Announcement: MSSI closing its doors in 2021

Reflecting on 13 years of interdisciplinary research, engagement and impact.

MSSI team photo

A message from Prof Mark Hargreaves, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research Partnerships & Insfrastructure)

Since 2008, the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute (MSSI) has furthered the University’s capacity to undertake innovative interdisciplinary research in the broad area of sustainability across faculties, schools and centres at the University of Melbourne that has maximised engagement and impact.

Today we recognise MSSI’s considerable achievements and legacy, in the context of the difficult decision we have taken to cease its operations in the coming months.

Since its inception, MSSI has delivered substantial benefits to the University. These include, but are not limited to, building interdisciplinary research capacity and talent, activating new projects and collaboration through seed funding, and facilitating key partnerships across industry, government, and not-for-profit sectors. Its many legacies will endure in Melbourne Climate FuturesMelbourne Centre for Cities and the interdisciplinary sustainability research activities that have been seeded with its support and that will continue in other ways.

The closure of MSSI does not diminish the University’s deep commitment to a sustainable society and to addressing the challenges of climate change. It is a key strategic priority in the University’s Advancing Melbourne 2030 strategy and earlier this year we launched Melbourne Climate Futures. Furthermore, the University Council endorsed two new targets for the next Sustainability Plan – to achieve carbon neutral certification by 2025 and climate positive status by 2030.

On behalf of the University, I acknowledge and thank the important contributions made by the staff, researchers, students, and Executive Committee and Advisory Board members who have been central to the success of MSSI over its journey. I especially acknowledge the academic leadership of Ruth Fincher, inaugural MSSI Director, Craig Pearson, Brendan Gleeson, John Wiseman, and Sangeetha Chandrashekeran.

There is still much work to be done to foster sustainable societies and I look forward to the next phase of our initiatives as we celebrate the contributions and successes of MSSI.

A message from Dr Sangeetha Chandrashekeran (MSSI Acting Director), Prof Brendan Gleeson (Former MSSI Director), and Prof John Wiseman (Former MSSI Deputy Director)

The Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute has made an important contribution to university and public life since 2008. As the doors close on MSSI we celebrate the work of the University’s longest standing Interdisciplinary Research Institute and reflect on the legacy that it leaves.

MSSI has raised the profile of social-environmental issues and made major contributions to knowledge on social sustainability. It emerged through the vision of the inaugural Director, Professor Ruth Fincher, and was ably led by Professor Craig Pearson. Under the leadership of Brendan Gleeson and John Wiseman, and more recently Sangeetha Chandrashekeran, the Institute’s efforts were concentrated on the themes of Future Cities and Climate Transformations with a focus on interdisciplinary coordination and impact both in and beyond the University.  Both themes have recently been recognised in their own right through the establishment of the Melbourne Centre for Cities and Melbourne Climate Futures.

MSSI worked closely with sustainability researchers at the University and practitioners and stakeholders externally to produce interdisciplinary knowledge and apply this in public and private spheres, policy and community decision-making. MSSI’s impact can be seen in major international events such as the hosting of EcoCity World Summit 2017 and the creation of the City of Melbourne Chair in Resilience and the Enterprise Chair in Environmentalism that has harnessed the leadership efforts of the Honorable Al Gore. MSSI has fostered a highly effective and engaged Advisory Board and we thank past Chairs Kate Auty, Arron Wood and the current chair Emily Gerrard for their leadership.

MSSI has also undertaken a great deal of behind-the-scenes work curating and convening networks and collaborations that have helped develop the conversation between the humanities and the social sciences and the STEM disciplines. By seed funding a range of projects, MSSI has supported the development of graduate and early career researchers and nurtured big ideas at an early stage that have gone on to have significant impact in Australia and abroad. Through a collegial and values-oriented approach to research MSSI has fostered an interdisciplinary research community and culture that recognises people and principles at the heart of the research endeavour.

None of this could have been achieved without the stellar efforts of MSSI’s academic and professional staff who have provided inspiration and material support for all of these undertakings. We include here the work of our Honoraries and Associates who extend the vision of social sustainability through research and practice. We also thank MSSI’s Executive Committee and Advisory Board Members for their sage advice and sharing of networks. The Advisory Board provided strategic guidance and support, and we hope that similar models of engagement with external stakeholders (industry, government and civil society representatives) and networks can be applied more broadly across the University for mutual benefit.

We wish you the best for the holiday season and look forward to celebrating MSSI’s successes in 2022.