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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

How to become a RIFS Fellow

Webinar with Q&A:  In this webinar, the Fellow Programme of the RIFS will first be introduced. Afterwards, the application and review process, as well as the key documents which need to be submitted, will be explained. The webinar closes with an open question & answer session.

 

A New Approach to Systemic Risks

In a new paper published in "One Earth", researchers including Pia-Johanna Schweizer (RIFS) analyse how to combine systemic risk analysis with local approaches to design fit-for-purpose and actionable transformative risk management.

Launch of EU Hydrogen Market Report

The 2024 State of the EU Hydrogen Market Report will be launched on 30 May. RIFS researcher Rainer Quitzow will participate in a roundtable discussion. Registration for on-site and online attendance is open.

News

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Brandenburg

Recommendations for the Transition to Sustainable Land-Use in Brandenburg

Brandenburg Sustainability Advisory Board presented its recommendations for a transition to sustainable land-use to the state government in Potsdam today. Drawn from the recent policy brief "Multiple-benefit Strategies for a Land-Use Transition in Brandenburg", the recommendations promote an approach to land-use management that operates within the planetary boundaries and upholds social standards. State Secretary Friederike Haase, who accepted the recommendations on behalf of the government, stated at the reception: “These recommendations cover a wide range of topics and will provide valuable input for our work. I would like to extend my thanks to the Advisory Board for this contribution.”

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Fellowship

Citizen Objects: Challenging the Authority of Data

Artist and RIFS Fellow Julika Gittner went to London in the 1990s to study art and later architecture. She has taught at the University of Cambridge Department of Architecture and History of Art for many years. Julika Gittner joined the RIFS in April. In this interview, she talks about her work and current projects.

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Research stay

RIFS Invites Applications for 2025 Fellowship Programme

Each year around 30 fellows come to the Research Institute for Sustainability – Helmholtz Centre Potsdam to pursue research projects in the field of sustainability. Applications for the 2025 cohort of RIFS Fellows are now open through to 14 July 2024. With the Fellowship, the Institute offers the opportunity to explore innovative ideas in a transdisciplinary research environment.

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Fellowship

Ensuring the Vulnerable Are Heard in International Climate Decision-Making

Nicola Sharman joined RIFS as a Fellow in April 2024. She comes from the University of Eastern Finland, where she is part of the 2035Legitimacy project. Her work focuses on the democratic legitimacy of international climate change law and the exercise of procedural rights within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change from the point of view of those most affected by climate change.

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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.