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Overarching questions inspire my research:

  • How can we understand human action across individual, collective and institutional scales?

  • What strategies, such as green jobs, foster interactions among neighbourhood organizations, non-profits, and government bodies and thereby promote sustainable communities?

  • How can catalytic interventions, such as mega-events, be planned to offer “creative solution-making” for existing social problems?

  • How can pedagogy make common cause with progressive social movements by incorporating action theory?


My research can be categorized into the following broad topics:

  • Sustainability education

  • Sport mega-events

  • Green economy


I employ diverse strategies and tools to study each of these areas, such as indicator-based measurements, multi-stakeholder engagement, cultural models, cross-case analysis, and simulation technology. My research and educational interests are interdisciplinary, participatory, and sensitive to local problems.

Please see below for more information on my current and past research and research-related projects.


How can we understand human action across individual, collective and institutional scales?
What strategies foster interactions among neighbourhood organizations, non-profits, and government bodies and thereby promote sustainable communities?

  • Inquiry into the Nexus of Socially Effective Learning for Sustainability (INSELS)
    Dates: 2013 – 2015 Funded by: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Amount: $41,000 Co-Investigators: Rob VanWynsberghe, Samia Khan This research studies the use of the classroom to encourage and facilitate individuals (in conjunction with communities) to undertake experimental projects geared toward addressing sustainability issues in the community. The purpose of the research is to construct pragmatist-inspired learning environments that encourage social change through experimentation in the classroom by challenging habitual problem solving strategies. A central premise of the proposed work is that our classrooms feature the same habits and institutional routines that contribute to broader social problems. The objectives of this proposed research are: Explicate the facilitative role of education in learning about social change by testing a classroom designed to capitalize on the insights of the pragmatist theory of human action. Develop a testable and replicable model for sustainability education; one that is experimental and based on pragmatism. Mobilize new knowledge regarding sustainability education through partnerships forged among students, community stakeholders, and researchers.
  • Olympic Games Impact (OGI) Project
    Dates: 2008 – 2013 Funded by: 1) Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) and Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) ($300,000); and 2) VP-Research ($40,000) and VP-Academic, UBC ($300,000) Amount: $640,000 (total) Primary Investigator: Rob VanWynsberghe The Olympic Games Impact (OGI) program was developed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to objectively measure and report on the environmental, economic and social effects of the Olympic Games. The purposes of OGI are to advance the sustainability of the Games, promote positive legacies by Games’ hosts and create a knowledge base for future hosts. Data on 126 prescribed indicators was collected before, during and after the Games. The OGI Pre-Games Report was released in December 2009.
  • Cross-Case Comparisons and Contrasts or Foresee (4C) database
    Dates: 2006 – ongoing Funded by: 1) Learning Technologies Grant, Faculty of Education, UBC; and 2) Rex Boughton Award Amount: $10,000 Principal Investigators: Rob VanWynsberghe, Samia Khan Co-Investigator: Vanessa Mirzaee In this project, a website ( was developed to foster cross-case analysis. Cross-case analysis explores how commonalities of processes and structures can exist despite the appearance of differences in events, activities, and phenomenon. An ongoing course in Case Study and Cross-Case Analysis is available through the Faculty of Education (INDS 565). Publications from this project include: Khan, S., & VanWynsberghe, R. (2008). Cultivating the under-mined: Cross-case analysis as knowledge mobilization. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 9(1), Article 34. Available here. VanWynsberghe, R., & Khan, S. (2007). Redefining case study. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 6(2), 89-94. Available here. Reprinted in G. Thomas (Ed.) (2014). Case study methods in education, Sage Publications, and M. Tight (Ed.) (2014). Case studies. Sage Publications.
  • Impact of Health Policy Interventions in Inner-cities: A Case Study of Inner-city Inclusivity Commitments (ICI) and Vancouver's 2010 Olympics
    Dates: 2008 – 2010 Funded by: Canadian Population Health Initiative, Canadian Institute for Health Information Amount: $180,000 Principal Investigator: Jim Frankish Co-Investigator: Rob VanWynsberghe This study investigated the implementation of the Inner-city Inclusivity Commitment Statement (ICS) for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada. The ICS, which may be considered a policy statement, was a set of social, environmental, and economic guarantees set forth at the time of the bid to maximize benefits and minimize negative impacts for Vancouver’s inner-city related to hosting the 2010 Winter Games.
  • Strengthening Health Disparities Research in BC
