Per Olsson leads the research stream on Resilience Science for Transformations. His current research focuses on agency and system entrepreneurship, social-ecological innovations, transformations to sustainability, and how to reverse current trends of crossing critical thresholds and tipping points in the Earth system. He has co-authored several book chapters, including one for the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, and articles in scientific journals, including Science, PNAS, TREE, Ambio, Global Environmental Change, Environmental Management, and the Annual Review of the Environment and Resources. He is an active member of the Resilience Alliance, and a subject editor for the journal Ecology and Society. Per maintains an extensive international scientific network, including researchers at the STEPS Centre (UK), Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience (Canada), and DRIFT Institute (The Netherlands). Related to this, he also is the hub leader for the ISSC funded Transformation Knowledge Network, and serves on the Advisory Committee to the Future Earth Knowledge Action Network on Transformations to Sustainability.
Recently, Olsson has developed the concept of T-labs (Transformation labs), a new methodology for generating innovative approaches for re-wiring social-ecological systems.
Per is a transdisciplinary researcher and has worked in the interface of natural and social sciences and humanities. He has been instrumental in developing the research fields of local ecological knowledge, adaptive co-management, and adaptive governance. This work has involved theoretical development based on field research using both qualitative and quantitative methods for gathering and analyzing data. His work has explored the interactions between actors, institutions and organizations and focused on the emergence of integrated approaches to the management and governance of natural resources. His work has crossed local to global scales, including local water governance to multi-lateral institutional contexts, in the north and south, including Solomon Islands and Australia, and in a wide range of systems, such as marine, water, food, urban, and agriculture. Per has served as the course leader for many Masters and PhD courses. Olsson has supervised two postdoctoral researchers, five PhD Students, and more than 20 Masters students.
Per is co-leading the Rockefeller Foundation Global Fellowship Program on Social Innovation, which is designed to strengthen the capacity of leaders and change makers in identifying targeted, innovative ways of tackling complex, linked social and environmental problems at their roots. He was the program director for the Stockholm Resilience Centre’s LEAD program on Exponential Technologies, Resilience Thinking and Entrepreneurship. The LEAD program was aimed at future leaders and change makers, and included introducing novel concepts and how they relate to sustainability and human wellbeing.
Per Olsson has invested heavily in facilitating interactions among scientists, policy makers, artists, businesses, and the public through a variety of initiatives. For example, Per is the co-founder of Coral Guardians, which serves as an innovation space for combining music, policy, and science. He was also the co-founder of SHIFT, an accelerator for start-ups and social-ecological entrepreneurship. He served as the scientific advisor to MacGillivray Freeman Films, Incorporated IMAX film Coral Reef Adventure, and was also the national coordinator for the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Program in Sweden.
Per was a member of the organizing committee for the first Resilience conference in 2008, now a triennial event. He was also instrumental in initiating the Transformations conferences, which is now a biennial event that provides a platform for researchers, practitioners, and others to explore transformations to sustainability. This work involves being a member of the organizing and scientific committee for the Transformation 2013 conference in Oslo, Norway, convener and co-chair of the Transformations 2015 conference in Stockholm, Sweden, and a member of the organizing and scientific committee for the Transformation 2017 in Dundee, Scotland.
Awards and achievements:
Elke Merkley, MSc candidate
Rodrigo Martinez, MSc candidate
Research news | 2017-08-19
Social innovation initiatives must be fit for the challenges of the Anthropocene
Research news | 2016-11-02
How much more fishing, nutrient pollution and climate change can the world’s coral reefs endure?
Research news | 2016-10-05
Global examples of a thriving sustainable social-ecological future published
Research news | 2015-06-15
Study in PNAS teases out strategies for successful governance, for both people and ecosystems
2017 - Journal / article
After tracing the antecedents of the concept and considering its intersection in social innovation research, we put forward the argument that the Anthropocene concept points to three areas of thought that are strategically imperative and must be accelerated if social innovation theory and practice is to prove transformative and respond to the challenges associated with the Anthropocene. First, we contend that the current deb...
2016 - Journal / article
Anthropogenic changes to the Earth now rival those caused by the forces of nature and have shepherded us into a new planetary epoch – the Anthropocene. Such changes include profound and often unexpected alterations to coral reef ecosystems and the services they provide to human societies. Ensuring that reefs and their services endure during the Anthropocene will require that key drivers of coral reef change – fishing, water qu...
2016 - Journal / article
The scale, rate, and intensity of humans’ environmental impact has engendered broad discussion about how to find plausible pathways of development that hold the most promise for fostering a better future in the Anthropocene. However, the dominance of dystopian visions of irreversible environmental degradation and societal collapse, along with overly optimistic utopias and business-as-usual scenarios that lack insight and innov...
2015 - Journal / article
To gain insights into the effects of adaptive governance on natural capital, we compare three well-studied initiatives; a landscape in Southern Sweden, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, and fisheries in the Southern Ocean. We assess changes in natural capital and ecosystem services related to these social-ecological governance approaches to ecosystem management and investigate their capacity to respond to change and new cha...