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Transformative governance in cities and regions

In this research area, social transformation processes for sustainable development are studied from different theoretical and analytical perspectives, especially at the level of cities and regions in Germany. The starting point is the concept of social innovation, understood as a new social practice. There is a particular focus on the fields of action of climate protection, climate adaptation and energy transition. In our research projects, we work predominantly in inter- and transdisciplinary teams from science, public administration, the private sector and together with many other civil society actors.

The concept of transformative governance, as formulated for example in the main reports of the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU), refers to a “new distribution of responsibilities, principles, procedures and material criteria” to steer the societal transformation process (WBGU 2011 and 2016). In this context, “transformative” means above all the shaping of change towards sustainable development.

For transformative governance in cities and regions, the focus is on the actions of state and non-state actors and institutions that organise the local, urban and regional affairs of a municipality as well as urban and regional society. Based on this concept, we investigate the development of transformative governance structures as new social practices.

The further development of non-transformative governance structures towards transformative governance is difficult for various reasons. For example, there are various path dependencies as well as often a lack of financial and institutional leeway on the part of cities and regions. This can be overcome not only through technological innovations, but above all through social innovations. To address this problem, we are developing and testing new procedures and instruments of collaborative governance for municipalities, for example. Since climate protection in particular is an essential prerequisite for sustainable development, urban and regional climate protection and climate adaptation processes are a major focus of our research work. This also includes a focus on exnovation and rebound effects as well as possible additional factors.

Overall, our work is focused primarily on the following global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

  • How can the concepts of social innovation and transformation research be linked?
  • How can municipal processes be steered towards sustainability? How is steering carried out at regional level?
  • How can the process of diffusion of niche interventions be given a theoretical foundation and practically promoted?
    • How can the gap be bridged between niche interventions and the overall social change process?
    • What can niche interventions achieve and where is impetus from a higher (state) level necessary?
  • What is the relationship between state, federal and local decision-making ­and public participation?
  • How can the common good and specific interests be balanced in terms of sustainability?
  • How can the dimensions of sustainability be incorporated into the design of Industry 4.0 towards an Industry 5.0?
  • What impact and what support potential does advancing digitalisation have on sustainable development?
  • Municipal adaptation processes and governance
  • Sustainability innovations
  • Application of diffusion theories to sustainability research
  • Methods, instruments and formats of transdisciplinary sustainability research, especially real laboratories
    • Multistakeholder processes
    • Social innovation laboratories
    • Roadmapping
    • Visioning process
    • Scenario methods
    • Storytelling
  • 2020 - 2024 | T-Factor
  • 2019 - 2023 | Evolving Regions
  • 2019 - 2022 | ProPolis
  • 2018 - 2021 | iResilience
  • 2018 - 2019 | Virtual Institute Transformation Energiewende / EnerChange
  • 2017 - 2018 | Roll-out Integrated Roadmapping
  • 2016 - 2019 | KoSI-Lab: Municipal Social Innovation Labs
  • 2016 - 2019 | KliMoPrax – Climate models for practice
  • 2015 - 2017 | Virtual Institute (VI) “Transformation – Energy Transition NRW”
  • 2014 - 2017 | CASI


Research associates:

Student and research assistants:


  • Eva Alshuth


Research associates:

Student and research assistants:

Location & approach

Exit 13 (Kreuz Dortmund Nord-Ost), direction Derne/Schwerte (B236), 1st exit direction Dortmund-Eving, next traffic lights turn right (Kemminghauser Str.), after 2.7km turn left (Evinger Str./B 54), after 1.1km traffic lights turn left (Deutsche Straße), after 500m on the left is the Evinger Platz.

From the Bundesstraße 1 (extension A40 or A44) to the intersection B1/B236 direction Lünen, 3rd exit direction Dortmund-Eving.

Exit Dortmund Hafen, turn left until the intersection Münsterstraße (B54), direction Eving, after about three kilometers turn into Deutsche Straße.

You can download an enlarged general map here

From Dortmund Airport, it takes just about 20 minutes to get to Dortmund Central Station by AirportExpress and from there to the university by subway (U-Bahn) 41. The stop is "Zeche Minister Stein". A wider range of international flight connections is offered by Düsseldorf Airport, about 60 kilometers away, which can be reached directly by S-Bahn from the university station. From there, you can get directly to Dortmund Central Station.

From Dortmund Central Station, take the U 41 light rail (direction Brambauer / Brechten). The stop is "Zeche Minister Stein". The Minister Stein Center is located on the right in the direction of travel of the streetcar.

You can find an overview map here.