    Dates: 2003 – 2009 Funded by: 2003 Research Unit Award, Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Amount: $450,000 Principal Investigator: Annalee Yassi Co-Investigators: Rob VanWynsberghe, Reva Adler, Ellen Balka, Philip Bigelow, William Bowie, Gwenneth Chapman, Barbara Crocker, James Frankish, Judith Globerman, Eduardo Jovel, Arminée Kazanjian, Susan Kennedy, Rena Levy-Milne, Chris Lovato, Aleck Ostry, Gary Poole, Danielle Papineau, Laurie Pearce, Mohammad Iraj Poureslami, Irving Rootman, Samuel Sheps, Jerry Spiegel, Elvin Wyly, and Bruno Zumbo Many people suffer from negative health behaviours, reduced health status and inappropriate access to and/or use of health services associated with being part of a vulnerable population. Focused on five settings – community, workplace, clinical-community interface, school and international – this multidisciplinary unit undertook research aimed at developing health promotion strategies to help reduce these disparities. The unit’s emphasis was on the development of better tools, methods and resources for conducting research with vulnerable populations, and improvements in knowledge translation and dissemination of research findings.
  • Transdisciplinary Training in Community Partnership Research: Bridging Research to Practice
    Dates: 2002 – 2009 Funded by: 1) Canadian Institutes of Health Research; and 2) Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Amount: $1,800,882 Principal Investigator: Jim Frankish Co-Investigators: Rob VanWynsberghe, Ellen Balka, Allan Best, Nancy Christine Edwards, Penelope Hawe, Jacek Andrzej Kopec, Francis Lau, Gary Douglas Poole, Kim Denise Raine, Pamela Anne Ratner, Irving Rootman, Samuel Barry Sheps, Sally Elizabeth Thorne, Douglas R. Wilson, Andrew V. Wister, and Annalee Yassi The training program was designed to attract mentors and learners with an interest in community-partnership research. The four target learner groups were graduate students from multiple disciplines and programs, transdisciplinary postdoctoral fellows, community program managers, learners, and policy makers. The program had four objectives: to provide research training in an integrated, transdisciplinary community-partnership approach that links research to policy and practice; to develop capacity of community-based practitioners and university researchers to engage in community partnership research that contributes to sustained partnerships; to educate researchers, policy makers, community members to create evidence for best practices; and to develop and disseminate curriculum materials.
  • Agency, Social Capital and Sustainable Development"
    Dates: 2006 – 2008 Funded by: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Amount: $80,292 Principal Investigator: Ann Dale Co-Investigators: Rob VanWynsberghe, Kevin S. Hanna The goal of this research was to explore the role of agency in sustainable community development, and to investigate how social network formation and the resulting social capital creates agency within communities.
  • Community-Based Coalitions and Mega-Events: A Case Study of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics as a Healthy Communities Initiative
    Dates: 2005 – 2008 Funded by: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Amount: $109,000 Principal Investigator: Rob VanWynsberghe Co-Investigators: Bob Wollard, Jim Frankish, Elvin Wyly, Trevor Hancock, and Meg Holden This study conducted a detailed analysis of the activities, networks, and contributions of one of the prominent groups at the centre of the Vancouver bid – an alliance known as the Impact on Community Coalition (IOCC). The objectives were to: 1) conduct a literature review of the factors influencing participation in community-based coalitions (CBCs), specifically in relation to mega-events such as the Olympic Games; 2) study the short-term outputs and intermediate-term impacts of community-engagement processes on IOCC-related individuals, organizations and partners; 3) study how the IOCC mobilizes limited resources and institutional networks in attempts to understand and monitor large, well-funded, and inherently mobile mega-events; 4) create a model for how mega-events can engender a healthy communities framework; and, 5) identify strategic suggestions on engendering/sustaining healthy communities around mega-events. Publications from this project include: Holden, M., MacKenzie, J., & VanWynsberghe, R. (2008). Vancouver’s promise of the world’s first sustainable Olympic Games. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 26(5), 882-905. Available here. Surborg, B., VanWynsberghe, R., & Wyly, E. (2008). Mapping the Olympic growth machine: Transnational urbanism and the growth machine diaspora. City: Analysis of Urban Trends, Culture, Theory, Policy, Action, 12(3), 341-355. Available here. VanWynsberghe, R., Kwan, B., & Van Luijk, N. (2011). Community capacity and the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Sport in Society: Cultures, Commerce, Media, Politics, 14(3), 370-385. Available here. VanWynsberghe, R., Surborg, B., & Wyly, E. (2013). When the Games come to town: Neoliberalism, mega-events and social inclusion in the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 37(6), 2074-2093. Available here.

“Indeed the future has already broken into the present. We each live in many times. The present of one is the past of another, and the future of yet another. We are called to live, knowing and showing that the future exists and that each one of us can call it in, when we are willing, to redress the balance of the past.”

– Ivan Illich, Celebration of awareness (1970)

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