International Summer School - Transdisciplinarity methods and tools for dealing with sustainability and land use conflicts

Sunday, September 17, 2023 (All day) to Friday, September 22, 2023 (All day)
Bad Freienwalde, Brandenburg, Germany

We live in a world in transformation in which we are faced with complex global problems such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, hunger and social inequality. The urgent need for a sustainable transformation forces us to take decisions in situations of uncertainty and to continuously adapt our societal strategies.

As professionals, as researchers, and ultimately as citizens we want to embrace this process of transformation. We need to be able to design, build, create, but also to listen, observe and understand to make sustainability changes happen. A disciplinary approach will not be enough to solve the complex problems we are faced with in the 21st century. Academia does not have all the answers, neither does politics, economy or civil society. We rather need a collaborative endeavour to be able to reach a truly sustainable society.

Transdisciplinary research and practice is an approach that allows to bring together different perspectives from science and society and to catalyse the solution of real-world problems. In the summer school we want to convey the basics of co-designing solutions, co-producing knowledge and co-evaluating the results of such research practices to Master and PhD students from technologically-oriented disciplines (e.g. engineering, planning, environmental studies) as well as from other fields (e.g. social sciences). To ensure the link to the ‘real-world’, we will apply what we learn to sustainability problems in the region of Northeast Brandenburg, Germany.

Aim of the course

The aim of the summer school is to gain insight into the basics and challenges of transdisciplinary research and practice, that is a reflexive, integrative, method driven scientific principle aiming at the solution or transition of societal problems and concurrently of related scientific problems by differentiating and integrating knowledge from various scientific and societal bodies of knowledge and transferable to both the scientific and societal practice (Lang et al. 2012).

Our programme includes:

  • facilitating mutual understanding of societal problems through better observing and pursuing the situations faced (inter- and transdisciplinary exchange)

  • empowering students with tools and methods for reflection and collaborative work in heterogeneous actor environments

  • empowering students to contribute to solving community problems with their specific perspectives and knowledge

  • reflecting on team building, actor constellations and power relations as well as possible impacts of solutions developed

Case study in focus: Northeast Brandenburg – a region in transition.

The districts of Barnim, Uckermark and Märkisch-Oderland are part of the historical landscape of the Barnim. This area, formed during the ice age, is dominated by hills, forests and lakes. To the east, the Odra River meanders along as the region’s border with Poland. Its adjacent area, the so-called Oderbruch, is dominated by fertile farmland since its drainage and cultivation of marshland in the 18th century. Since the German re-unification, the region has shown a decline in industrial and agricultural production, accompanied by a high rate of unemployment and population loss. Today, with around 100 inhabitants per square kilometre living here, residents from the nearby capital of Berlin and other tourists like to enjoy the quiet and diverse beauty of the region.

However, the region’s diverse landscape and its various forms of use go hand in hand with many challenges and questions for a sustainable future in rural areas that may not be visible at first sight. With regard to climate change conflicts arise, for example, between nature conservation and agriculture with regard to environmentally friendly options of agricultural production go along with fostering biodiversity and rewetting of marshlands. The use of the river is controversial with regard to its relevance as a nature reserve and as a route for commercial traffic. This illustrates that the region is characterized by contrasts: nature conservation and pioneers of organic farming on the one hand, windparks, biogas plants and intensive livestock farming on the other. Areas that are well connected to Berlin have shown growth while remote areas are suffering from a decline of infrastructure such as schools, shopping facilities and public transport. While some conflicts have arisen between old and new inhabitants, there is also a rise in initiatives that aim to develop new perspectives for rural regions.

During the summer school we will use conflicts regarding the transition of rural areas in the region exemplarily to train methods of formulating and analysing real world problems based on exchange with regional actors.