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About us

At MSDI, we are made up of many voices.

Together we create practical, transformative and sustainable change through knowledge and collaborative action.

Message from our Chair and Director

Sustainable Development in 2021

We are at the start of a decade of action as we work towards the 2030 targets of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Now two years into the global pandemic, millions of lives have been lost, the human and economic toll has been unprecedented, and recovery efforts so far have been uneven, inequitable and insufficiently geared towards achieving sustainable development.

There are undeniable links between climate change, environmental deterioration, and human health and wellbeing.

There is an urgency for change. That is undeniable too. But there is also progress.

As a developed country, Australia has a role to play in helping the world build back better, healthier, and more equitable and prosperous than it was before. And we can push to improve the data available to us as we track progress to achieving the SDGs.

Even in the last year, we have seen a momentum for change.

COP26 in Glasgow acknowledged the need to act on fossil fuels, finalised the Paris Agreement ‘rulebook’, and 151 countries submitted new or updated Nationally Determined Contributions while others committed to net zero, to cut methane emissions and more. Even though the COP26 wasn’t all good news, the world continues to work in partnership long after this forum.

The private sector and governments are normalising the ambition for net zero emissions. Australia’s state and territory governments have all committed net zero, representing an important step towards serious coordinated action on climate in Australia. The South Australian, Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales Governments have agreed to create The Net Zero Emissions Policy Forum to address the practical challenges of achieving net zero emissions. The Forum is an Under2 Coalition initiative supported by the Climate Group and our own ClimateWorks Australia team.

The science research community is pursuing a more ambitious purpose-led approach that will redouble efforts to realise the SDGs. This approach calls for broad and bold engagement, and commitment, from science funders, but also from the decision-makers and influencers in governments, in the private sector and in civil society.

At MSDI, we have the relationships, the experience and expertise to connect disciplines, evidence and perspectives that will shift hearts, minds and technology, as well as understand, influence and transform systems for enduring change.

Our Strategy


To advance the wellbeing of people and planet, for current and future generations.

In 2021, we launched our five-year strategy providing us with a clear direction through which the whole organisation can build its shared effort.

Monash University also launched its new Strategic Plan, Impact 2030. The university’s strategy defines three global challenges for the next decade: Climate change, Geopolitical security and Thriving communities. These are multifaceted issues to be understood, engaged with and answered, and Monash is focussing cross-disciplinary collective efforts on these shared goals.

This way of working is strongly linked with MSDI’s approach and as a University-wide Institute we are excited to contribute to delivering on University priorities.

At MSDI, our purpose is to advance the wellbeing of people and the planet, for current and future generations.

We work to understand, influence and transform systems for sustainable development in Australia and our region, collaborating with partners to build knowledge and capacity, and drive practical change.

We apply systems thinking as a means to better understand and navigate complex problems. Taking a systems approach enables us to think more deeply and broadly, considering multiple perspectives, seeing interconnections and identifying opportunities for progress.


Our four guiding principles reflect our values, define how we work, and guide our partnerships.

  1. We value different ways of knowing
  2. We are transdisciplinary
  3. We are practical and real-world focused
  4. We partner for impact


Our vision is to be a globally recognised leader in systems transformation for sustainable development.

We are working towards our vision by exploring evidence-based solutions to real-world problems and contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We draw on our skills and knowledge and build diverse partnerships to incorporate different perspectives.

We believe that universities and institutes like MSDI play an important role in driving interdisciplinary research and education to serve the good of our communities and environment.

In order to create broad, deep and long-term impact, we bring a set of capabilities to translate research into action across a diverse range of sustainable development initiatives:

  1. Build capacity and empower leadership
  2. Facilitate collaboration
  3. Create, synthesise and translate knowledge
  4. Experiment and innovate
  5. Understand and influence behaviour
  6. Shape institutions, policy and practice

Read the case studies in this Annual Report to see how these capabilities come alive in our work.

Our strategic domains

At MSDI, we connect communities, industry, institutions and government.

Our programs, initiatives, partnerships and activities contribute to six strategic domains and help us to achieve our vision of people and the planet living well now and in the future.

These strategic domains are:

  1. Climate Action
  2. Environment and Health
  3. Sustainable Cities and Regions
  4. Circular Economy
  5. Inclusive Prosperity
  6. Leadership for the SDGs

At MSDI, we are uniquely placed to influence these key areas, which we believe to be crucial to achieving long-term sustainable development in Australia and our region.

The domains are mutually reinforcing and overlapping. When viewed together, they provide important building blocks for a more sustainable, secure and fairer future for all.

The Year in a Snapshot

infographic with stats from 2021

Our Impact in 2021

Our programs, initiatives and activities contribute to our six strategic domains, helping us to achieve our vision and work with all levels of society: government, industry, institutions, communities.

Thank you

Our achievements are thanks to you.

At MSDI, we would like to thank our staff for their passion and work, our Monash University collaborators for their collaboration and co-creation, our advisory and governance boards for their guidance, our peers and partners for their valuable contributions, our funders for their support, our students for their commitment, and our guest speakers for their generous intelligence.

Your contribution gives us hope and shows us that together we are creating a sustainable future.

Change the world with us

Together we can transform the world into a sustainable, safe, healthy, equitable and prosperous place.

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Partner with us

Work with us to explore the important questions of our age.

Study with us

Learn and contribute your knowledge and skills to create a sustainable future.

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