Promoting Independent Transformative Research

Successful end of the project EEVA: Handbook for the promotion of transformative and transdisciplinary competences within the framework of a "Transformative Innovation Lab" published


Science and education are central fields and a lever for sustainable development and realize the Sustainable Development Goals. With the newly developed student teaching and learning format "Transformative Innovation Lab" - TIL for short - students are to be enabled to conduct independent transformative research and thus to contribute to real-life sustainability improvements. To this end, the researchers, under the direction of the Wuppertal Institute, researchers from Leuphana University and Freie Universität of Berlin developed and tested the new learning concept in the project "Development, testing and dissemination of new qualification offers for ‘change agents’ for transformative learning using the real-world laboratory approach” (EEVA). The detailed results and numerous implementation tips have now been published in a practical handbook aimed at academic teaching staff and other multipliers.
The core of the concept is that students develop a research project of their own choice and designed in cooperation with practitioners, in which research is carried out on real-world problems of sustainability, such as the local mobility revolution, resource-saving economic activity or social inclusion, for example in the context of the “City of the Future Lüneburg 2030+” project. The TIL helps to create a learning environment that promotes systemic analysis, the strategic design of transformation processes and the development of the key competences required for both. The format is integrated into existing structures of a Master's program and ideally leads directly to the Master's thesis.

The project team tested the teaching and learning format TIL in two consecutive years at the Leuphana University of Lüneburg in the Master's program in Sustainability Studies and at the Freie Universität of Berlin in the Master's program in Futures Studies. It became clear that students in the challenging environment of transdisciplinary and transformative research need small-step, constant support and benefit greatly from reflexive exchange formats and insights into other real-world laboratory projects. "We take the students step by step on their way through the real-world lab. This gives them the opportunity to gradually translate theory into practice and leaves enough room for personal competence development," says Matthias Wanner, research associate in the Innovation Labs Research Unit in the Sustainable Production and Consumption Division at the Wuppertal Institute and head of the project. Based on these experiences, the project participants derived a didactic model that accompanies the students in a structured way through the real-world laboratory phases of co-design, co-production and co-evaluation and encourages them to change their perspective and reflect on their own research personality in exercises. Philip Bernert, who worked in the project as a research associate and teacher at Leuphana University, is happy with the collaborative project: “In the context of the DBU funded project we were able to enable students specifically for the challenges of transformative research in Master’s thesis projects. Not only the students, but also we as teachers and researchers made great experiences in imparting knowledge and skills”, 
The handbook was presented to the expert public during a digital final workshop in mid-November. More than 50 multipliers from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and network organizations as well as lecturers at German-speaking higher education institutions took part in the workshop and discussed the various options for implementing appropriate learning and teaching formats. A documentation of the event can be found in the following links.

Under the leadership of the Wuppertal Institute (Division of Sustainable Production and Consumption) the project was implemented jointly with the Freie Universität of Berlin (Institut Futur) and the Leuphana University of Lüneburg (Institute for Sustainable Development and Learning) in the period October 2017 to December 2020. The project was funded by the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU).
The handbook including the exercises used, literature lists and other materials as well as further information on the project can be found in the following links.