Olsson leads the research stream on Resilience Science for Transformations. His current research focuses on agency and system entrepreneurship, social-ecological innovations, transformations to sustainability, and how to reverse current trends of crossing critical thresholds and tipping points in the Earth system. He has co-authored several book chapters, including one for the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, and articles in scientific journals, including Science, PNAS, TREE, Ambio, Global Environmental Change, Environmental Management, and the Annual Review of the Environment and Resources. He is an active member of the Resilience Alliance, and a subject editor for the journal Ecology and Society. Olsson maintains an extensive international scientific network, including researchers at the STEPS Centre (UK), Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience (Canada), and DRIFT Institute (The Netherlands). Related to this, he also is the hub leader for the ISSC funded Transformation Knowledge Network, and serves on the Advisory Committee to the Future Earth Knowledge Action Network on Transformations to Sustainability.
Recently, Olsson has developed the concept of T-labs (Transformation labs), a new methodology for generating innovative approaches for re-wiring social-ecological systems.
Olsson is a transdisciplinary researcher and has worked in the interface of natural and social sciences and humanities. He has been instrumental in developing the research fields of local ecological knowledge, adaptive co-management, and adaptive governance. This work has involved theoretical development based on field research using both qualitative and quantitative methods for gathering and analyzing data. His work has explored the interactions between actors, institutions and organizations and focused on the emergence of integrated approaches to the management and governance of natural resources. His work has crossed local to global scales, including local water governance to multi-lateral institutional contexts, in the north and south, including Solomon Islands and Australia, and in a wide range of systems, such as marine, water, food, urban, and agriculture. Olsson has served as the course leader for many Masters and PhD courses. Olsson has supervised two postdoctoral researchers, five PhD Students, and more than 20 Masters students.
Olsson is co-leading the Rockefeller Foundation Global Fellowship Program on Social Innovation, which is designed to strengthen the capacity of leaders and change makers in identifying targeted, innovative ways of tackling complex, linked social and environmental problems at their roots. He was the program director for the Stockholm Resilience Centre’s LEAD program on Exponential Technologies, Resilience Thinking and Entrepreneurship. The LEAD program was aimed at future leaders and change makers, and included introducing novel concepts and how they relate to sustainability and human wellbeing.
Olsson has invested heavily in facilitating interactions among scientists, policy makers, artists, businesses, and the public through a variety of initiatives. For example, Olsson is the co-founder of Coral Guardians, which serves as an innovation space for combining music, policy, and science. He was also the co-founder of SHIFT, an accelerator for start-ups and social-ecological entrepreneurship. He served as the scientific advisor to MacGillivray Freeman Films, Incorporated IMAX film Coral Reef Adventure, and was also the national coordinator for the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Program in Sweden.
Olsson was a member of the organizing committee for the first Resilience conference in 2008, now a triennial event. He was also instrumental in initiating the Transformations conferences, which is now a biennial event that provides a platform for researchers, practitioners, and others to explore transformations to sustainability. This work involves being a member of the organizing and scientific committee for the Transformation 2013 conference in Oslo, Norway, convener and co-chair of the Transformations 2015 conference in Stockholm, Sweden, and a member of the organizing and scientific committee for the Transformation 2017 in Dundee, Scotland.
Awards and achievements:
Elke Merkley, MSc candidate
Rodrigo Martinez, MSc candidate
Research news | 2018-10-07
Robert Bosch Stiftung launches "Postdoc Academy for Transformational Leadership" with four leading academic centers in Europe
Research news | 2018-04-16
Entrepreneurs, NGO’s and others working on transforming the agricultural system into a more sustainable one struggle amid dominant focus on growth-oriented strategies
Research news | 2018-03-12
Ten essentials for guiding action-oriented research on energy transformation and climate change
Research news | 2018-01-18
New book on the evolution of social innovation and how to make them more transformative
2018 - Book chapter
The rapid urbanization associated with the Anthropocene provides an imperative for humans to think diff erently about the future. The “seeds” approach describes how niche experiments can, over time, coalesce to shift the dominant regime onto a more sustainable trajectory. Urban transformations are complex phenomena; the seeds approach is a tool that can help us understand how transformations occur and how to nudge them towards...
2018 - Journal / article
2018 - Journal / article
The most critical question for climate research is no longer about the problem, but about how to facilitate the transformative changes necessary to avoid catastrophic climate-induced change. Addressing this question, however, will require massive upscaling of research that can rapidly enhance learning about transformations. Ten essentials for guiding action-oriented transformation and energy research are therefore presented, f...
2018 - Journal / article
Identifying trajectories of agricultural development that enable substantial increases in food production is of prime importance for food security and human development in Sub-Saharan Africa in general, and Ethiopia in particular. To ensure long-term welfare for people and landscapes, it is imperative that such agricultural transformations sustain and enhance the natural resource base upon which agriculture depends. To unde...