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Transformative Research

Research profile

The research group Transformative Research aims at the development of methods and concepts to actively support societal transformation processes towards sustainability. Our research focuses are the use of participatory modeling methods, the design of transdisciplinary processes, and the exploration of institutions and organizations to govern transformation processes. Knowledge co-production in our inter- and transdisciplinary projects is usually carried out in a "T-shaped" format by combining a holistic systems perspective with the depth of disciplinary knowledge on specific aspects. All knowledge types of transformative research are addressed in our research: systems knowledge, target knowledge, and transformational knowledge.

For the generation of system knowledge, we analyze barriers and supportive factors related to sustainable business models as well as social and nature-based innovations. For the creation of target knowledge, different creativity techniques (e.g. visualization exercises) are used to develop positive visions of the future. Systems modeling methods (causal diagrams, fuzzy cognitive maps, system dynamics modeling) help us to further concretize and evaluate the visions. We generate transformation knowledge primarily through the backcasting approach, i.e., the development of transformation paths starts from a future vision.

The application areas of our concepts and methods include the creation of visions for supply systems (water, energy, food systems), their linkages in the water-energy-food nexus, and sustainable land use visions. Example application areas for institutional and organizational analyses involve structures for the transdisciplinary exchange of universities in the context of regional transformation processes as well as coordination offices for biotope network systems.

Current projects

Transformative Landscape Management (T-LaMa); funded by the German Federal Environmental Foundation; duration: 01/2020 - 08/2024

Development of a biotope network in example regions of Northwest Germany; funded by the German Federal Foundation for the Environment; duration: 10/2022 - 12/2023

University in the Anthropocene: Lighthouse Adaptation and Transfer for Sustainable Development (Lantern); funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research; duration: 10/2022 - 09/2025

Transformative research and capacity building in the education sector to protect livelihoods and biodiversity in Costa Rica; funded by the German Academic Exchange Service and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development; duration: 10/2022 - 09/2025