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.