INSIST: Achieving Sustainable Development Through Sugar?


Kyla here! You haven’t heard from me yet, as I’m a new intern with, but you can learn more about me here. I'm a part of's Think branch, where myself and the rest of our research team work on intellectual and scientific projects. One such project is the INSIST paper on bioethanol production in East Java. This paper examines technological innovation systems regarding sugarcane and bioethanol production.

The Indonesian government is really looking to biofuels to lower greenhouse gas emissions and hit future targets. However, at the moment this sector is neither efficient nor sustainable, especially at the large-scale, but it has the potential to get there. The INSIST paper sees these barriers and asks the question: How can we tackle issues related to the sustainable development of the bioethanol sector?

Finding the answer to such a question isn't easy, so we don't start there. The first question we have to ask ourselves here is: How can we find our answer? What methods should we employ?

One of the reasons why I enjoyed working on this paper is because of the answer. INSIST employs a unique outlook on developmental issues; a multi-level perspective. The authors interviewed all stakeholders, from sugarcane farmers to government employees, in order to gain a holistic understanding of the issues involved. This method is quite rare with research papers such as this one, which often just look at top authority members while ignoring smaller-level stakeholders that may have more insight on developmental barriers! Particularly with papers that look at local-level industries, farmers and factory workers can offer a lot of clarity into what’s impeding growth. It’s a shortcut often not taken, as their value is overlooked. Thankfully, this is not the case with the INSIST paper, and as such we hear a lot of promising solutions and eye-opening troubles from on-the-ground workers.

Our next step is to examine our issues’ priorities and overlap, so that we can begin to realize potential solutions. In another innovative approach, the INSIST project uses a Recognition-Impact grid in order to do just this, as seen here:

The grid sorts issues with bioethanol development into four boxes. Each box represents the amount of management the issues within it require, based on their recognition by stakeholders and their impact on the bioethanol sector. Through the usage of this well-known mapping tool, we can see where efforts need to be placed. From the results of our grid and an examination of the issues and groupings, we find an issue to our original question.

The actual issues don’t matter as much as how we can tackle them, and the ways we must do so are made clear by this paper: the integration of the sugar and bioethanol industries and overall collaboration, communication, and multi-stakeholder participation. Basically what we have here is an argument for Sustainable Development Goal 17: Partnership.

All stakeholder must work together in order to maximize the efficiency of the bioethanol sector. Even those outside this specific industry are involved, such as those working in sugar, whose production can be coupled with that of bioethanol in order to reach peak productivity and minimized waste of both.

Modernizing these industries in this way is necessary, as is further collaboration and partnership of every stakeholder at every step of bioethanol development. A barrier from one authority can impede development at every level — partnership is necessary for progress, and communication and respect are necessary for partnership. Once we get this, we can revolutionize the bioethanol sector.

The INSIST paper presents an amazing blueprint for future research — from methods employed to lessons learnt, this paper can and will inspire others and guide future research in regards to sustainable development!

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