For the 8th Cross-Sector Social Interactions Symposium in 2022 at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, we selected “Partnering for Resilience and Transformation” as the central topic. How do partnerships perform in times of crisis? Are they able to respond quickly enough, and to flexibly adjust course where necessary? What makes partnerships resilient? What makes partnerships transformative? These are pertinent questions that have been catapulted to the top of the agenda and require our attention as a scholarly community.
Responding to a crisis is a crucial first step for building resilience of the collaboration and involved partners. Being resilient may also be the steppingstone towards rebuilding a brighter future. Bouncing back to the old situation, with its associated vulnerabilities, is not necessarily the best approach. Reconciling resilience and transformation is a major challenge both in practice and in the theoretical debate. How can partnerships facing crises or disturbances contribute to the transformations necessary for a more sustainable future? Do partnerships provide transformative capacity for in-depth change? We hope that inquiring into partnering processes with resilience and transformation as lenses will result in inspiring scholarship that is both theoretically innovative and practically useful.
Overlooking the Lower Rhine river and situated in the Food Valley, Wageningen hosts a vibrant green campus where education buildings and research facilities intermingle with other activities, including a Unilever R&D plant, a branch of the public Food Safety Agency and a student-run vegetable farm - partnerships are in the DNA of this university! The mission of Wageningen University and Research is “to explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life”. As a life science university, Wageningen specializes in research on food, the living environment and health, and puts high value in interdisciplinary research between the natural and the social science. The social science department covers nearly all social science and humanities disciplines, from history to management, and from economics to policy sciences, but with a focus on topics like agriculture, food, environment, water, climate, biodiversity and health. In sum, an excellent environment to discuss the grand sustainability challenges of our time, and the role of partnerships in fostering resilience and transformation.