working group structure

Research Topics

We understand sustainability transformations as social and political processes, which we analyse from three distinct but interlinked research topics – each reflected in a working group: 

Sustainability Narratives

What are core narratives of sustainability and transformations?

Can existing narratives promote sustainability and how?

Transformative Governance and Science-Policy-Society Interfaces

How can governance structures and processes become more transformative?

How can science policy society interfaces be improved?

Behaviour and Instruments

How can policy instruments support sustainability transformations?

Which insights from the behavioural sciences help to foster sustainable behaviour?

In the three working groups, we conduct (1) social science research on the theories and methods of sustainability transformations, and (2) applied research on transformative practices and policies. To gain both a basic and an applied understanding of sustainability transformations, we couple our social science expertise with expertise from the natural and engineering sciences and cooperate closely with practitioners, decision makers, civil society and citizens.

Sustainability Narratives (Sina Leipold)

The Sustainability Narratives Group is committed to (1) identifying narratives of sustainability transformations and (2) examining whether and how these narratives promote sustainability. We understand sustainability as a balance between environmental, social and economic considerations that ensures the well-being of all life forms, while acknowledging the interdependence of all living things and ecosystems. A sustainability narrative is a story that links social or physical phenomena to transformations towards sustainability. It connects people, events, and actions in a plot, thereby including, excluding, and emphasizing certain problems, solutions, and actors. Every narrative provides a ‘moral compass’ to distinguish ‘right’ from ‘wrong’.

Affiliated scientists: Prof. Dr. Sina Leipold, Dr. Diana Ayeh, Dr. Anran Luo, Leonie Büttner, Mira Kopp, Dr. Carmen Perez del Pulgar Frowein, ⇒ Gabi Waldhof

Current projects: Themenkolleg Governance Monitor, Identifying key factors that make sustainable mobility transitions last, Teile von EbaAgri

Transformative governance and science-policy-society interfaces (Heidi Wittmer)

Sustainability transformations and environmental policy rely strongly on knowledge and scientific evidence to create awareness and interest, generate momentum and to design adequate policies and governance arrangements. A central focus of our research has been to better understand knowledge needs of policy makers and how they acquire and exchange knowledge through different science-policy-society interfaces and co-design processes.

Affiliated scientists: Augustin Berghöfer, Miriam Brenck, Dr. Karla Locher-Krause, Christine Polzin, Salina Spiering, Ulrike Tröger, Yuanzao Zhu

Current projects: BioValue, HSDA, Rewild, EbaAgri, Unlocking Forest Finance, BioFrame, GoST, Voodoo, InteractBio

Behavior and Policy Instruments (Julian Rode)

Our research addresses how policy instruments can support transformations to a sustainable future and to achieve multi-dimensional sustainability objectives for people and nature. Our thematic expertise is on environmental policies for sustainable land use and the integration of biodiversity concerns into different sectoral policies and practice.

Affiliated scientists: Dr. Johannes Förster, Dr. Marcela Muñoz Escobar, Julian Rode, Tatiana Rodriguez, Tobias Wildner

Third-party funded projects: EbA Agri, Bio-Mo-D, BioNET