The Transformation of Governance and the Governance of Societal Transformations
The two analytical themes of institutional design and modes of governance, on the one hand, and normative considerations of social justice and democratic legitimacy, on the other, lead to an overarching concern – and hence our third analytical theme – of global transformation. Our analytical concern for transformation is twofold: it covers both the governance of societal transformations towards a more sustainable world and the transformation of governance that is needed to achieve this far-reaching aim. This analytical theme hence bundles our long-standing interest in governance transformation, and at the same time draws on our strong interest in future studies.
Overall, the sustainability challenges of the 21st century cannot be addressed by the theoretical frameworks of the 20th century. Yet what novel theoretical framework can provide conceptual meaning and scholarly guidance for the fundamental problems of our time? To address these questions, our group is continuously engaged in theoretical debates, with leading contributions to conceptual innovations such as “earth system governance”, “Anthropocene”, “transformation science”, and “sustainability science”. In all these conceptual debates at global level in which we participate, our contributions combine insights from our three analytical themes of the modes of governance and institutional performance, the normative foundations of governance, and the eventual transformation of governance arrangements and societal development trajectories.
To analyse these three analytical themes, we have structured our research in six focus areas that concentrate on different levels and empirical domains of governance. Three of the six areas address particular scales of governance, namely global governance, urban governance, and regional governance. The three other areas address sectors of governance, namely climate mitigation and adaptation governance, water governance, and the governance of transitions towards sustainable economies.
These areas are all complementary, and are well integrated into our overall strategy and the three broader analytical themes that run through all our research activities. Interlinkages among the focus areas – for example between water and urban governance, or between global and regional governance – are a central part of our research agenda as well. To increase overall integration, we review and discuss all areas in plenary twice a year. The focus areas also help our work to be societally highly relevant by contributing to the key policy debates of our time. Moreover, all focus areas are closely embedded into global and national funding contexts, and motivate parts of our teaching programmes as well, for instance concerning the theoretical and empirical clustering of graduate student work. All faculty members are involved in co-leading one or several areas, and all doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers are part of at least one area.