The forum brings the latest scientific findings into the political and public discussion. It presents specific options for combating climate change in Switzerland. The topics of focus range from understanding climate change and reducing emissions to adapting to the consequences.more

Image: NASAmore

Reflections on Transformation

Shaping the Future, Transcending Disciplinary Silos and Exploring 'Lived' Knowledge Systems


University of Graz

This conference brings together a multitude of disciplines to develop different concepts, central to the need to transform society in the face of climate change, and the challenges this raises. We aim to explore different facets and versions of transformations (change, reform, revolution, transition etc, both in history and theory). We also seek to transcend disciplinary silos by engaging with a plurality of knowledge systems and approaches to transformation

Flyer for shift
Image: Climate change center austria

Transformations can take place both as a controlled response to "Grand Societal Challenges" (in particular to climate neutrality, and to sustainability goals) as well as unfold in uncontrolled ways. As our aims are directed at the future but often arise from the past, the conference considers the path-dependency of the planned as well as anticipated transformations which can be motivated by the implementation of public policies as well as by the desire of individuals to control such transformation. We would like to bring to the centre stage the human agency in transformation processes and their influence on the relationships our societies build upon. This requires a clear focus on various groups, communities and other stakeholders as agents implicated and involved in acts of change and the obstacles they face.

The conference pays particular attention to how our relationship with transformation and change is evolving and with what consequences. Various societal inequalities, from gender, class and income, and race to intersectoral issues, play a considerable role in transformation as well as adaptation processes. We concentrate on such aspects of transformations as the past, present and future issues with justice (distributive, compensatory, procedural and transitional justices) and on the fair allocation of burdens of transformations. We are also interested in considering the ‘losers’ of such processes, their legitimate expectations, their needs for compensation, as well as the possible irreversible losses on the way towards a net zero society.

We will contemplate the unplanned moments of change, including natural, societal and normative tipping-points and triggers, thresholds and collapses as well as unintended consequences. Understanding such processes also lays the ground for better exploring convergence and conflicts, democratic decision making and prefigurative practices on transformative pathways.

Considering the planned and unintended aspects of change, the human agents’ relationship with change as well as its (unequal) consequences leads us to discuss the critical practice approach. The unravelling change demands a critical view from different disciplinary and sectoral angles on practices restricted by and framing our current social relationships and power structures, yet needing to respond to emerging new realities of climate change, biodiversity loss and breaches of other global boundaries. Critical theory, theory of change, as well as ideal and non-ideal theorising provide vantage points from which to assess the existing pathways from theory to solutions. The critical practice approach is of inherent value not only for the involvement of SSH in transformation research and action, but also for the development of a climate resilient society the realisation of which needs constant critical feedback.

These approaches also connect to new ways of transdisciplinary research based on the co-creation of solutions and developing new tools such as the Living Labs approach, where researchers both observe social actors as well as participate actively in interventions. They also engage with agents of change/transformation across different fields, from industry to activism, from education and learning to governing and politics. We ask participants to develop their contributions with the practical sight of such stakeholders in mind.


Languages: English