global organisations (such as the UN), as well as local governments, and in local associations such as the Finnish Society for Development Research and UNIPID. Such restructuring is intended to help refine some of the questions asked to deconstruct some of the conversations, to provide more nuanced approaches, and to pursue the aspiration of unrestricted dissemination of the findings of our work.
Similarly, we seek to take active steps to make direct submissions to the local and global development agencies, including the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the UNDP, and the IPCC in the hope that our work feeds directly into global reports Consulting for these bodies is a direct way to influence their way of thinking and, hence, position the theme as a thought leader and create valuable experience and networks for students with whom we will work on such projects.
Co-Teaching and Co-Supervision
Along with trying to influence the nature of the existing programmes to which HELSUS contributes (such as ECGS), we envisage the possibility of reworking or shaping courses elsewhere, including in cognate disciplines such as Development Studies and Social Policy, where we are developing fruitful collaborations for co-teaching and co-supervision. In these programmes, colonial pedagogies are decolonised. Southern theories are nurtured, as are their dialectical relationship with other empowering approaches across disciplines to make students concerned global citizens.
We work with others to host public seminars, conferences, radio and TV programs along with engaging social media on disseminating our work. Writing for magazines, newspapers, and blogs will be part of the agenda, as will making submissions to local council and national parliamentary; and engaging with institutions, networks, and initiatives around the world.
Practical steps are important in this regard. Developing the open-access book series, Edinburgh Studies in Urban Political Economy, published by Edinburgh University Press is one of such steps. Publishing special issues in journals is another, as is pursuing non-hierarchical collaborations across the world. Inviting others to share their work with us is a complementary step, as is supporting others by sharing our work with them. Co-creation and co-production of special issues are additional concrete steps, but all of them are underpinned by our values, central to which is the idea that we are pursuing not just sustainability; but a just sustainability.