One of the most innovative aspects of Future Earth is the idea of co-design and co-production of relevant knowledge. Future Earth will build and connect global knowledge to intensify the impact of research and find new ways to accelerate sustainable development at global, regional, national and local levels.

This requires an active involvement of researchers and stakeholders during the entire research process.

Integrating global environmental change issues with development and sustainability issues involves many complexities and uncertainties, and must incorporate understanding of societal norms, values and perspectives. Under such conditions, science has –  up to now – tended to provide mainly understanding, but not answers or comprehensive solutions. Co-design is one way to address this, and it has already shown its value and utility in fields where science and policy meet. Co-designed and co-produced research is also sometimes referred to as ‘transdisciplinary’. Such co-design is endorsed in "The Future we want",  the outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro from 20 to 22 June 2012 (Rio+20).

Co-design and co-production of knowledge envisage that both researchers and stakeholders are involved in framing questions, analysing problems, and making sense of results together. Whilst researchers are responsible for the scientific methodologies, the definition of the research questions and the dissemination of results are done jointly. Co-design and co-production also recognise that researchers, information and models are now based in different types of organisation and highlight the great benefits from research collaborations between researchers, NGOs, and the private sector.

Future Earth recognises the need to support the research community and stakeholders to develop and share the necessary skills. It is also recognised that the focus for this way of working should be on where the research and stakeholder community feel that it will bring the greatest benefits.

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