The complex challenges of our time increasingly require scientists to step outside their conventional roles. A team of researchers from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) has examined innovative approaches to policy advice that support actors from politics and government in the development of collaborative processes to address socio-ecological issues. Their paper identifies the knowledge, skills and practices required to design collaborations.
Germany’s coal exit is associated with widespread and far-reaching structural change in the mining region of Lusatia. Decisions made today will shape the region for decades to come. Enhancing Lusatia’s appeal for young people is one important goal within this broad transformation process. A new IASS Policy Brief offers recommendations on how policymakers can involve young people in shaping the future of Lusatia.
How do trainees at the energy company LEAG view the structural transformation unfolding in Lusatia? What life paths and plans are they pursuing? Do they see their future in the region or further afield? What factors shape their thinking? And what kind of employment opportunities do they hope to see in the region? In a series of workshops, the trainees discussed these questions and developed a quantitative survey together with a team of researchers from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS). The results of the survey have now been published in the study “Auszubildende im Lausitzer Strukturwandel” [Trainees in Lusatia’s Structural Transformation].
The communication culture at the UN Climate Change conferences relies heavily on conventional presentation and panel formats that are not conducive to mutual engagement and learning. In a new IASS Policy Brief, researchers make recommendations to reinvigorate the COPs through new formats of dialogue that can better foster collaboration and co-creation of climate change solutions.
What does it feel like when science and society begin a dialogue with one another? This is the question taken up by the new podcast "hör mal : Lausitz" (English: listen in : lusatia), which follows the trail of transdisciplinary cooperation in the transformations taking place in the Eastern German lignite-mining region.
The environment in the Arctic Circle and the Yamal region of Western Siberia is changing rapidly and the outlook for the region’s social, political, economic, and environmental future is clouded in uncertainty. A new IASS Discussion Paper presents the findings of the research project “Yamal 2040: Scenarios for the Russian Arctic”, in which researchers explored different future scenarios in cooperation with local stakeholders.
How can science help societies to abandon unsustainable practices and tackle systemic risks? Initiated by IASS Scientific Director Ortwin Renn and funded by the Volkswagen Foundation, the Global Sustainability Strategy Forum (GSSF) has developed a range of recommendations. In an article published in the journal “Global Sustainability” the GSSF core team outlines how science can use creative approaches to promote a just and sustainable future in different cultures and contexts.
The measures imposed to contain the coronavirus pandemic have hit children and young people especially hard, including in the town of Lauchhammer in Brandenburg, Germany. A new survey reveals how children there have fared since the outbreak of the pandemic and sheds light on their experiences and where and how they spent their time. Youth participation around local issues and projects is common in Lauchhammer and the survey also looks at how civic engagement could be jumpstarted again after the pandemic.
Ending our dependence on coal is essential for effective climate protection. Nevertheless, efforts to phase out coal trigger anxiety and resistance, particularly in mining regions. The governments of both Canada and Germany have involved various stakeholders to develop recommendations aimed at delivering just transitions and guiding structural change. In a new study, researchers at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) compare the stakeholder commissions convened by the two countries, drawing on expert interviews with their members, and examine how governments use commissions to legitimize their transition policies.
The citizens’ assembly “Germany’s Role in the World” convened in January and February of this year. The ten meetings held online saw 152 randomly selected citizens deliberate on German foreign policy and develop recommendations for the Bundestag and Federal Government. What worked well and what improvements need to be made for the future? Who participated in the assembly and how did the virtual format shape the process and its results? The Institute for Democracy and Participation Research (IDPF) at the University of Wuppertal and the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam presented their analysis on 20 May.
How can school pupils get to grips with the transformation processes underway in the former coal-mining region of Lusatia and take an active role in shaping change? In a new study, IASS researchers show how teachers can engage with these issues in and outside their classrooms. The aim is not only to stimulate discussions, but also to empower young people to participate in the transformation process.
Societal transformations are often driven by the findings of science. The edited volume "Wissenschaft im Strukturwandel" shows how the interactions between science and society are changing research practice.
The development of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was supposed to be more inclusive, transparent and participatory than previous processes, and to this end, civil society organizations were explicitly involved in the process. In a new study, IASS researchers Henrike Knappe and Oscar Schmidt analyse the engagement of these organizations and the visions of a better future that guided their contributions.
Science and policy are not worlds apart. They interact in countless ways and would both benefit from closer cooperation. This has become clearer than ever during the Covid-19 pandemic. A team of researchers has now investigated deficiencies on the science side and shown how science-policy can be done better.
Climate change is is accelerating rapidly, but the results of the UN Climate Change Conferences regularly fall short of what is required. Does this have something to do with how these international conferences are organised? Could a new mindset help us to make more progress in the climate policy arena? Which inner qualities and mindsets are conducive to better forms of communication and collaboration?
Energy policy debates tend to revolve around the technical feasibility of shifting from fossil to renewable energies. But energy policy measures will only be successfully anchored in society, and lifestyle changes sustained, if they are supported by broad swathes of the population. Edited by IASS Director Ortwin Renn and researchers from the Kopernikus project E-Navi, “The Role of Public Participation in Energy Transitions” offers theoretical insights as well as practical examples of how participation processes can succeed.
Modern times are characterised by an increase in “wicked problems” that threaten established forms of democratic governability. What can labs ¬¬– collaborative spaces for testing innovative ideas – contribute to democratic innovation and sustainability in government? In the workshop “Toward Democratic Transformation: A Lab on Labs” at the IASS, international practitioners, leading researchers and government experts explored lab methods and principles to promote democracy and sustainability.
