Change the world


Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s Sustainability Research Unit comprises of a group of critical thinkers who focus on the sustainability and resilience of ecosystems and society. It is based at NMMU’s George Campus at Saasveld, between the mountains and the sea in South Africa’s Garden Route – offering a unique thinking environment where academics, students, visiting scholars and practitioners from different disciplines and backgrounds can work and learn together, share ideas, discuss challenges, investigate solutions, reflect and learn again.

Situated right on the boundary of Garden Route National Park, Saasveld is ideally  positioned to inspire creative research. It is here where the SRU focuses on the crossing point between ecosystems and society, on understanding the processes that influence human behavior and therefore the sustainability of society, water, earth, plant and animal resources.

The challenges that SRU observe include adapting to climate change, managing invasive alien plants and animals, reversing land degradation, maintaining or improving river health and the ecological integrity of wetlands, coastal zones and estuaries, promoting good governance and decision making, implementing adaptive management and reducing inequality through benefit sharing.

SRU members aim to understand the processes, feedbacks and interactions that cause change, for example the interactions between people and their ecosystems across scales, how groups and individuals learn and adapt, how their thinking works, their barriers and bridges to adaptation, and the factors that lead to long term change in a positive direction.

Theoretical frameworks are in the areas of social-ecological systems, resilience, complex adaptive systems management, social learning, mental models, social network theory and landscape ecology. The methods used cut across academic disciplines, ranging from participatory research, content analysis, geographic information systems, soil, water and vegetation surveys, landscape ecology and modeling. 

The SRU’s inspiration is derived from users and practitioners on the ground. The members work closely with these practitioners and individuals in order to link the theoretical frameworks to practical solutions, and they continuously challenge everything.

Contact information
Ms Alet van Tonder
Manager: Marketing & Corporate Relations
Tel: 27 44 801 5098