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What we work on

Transformative Sustainability Research

RIFS conducts research with the goal of understanding, advancing, and guiding processes of societal change towards sustainable development. Our researchers collaborate with diverse actors from science, policymaking and public administration as well as business and civil society to develop a common understanding of sustainability challenges and generate potential solutions. The research approach is transformative, transdisciplinary, and co-creative.

About us

In brief

News

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#FactoryWisskomm Fellowship

Recommendations for Political Networking Events

Networking events such as parliamentary receptions are the order of the day in Berlin and state capitals across Germany. What impact do these informal dialogues between politicians and stakeholders have on political decisions? Communications researcher Meike Lohkamp will explore this issue during a six-month research residency at the Research Institute for Sustainability. Her fellowship is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) within the framework of the #FactoryWisskom platform initiated by the ministry.

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Lifestyles

Tackling the Climate and Housing Crises: Promoting Compact Living in Europe

Future European Union housing policy must address the twin challenges of providing adequate housing for all while drastically reducing current levels of resource use. Voluntary reductions in living space could make a significant contribution to achieving these goals. To facilitate this, the EU should promote the construction of smaller apartments set in attractive neighbourhoods and enable the more flexible use of existing housing stock, according to a new study co-authored by scientists from the Research Institute for Sustainability - Helmholtz Centre Potsdam (RIFS).

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Mobility transition

Civil Society Engagement as a Driver of Urban Transformation

Cities will need to change if we are to secure a sustainable future. Many people in Berlin have recognized this and cititzen-led initiatives have played a crucial role in driving transformations in recent years. This engagement strengthens resilience and ensures that communities are better equipped to tackle future challenges. But more can be done to involve different communities and improve cooperation with the city’s political institutions and policymakers.

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Fellowship

New Solutions for Marine Sustainability

The oceans are of crucial importance for the climate, ecosystems, food security, and trade. Despite this, the unsustainable use of marine resources is undermining the health and resilience of marine ecosystems and species around the world. What can be done to change this? Florian Lennert joined the RIFS as a Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellow in April 2024. In this interview, he explains his plans for a platform to develop sustainable marine technologies.

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Dossiers

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Deliberative Mini-Publics Dossier

Deliberative mini-publics are participatory processes in which a randomly selected and heterogenous group of citizens cooperate for a period to develop recommendations, ideas or solutions on a specific issue. RIFS accompanies these processes in various roles.

Protecting the Marine Environment: An International Treaty on Plastic Pollution Dossier

Marine plastic pollution poses a threat to the marine environment and negatively affects human health. An international treaty is currently being negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) to provide a comprehensive global legal framework addressing plastic pollution, including in the marine environment. Scientists within the Ocean Governance research group at RIFS are closely following the negotiation processes and exploring the role of the future treaty in ocean governance.

Sustainability in Brandenburg Dossier

Brandenburg is facing major sustainability challenges, such as agrarian transformation, energy transformation, mobility transformation, transformation of Lusatia, adaptation to climate change, promotion of rural areas, revitalisation of the economy after the Corona pandemic, and water supply and water protection. As a Potsdam institute, RIFS is actively involved in sustainability work in Brandenburg.

Systemic Risks Dossier

Modern societies are vulnerable to “systemic risks” such as pandemics, financial crises, or climate change. Due to their complex and interconnected nature, systemic risks pose a particular challenge to conventional approaches to risk analysis and management. The research group on systemic risks at RIFS analyses risks and opportunities around transformation processes for sustainable development and, in a second step, develops policy recommendations for the governance of systemic risks.