Why are we running this project?

The transformation towards a sustainable society requires researchers to contribute scientific knowledge and integrate knowledge from society in order to transfer knowledge into action. Therefore, the Robert Bosch Stiftung and its partners see the need for:

  • more and better integration of the natural sciences, social sciences and the humanities in sustainability research,
  • a better recognition of inter- and transdisciplinary research in academia and
  • excellent, highly competitive researchers who are able to lead inter- and transdisciplinary teams and academic institutions.

Thus, it is important to prepare early-career researchers for leadership positions in inter- and transdisciplinary contexts.

What are our goals?

Different leading European academic institutions collaborate to join expertise and offer an international program to train the next generation of leaders in sustainability and transformation research.

How does the project work?

The Postdoc Academy for Transformational Leadership provides an intensive high-end training with four seminars in two years that broaden the research competencies of early career sustainability researchers and promote their qualifications towards transdisciplinary leadership. The program also offers seed funding (e.g. for stakeholder meetings or proposal writing activities) to small groups of participants, who plan to initiate research collaborations. In addition, an active network of current and former participants of the program will be established.

Who is the target audience?

The program aims at postdocs from across Europe who want to make an impact on the transformation towards a sustainable society and advance the complementarity of natural science, social sciences and the humanities through their research. They should consider themselves intrapreneurs, who act responsible and initiate positive changes and innovation within their institutions. They should also strive toward professorship or other academic leadership positions. A research topic relevant to this year’s focus topic “Food systems/ sovereignty”, excellent English language skills, and experience with or necessity for inter- or transdisciplinary collaborations are required.

For detailed information, please refer to section application.

What are the contents of the course?

A course run consists of four seminars (three full days each) over a period of two years. Each seminar will take place at one of the four academic centres and focus on their respective expertise.

The seminars build on each other and are complementary.

  • The first seminar introduces participants to the fundamentals of the philosophy of science and different modes of knowledge production in order to develop their capabilities for inter- and transdisciplinary research. These contents are discussed in the interaction with food system actors who are leading transdisciplinary research endeavors in the field of food systems/ food security realities in research funding landscapes.
  • The second seminar explores the potentials as well as the challenges of transdisciplinary research environments and transdisciplinary learning, including individual reflections on the own profile and portfolio as a researcher. We engage with transdisciplinary research methodologies as well as transdisciplinary learning processes on different levels and learn how to overcome typical difficulties in transdisciplinary research processes with insights into existing examples from the food system research.
  • The third seminar introduces resilience thinking and the social-ecological system (SES) perspective, both of which are deeply rooted in complex systems theory. Key concepts are explained, and a specific focus is placed on the importance of addressing interactions between humans and nature and how fundamental changes in these relationships are required if we are to undertake the transformations necessary to achieve sustainable development.
  • The fourth seminar introduces system and transition thinking for understanding the dynamics in transforming food systems. We focus on contextualized practices such as local experimentation and social innovation as well as their processes of scaling and institutionalization. The seminar features reflexive engagements with one’s failures, interaction with practitioners and introduces innovative methodologies along with hands-on tools for developing an academic vision as transformational leaders of the future.

The seminars are linked by four thematic modules that create an overarching framework.

  • Module 1 engages with sustainability science as a research field and presents resulting challenges for theory and methodology according to the year’s focus topic.
  • Module 2 aims to increase the understanding of how complex systems thinking is used in transformative and sustainability research. It will be discussed how change in this development can be navigated.
  • Module 3 deals with theoretical, methodological and process oriented questions revolving around transdisciplinary research, such as: quality criteria, mutual learning and differentiation/ integration. It also addresses challenges of the role of the researcher in these processes as well as „undisciplined“ career pathways.
  • Module 4 deals with issues of career development. It discusses how participants can develop individual and coherent research profiles that will help them to develop their capabilities towards transformational leadership.

Where is the project run?

A course run consists of four seminars (three full days each) over a period of two years. Each seminar will take place at one of the four academic centres and focus on their respective expertise. Details for the first course run are:

  • 1st seminar from 10th to 12th October 2018 at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin/ Germany
  • 2nd seminar from 11th to 13th February 2019 at the Leuphana University of Lüneburg/ Germany
  • 3rd seminar from 9th to 11th October 2019 at the Stockholm Resilience Centre/ Sweden
  • 4th seminar from 18th to 20th March 2020 at the Dutch Research Institute for Transitions (DRIFT) in Rotterdam/ The Netherlands

In addition, there will be peer group interaction between the seminars. Further course runs will be announced in due time.

Who organizes and supports the project?

The Postdoc Academy for Transformational Leadership is an initiative of the Robert Bosch Stiftung. It is a joint project of the Robert Bosch Stiftung and the four academic centres Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Leuphana University of Lüneburg, the Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Dutch Research Institute for Transitions (DRIFT) in Rotterdam. A coordinating office, which is located at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin is the central hub for people interested in the Postdoc Academy for Transformational Leadership.