Incubator project: Sustainable governance talks without jargon

Academics and practitioners complement each other on tackling sustainability challenges; however, despite working in the same field, they often use different technical terms (jargon) and perspectives that make communication between them difficult.


Two-way communication between academics and practitioners is essential to promote innovation. The “Sustainable Governance Talks Without Jargon” project wants to help PhD candidates bridge this gap by fostering jargon-free communication with practitioners. At the same time, by using a common language, PhDs can share their research with a wider audience. 

'Wicked problems' are challenging, among other things, because of the multiple actors involved in their solution. Each of these actors has different values, perspectives and even language as they use different technical terms to communicate among themselves. Communication beyond disciplines, niches, and levels is crucial to find common ground towards solutions to these problems. Among these, communication between academics and practitioners is essential to accelerate progress.

Despite this, communicating academic knowledge beyond academia requires skills that are not always emphasized in PhD training. Recognizing and understanding that academics and practitioners use different conceptual frameworks to tackle common topics is the first step to translate our messages between them. Jargon can be understood as more than just technical words to include assumptions and values that influence the different conceptualization of the problems and solutions. 

Talking without jargon goes beyond avoiding or explaining technical terms. It requires a reflective understanding of our and others´ assumptions to critically compare our perspective against the point of view of others. This empathy should be at the core of the search for mutual understanding and constructive dialogue that we want to initiate through this project.

The Sustainable Governance Talks Without Jargon will support WCSG PhDs to develop skills to communicate beyond academia, connect with practitioners related to their research, and develop non-academic publications to reach a wider audience. Through these activities, the scientific impact of the research of PhDs will be enhanced through more connection with practitioners and society in general. The resulting social engagement can be the starting point for further collaborations. 

Timeline of planned activities

This incubator project will launch two open calls to support PhDs. The first one will support training PhDs to communicate beyond academia, and the second one will support the development of non-academic publications. These calls will run from September 2021 to April 2022 (or until available funds are finished).

In parallel, this project will promote encounters between PhDs and practitioners with visits to selected organizations through October-November 2021 (if COVID-19 restrictions allow) and with online panels.

Expected output

  • Short posts for WCSG website and social networks of the four research groups after each visit to practitioner and online panel.
  • Report on the interactions with practitioners. This report will include a description of activities, a comparison of the point of view of PhDs and practitioners on common topics, and a critical reflection on the differences between their perspectives.
  • Internal workshops and materials to share the lessons on communicating beyond academia with the rest of WCSG staff.
  • Non-academic publications to share the research of WCSG PhDs.