AtKisson Network: 8 Questions with Isak Stoddard

April 21, 2017

As the acting program director for the Centre for Environment and Development Studies (CEMUS) in Uppsala, Sweden, Isak Stoddard is dedicated to developing transformative and transdisciplinary approaches to higher education as a response to the global environmental and social challenges of our times. He is also the coordinator of a new 10 year research initiative on climate change leadership centered around a series of visiting professorships at Uppsala University, made possible by a donation from Zennström Philanthropies.

Isak’s educational background includes engineering, physics, systems technology, and energy systems. A dual citizen of Sweden and the United States, he is currently based in Uppsala and enjoys frequent adventures to the Scandinavian mountains for skiing, wandering, and climbing.

Q: How and when did you join the AtKisson Group?
A: Back in 2008 I believe, when I was working with Alan on one of the first editions of the 5-day training offered to sustainability professionals by the AtKisson Group.

Q: Why did you start working with sustainability? When did that happen?
A: Back in 2005 when I, as an engineering student at Uppsala University, enrolled in an interdisciplinary course called “The Global Economy- Environment, Development and Globalisation,” offered by CEMUS, the centre which I now co-direct.

Q: What was your first professional role working with sustainability?
A: As a course coordinator at CEMUS running the course, “A Sustainable Baltic Region” together with colleagues at the centre, as well as invited guest lecturers (among them Alan AtKisson).

Q: What do you “bring to the table”? What are your areas of expertise? What do you enjoy working on?
A: I have 10 years of experience working with education, learning and institutional change for sustainability within universities. I enjoy working with students, researchers, and practitioners to unlearn some of the habits and patterns of thought that got the world (and humanity) into the mess we find ourselves in… and hopefully start learning new ones that might provide a more safe, just, and humble trajectory for our species in the more-than-human-world that we inhabit.

Q: What’s the most challenging part of your work?
A: Working with institutional barriers and challenges to transdisciplinary and boundary-transcending sustainability questions within an institution that is over 500 years old.

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your work?
A: Seeing the joy, curiosity, and engagement in the students I get to interact with around the deeply meaningful and challenging questions of our times.

Q: What is one positive impact (big or small) you’ve made with your work in the past year that you feel especially good about?
A: I contributed to the process of bringing over and introducing British climate scientist Kevin Anderson to Sweden for the next 1-2 years, as a Zennström visiting professor in climate change leadership at Uppsala University. Which hopefully contributes to a more ambitious and engaged Swedish movement to make our fair contribution to delivering on the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement.

Q: How does the sustainability landscape look in the world today, through your eyes? What are the most promising trends or opportunities you see?
A: In crisis lies opportunity, I hope. I don’t think I’ve ever quoted Milton Friedman before… but I believe there is some interesting insights in the following, which he supposedly said:

“Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable.”


AtKisson Group is a global network of firms, university-based offices, and individual practitioners working to accelerate transformative change for sustainability. Learn more about our network members here

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