Transformative research and learning

The transformation to sustainable development cannot be prescribed top-down. It requires participation and joint learning processes involving all stakeholders. On the one hand, this demands corresponding know-how and skills to join in societal decision-making and learning processes. On the other, it is crucial to incorporate the wealth of knowledge of local actors and to analyse the situation, make assessments, and develop solutions jointly with them. In other words, local actors must be treated as co-researchers and co-learners. Education and science can provide significant leverage in such processes. Aiming to support progress in this direction, CDE analyses and develops:

  • transdisciplinary concepts, innovative methods, and theories of change;
  • effective instruments that serve to anchor sustainable development in university teaching;
  • approaches that foster transdisciplinary and transformative science and teaching;
  • sciencebased approaches to support the participation of vulnerable stakeholders in the global South; as well as
  • pedagogically and didactically robust strategies to advance formal and informal education for sustainable development.

Education for sustainable development

Education for sustainable development aims to foster individual and societal changes on behalf of a sustainable world. For this, everyone must have access to high-quality education that enables them to develop the necessary knowledge and skills. CDE conducts research on transformative learning and implements corresponding lessons in its educational offerings.

Transformation of science

Challenges such as climate change, food security, and species loss demand new forms of scientific collaboration. However, the necessary types of research are hardly supported by today’s scientific status quo. CDE investigates how science, its sponsors, and universities can change to put sustainable development on the agenda more effectively.


Sustainable decisions result from far-reaching participation of affected people and communities. With robust data, information access, and local capacity development, CDE fosters the empowerment of actors who do not belong to established governance structures – especially in the areas of land use, food systems, and labour conditions.