Sustainability Research

Steven took me to Cafe Diem this week to work on my research proposal. He’s a good guy! Many of you would know that I have been trying to write this proposal, for….well, over a year. The approach to the research has changed several times, and I have had various cases of writer’s block, family wanderings, heart medicine side effects and just plain enjoying life too much, but now I am revved up and ready to go…I think! Here is the current version of my summary, for anyone who might be interested!

How Have Sustainability Activists Developed?:

Life Course Influences and Processes that Brought Five Individuals to Collective Action for Improving Sustainability within an American University

My research proposes to use a qualitative methodology to discover life course influences and processes that brought individual members of the Iowa State University Council on Sustainability (ISU COS) to collective action for improving sustainability within an American university. I will interview at least five of the founding members of the ISU COS using an open ended interview guide. One and possibly more one hour interviews will be conducted, recorded and transcribed for each respondent. The interviews will be designed to elicit the story of how each member became aware of sustainability issues and then felt moved to participate on the COS. Respondents will be invited to submit additional written material if they choose and will be asked to review transcripts of the interviews, the later analysis and conclusions, thus becoming active constructors of the conclusions. Individuals’ stories will be examined using a narrative analysis approach, acknowledging the fact that it would be impossible for me, as the researcher, to verify that influences and processes described by the respondents did indeed happen and had the effects described. However, collecting and analyzing these rich stories of sustainability pioneers may suggest further, more specific social, cultural and psychological influences and processes to study using a less subjective methodology. Finally, using appropriate techniques for protecting the anonymity of the respondents, the results of my research will be shared via my masters thesis and possibly professional journals. It is my hope that my research will suggest ways that future sustainability activists can be nurtured and cultivated throughout the life course.

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