The difficulties of Transformative Change

This research line and team is led by Prof. Dr. René Kemp

Phone: +31 43 3884405



Transformative Change is needed for dealing with Multiple Crises:
A geopolitical crisiswith consequences for global economy, energy and food security, and migration
An ecological crisis of climate change, reduced biodiversity and exhaustion of raw materials;
A confidence crisisthe loss of trust in governments, news media, politics and science;
An inequality crisisthe growing gulf between rich and poor.

Having a dedicated theme at UNU-MERIT on social transformation helps to bring together and mobilise expertise on a variety of disciplines for consequential research on big societal challenges. Such an endeavor is not in conflict with scientific excellence. Quite to the contrary: a growing number of influential articles on transitions and transformations by both leading scholars and new-generation researchers (such as Geels, Gough, Grin, Mazzucato, Raworth, Rodrik, Sachs) show that scientific excellence can be combined with societal relevance, and that science (when done differently) can be part of the solution rather than the problem.


The Research would be mindful of the following:

  • Transformations are messy, not win-win but associated with conflicts and power struggles.
  • Experiences with forced transformative change are largely negative
  • Positive transformations make use of ongoing dynamics and is oriented at creating a wider constituency for transformative change
  • Integrated thinking and attention to side-effects is important. It is forward-looking, yet adaptive and pay attention to institutional contradictions which is seeks to align (transcend).
  • Transformative change is not about the implementation of an acclaimed solution (an innovation), but explorative, diverse, reflexive with mechanisms of self-correction (thanks to evaluation, opposition and opportunity assessment and agency at any time).
  • A multidisciplinary research approach is needed, which makes use of science and the knowledge of stakeholders.


Working Group on Transformative Change

A working group on transformative change for a better world will be created, which will meet every 2 months. In the meetings, the following format will be used.

  • In the first 45 minutes, we will discuss 2 readings (which are introduced by a presenter). The readings will be about attempts at transformative change and research approaches.
  • After this, we will discuss interesting events and funding opportunities. Possible topics for discussion are: Middle-range theory, (fostering) transformative learning in stakeholder processes, participatory systems analysis, design thinking, strategic experiments, institutional contradictions as a source of change (to be exploited through active agency) and the politics of transformative change.

Initially, René Kemp will act as team leader.

Team Members

Shyama Ramani

Serdar Turkeli


Updated: 9/12/2022