Innovation, Adaptation and Change

How can we adapt in our rapidly changing world? Innovative methods are necessary. 

Airplane in garden

Our world is unavoidably shifting technologically, climatically, economically, geopolitically, and socially. Drivers such as population change and migration, industrialisation, urbanisation, and new technologies are increasing changes with significant implications for all. The decisions that we make today as communities will affect our abilities to adapt in the future. Our research focuses on understanding the past, the dynamics of change, priorities for adaptation, and ways to build socially innovative and sustainable solutions via co-construction with stakeholders and community members.

Adaptation is one of the key ways in which societies can build their resilience to and survive the effects of climate change and other major impacts. However, the success of adaptation is influenced by the role of values, perceptions, construction of knowledge and the extent to which communities feel they have the power to assert their voices and opinions. Our researchers focus on developing strategies and solutions with diverse communities, particularly vulnerable ones such as Indigenous and lower income communities. The University of Adelaide has considerable interdisciplinary expertise in community-based explorations of effects of social, economic, cultural, and climate change on diverse groups, particularly with regard to the impacts of the built environment and relationships with natural resources and actionable policy outcomes.

Cities can be dynamic, socially progressive, and economically powerful places that bring many benefits to residents. These include social and cultural diversity, a strong civil society, better public services and greater economic opportunities. However, not all enjoy equal access to these benefits; many people are marginalised and excluded socially and economically. While the fabric of the physical space, both in terms of the housing and working environments and surrounding neighbourhoods, are important, we also need to think about the interplay of these built environment concepts with health and wellbeing, social connectedness, cultural and tradition, autonomy and independence, and civic engagement.  We need to imagine how our communities and their built and natural environments can enable wellbeing for all through policy reforms that emphasise social justice and community engagement.

Our key researchers in this area:

  • Professor Chris Leishman - CHURP. Chris explores population trends, housing markets, and economic growth and development including their effects on adaptation and resilience using applied economic and econometric methods.
  • Associate Professor Melissa Nursey-Bray - GEP and ACE. Melissa works on a range of sociocultural and psychological issues relating to adaptation to the natural environment and in light of climate change in Australia and internationally, particularly Indigenous and urban adaptation, as well as on resource and protected area management, community-based management plans and training, and the role of placemaking in cities to encourage urban adaptation and development of urban ecologies.
  • Dr Douglas Bardsley - GEP. Doug’s work focuses on environmental and agro-ecological risk management, and especially climate change adaptation; links between conservation and development; and education for sustainable development, in partnership with local and international partners, including with reference to bushfire and viticulture. 
  • Dr Helen Barrie - Hugo Centre. Helen’s research is on social gerontology with a focus on older people, community connectedness, the built environment, and social networks including inter-generational family ties, ageing and migration, age friendly communities, and demographic changes in rural and regional Australia.
  • Dr Georgina Drew - Senior Lecturer. Georgina explores development, sustainability, and resource use and management, including associated sociocultural and religious issues and conflicts, both in Australia and in South Asia and the Himalaya, with particular focus on water politics.
  • Dr Debbie Faulkner - CHURP.  Debbie investigates the housing, social, and support needs of the older population and other groups at disadvantages in the community, and the impact of housing circumstances on wellbeing, access, and utilisation of services and supports.
  • Associate Professor John Tibby - Geography, Environment and Population. John’s work focuses on determining the causes of environmental change, particularly in lakes and rivers. His research has a strong applied focus and has been used in water resource plans in Queensland and to revise water quality guidelines in South Australia.

Our research groups working in this area

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