Headline: Democratic Transformations

Sustainability and democracy are necessarily intertwined in democratic societies. In short, democratic transformations towards sustainability require sustainable democratic processes if they are to succeed. This poses a major and ongoing challenge for society, which we cannot expect to solve definitively, but which requires the continuous reconfiguration, reformulation, and application of policy ideas or civic initiatives. This mission brings with it a need to understand how transformations towards sustainability can and do occur in the context of democracy.

This tension informs the questions underpinning this research area: How can the relationship between democracy and sustainability transformations be studied? What theories can we use and develop to understand sustainability transformations in democracies? And how can we enable and practice these transformations as a society?

The research groups within this area address these questions by focusing on ongoing local and regional transformation processes. Undertaking transformative research, the research groups are more than mere observers; instead, their findings are used to enable and support people engaged in transformation processes. Generating their research questions and results in close cooperation with actors from civil society, government, business and public administration, the research groups both develop knowledge and design transformation processes to address social, economic, and ecological realities at the crossroads of democracy and change for sustainability.

The research group "Co-creation and Contemporary Policy Advice" analyses and explores the potential of co-creative processes for sustainability transformations. The group also advises diverse initiatives and institutions seeking to experiment with collaborative formats within policy arenas, such as the recently established citizen councils in Berlin). The research group "Democratic (Re)Configurations of Sustainability Transformations" considers the contemporary conditions for democracy and explores opportunities for the development of new democratic realities, processes and innovations, such as a socio-environmental monitoring system for the Amazon basin. The group also hosts a thinking space at the IASS focused on democratic reconfigurations and experimentation. The research group "Social Transformation and Responsive Policy Advice in Lusatia" studies the complex social, cultural and political implications of the shift from a carbon-based economy. The group advises the futuring project "Zukunftswerkstatt" (Workshop for the Future) in the coal-region of Lusatia. Prototypes for local and cross-sectoral collaboration developed by the group are used to gain a better understanding of citizens' motivations and to explore the transformative potentials of science-society interactions.

Climate Change Disinformation

Time for a new take on climate communication

As the evidence for disruptive climate change has mounted over the last decades, organised attacks on climate science have grown, flanked by conspiracy theories, disinformation, and false claims. How is disinformation produced, to what end, and by whom? A workshop addressing these and related questions took place at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam and was attended by a host of international scholars.

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Climate Action Takes Shape in Israel

David Dunetz has worked for 20 years at the Heschel Center for Sustainability in Tel Aviv, which leads the Israel Climate Forum, a consortium of civil society organizations. As a Visiting Research Fellow at the IASS Potsdam on a joint program with the Israel Public Policy Institute, he is currently researching how civic engagement and participation processes can advance climate policy and democratic innovation.

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Public Participation

Democracy 3.0: The Key to More Successful Citizen Participation

How can parliamentary representative democracies be strengthened and revitalised? In the context of the ever more complex future questions society has to grapple with, the study “Bundesrepublik 3.0” (Federal Republic 3.0) presents a concept for more citizen participation at national level. It was developed in a co-creative process where examples of best practice were considered and combined to generate new solutions.

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The IASS at the Katowice Climate Change Conference

The 24th UN Climate Change Conference (COP24) is due to take place in the Polish city of Katowice from 2 to 14 December. At this year’s COP, minds will focus on concrete steps towards implementing the Paris Climate Agreement. A whole host of experts from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) will be there. At the international symposium on “Safeguarding Our Climate, Advancing Our Society”, IASS Scientific Director Patrizia Nanz will speak about the role democratic structures can play in the shift to sustainability. And IASS Scientific Director Mark Lawrence will represent the institute at the High Level Assembly of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition on the margins of the conference.

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Phasing Out Coal: IASS to Investigate Structural Transformation in Lusatia

The region of Lusatia in Eastern Germany is experiencing a structural transformation due to the dwindling significance of lignite. In a new research project, the IASS will investigate the changes taking place there. Karl Eugen Huthmacher from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and IASS Scientific Director Patrizia Nanz presented the project at the Lusatia Dialogue on 25 June.

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Blog Posts

Structural change and sustainability must go hand in hand

With the Structural Adjustment Act, the German government intends to provide 40 billion euros of federal funding for the coal-mining areas of Germany. In addition, an emergency fund of 260 million euros is earmarked for short-term projects. However, the effect of these funds will remain modest if the federal and state governments do not go further than previously planned in implementing the costly coal exit. They risk losing sight of three essential goals: enabling sustainability, strengthening regional activity, and learning to shape transformation.

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