The IASS will host a “Dialogue and Reflection Space” at the forthcoming climate conference in Madrid. The space will provide an alternative setting for discussion, with daily events including guided reflection and a variety of interactive discussion formats. The space will be used to explore how a culture of cooperation can be leveraged to advance climate negotiations at the COP.
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.
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.
They advocate climate protection, criticise daily experiences of racism, and work toward fairer structures in world trade: The scope of German NGOs is highly diverse. But their personnel are not: They are mostly made up of white academics. It is time for this to change.
We are happy to announce the adoption of the institute’s inaugural focal topic. Throughout 2022 we will undertake collaborative research activities, hold public events, and publish research exploring themes related to matters of social justice.
It is not uncommon for the German name of the IASS to evoke confused looks on people’s faces: Institut für transformative Nachhaltigkeitsforschung – “I’m sorry, but what is ‘transformative’ supposed to mean, and what is ‘transformative research’?” A comprehensive yet straightforward answer is given in Jan Freihardt’s book “Draußen ist es anders” (“Out there, it’s different”), subtitled “Treading new paths towards a science of transition”.
What kind of help do remote rural villages in developing countries need to sustainably improve their infrastructure? What is the state of electricity supply and services, the availability and quality of cooking solutions, and the quality of water access in these settlements? Is there a nexus between access to basic services and nutrition in these areas? And, if a project is implemented, how can progress made at the household level be monitored, reported, and evaluated? These questions are at the heart of the project “Action-Based & Impact-Driven Research: Establishing Collaborative Frameworks for Researchers, Impact Makers, and Sustainable Entrepreneurs (IMPACT-R).”
Since 2020 artist and photographer Sven Gatter has been documenting traces of decay and renewal in Lower Lusatia that are simultaneously new beginnings and occasions for discourse. He is now bringing the results of this work together in the artist's book "ECHO TEKTUR. Ruins and Models". IASS researcher Johannes Staemmler has penned a contribution to this publication, which we publish here in an abridged version. Sven Gatter's works will be shown at Brandenburg’s State Museum of Modern Art from 10 September through to 21 November 2021.
The energy transition raises many questions about how to achieve and design net-zero emission energy systems. Energy models can support decision-makers by providing virtual laboratories in which different energy futures can be explored. But what are the requirements of different stakeholders on these energy models? Which challenges of the energy transition should they tackle? What questions should these models be able to answer? In order to identify needs and discuss the expectations placed on energy modelling in the framework of the project Sustainable Energy Transition Laboratory (SENTINEL), we conducted an online survey in summer and held an online expert workshop on the 1st of October.
What are some of the key frameworks that can be used for transdisciplinary research? What are their particular strengths? How can you choose one that’s most suitable for your transdisciplinary project?
For scholars it is always hard to reflect about their role in sustainability transformations and conflicts. This predicament is tackled in a new special issue of the journal Social Epistemology that Ulli Vilsmaier (Leuphana) and I have just published. Contributors from several disciplines discuss the dilemma of control in transdisciplinary research in this special issue and consider how scholars can deal with their own involvement in power-ridden constellations.
As part of a pilot project funded by the State of Berlin, the borough of Tempelhof-Schöneberg is currently experimenting with a new form of citizen participation: citizen councils. The IASS is supporting the process and helping to establish citizen councils as a permanent fixture in the locality.
"Future generations" have become an integral part of discussions about sustainability. This stems all the way back to the very definition of sustainable development in the Brundtland Report, but has gained new significance with the explosion of youth environmental movements we’ve seen in recent years. The general public seems to agree that future generations should be taken into account in political decision-making processes: More and more people are understanding that their children’s or their grandchildren’s lives are under threat because of our decisions and lack of action on environmental degradation, climate change, and other sustainability challenges.
Substantial financial assistance is being provided to Germany’s former coal regions to support their socio-economic transformation, but an active civil society will also be crucial to their revitalisation. Grass-roots initiatives in Lusatia are struggling in the face of hostility and a lack of support from local government.
Roll up your sleeves, seize every opportunity and take the future by the horns! Surely that is the best way to approach the transformation of the economy in the region of Lusatia? Played up by policymakers, this upbeat narrative is indeed vital to the success of what is a mammoth undertaking. But so too are the experiences of people and institutions across the region. As scientists working in the field of sustainable development, we must consider the broader social context of efforts to foster a less-resource intensive economy and way of life in Lusatia.
Participation played a key role at this year’s UN Climate Change Conference COP24 in Katowice. On the second day of COP24, Sir David Attenborough lent his signature voice to deliver the People’s Address before a full COP plenary. The address consisted of a two-minute video collage of social media video recordings, tweets and posts published under the #TakeYourSeat hashtag in the months prior and addressed to decision-makers at the summit.
Both sustainability ambitions and obstacles are growing exponentially. This begs for the kind of expectation management arguably performed by the IASS Potsdam and other organizations, for instance the Future Earth network.
Both sustainability ambitions and obstacles are growing exponentially. This begs for the kind of expectation management arguably performed by the IASS Potsdam and other organizations, for instance the Future Earth network. In addressing the advisory role of science in sustainability, Future Earth is building advisory capacities and raising expectations at the same time.
How can local governments and civil society partner to produce sustainable cities? This was one of the central questions cutting across four panels of the conference “Co-producing sustainable cities?”, which was organized by the Heinrich Böll Foundation in cooperation with the Technical University of Berlin. This conference served as a discussion forum in preparation for the adoption of the “New Urban Agenda”, which will be steering sustainable urban development for the next twenty years.