Transformative research for sustainability challenges

Organised by WIMEK (WUR) and the Urban Futures Studio (UU)
Venue Utrecht University or Wageningen University Campus (to be decided before 14th of June)


“Transformative Research for Sustainability Challenges” provides PhD candidates with exciting concepts and methods to enhance the potential of their research to beneficially contribute to society and the environment. Participants are guided through a process designed to surface and examine fundamental assumptions that underpin their research approaches to inspire future trajectories both within and beyond their PhD. This course is taught by a range of scholars in Utrecht University (UU), Wageningen University & Research (WUR), University of Twente (UT) and Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) who will guide students through critical concepts, methodological innovations, and tricky dilemmas that have challenged and enabled their own work. The course content focuses on four main aspects of transformative research identified in the 71 Visions Report. This course received an Education Innovation Award in 2021 and is supported by WIMEK, EWUU Alliance, Urban Futures Studio, Utrecht University and Centre for Unusual Collaborations (CUCo).

Learning goals

  • Explore different approaches to transformative research in case studies from UU, WUR, SRC and beyond that aim to bring about just and sustainable futures
  • Develop skills to evaluate how key aspects of research design, implementation, analysis and communication affect the contribution of research to addressing sustainability challenges
  • Build knowledge, confidence and ability to apply transformative processes /methods in your own present and future research and navigate emerging challenges to maximize its beneficial impacts
  • Connect with a growing network of diverse researchers within and beyond UU, WUR & SRC to further your inspiration and capability to undertake transformative research in collaboration with others


The introduction to the course is split across two half-days to explore: what is “transformative research", and what roles does it entail? This will be followed by four full-day trainings and one final day of harvesting collective insights. The course involves the following main components:

  • Lectures and dynamic exercises that explore transformative concepts and methods, delivered by a broad range of scholars undertaking transformative approaches in their research
  • In-depth engagement with novel case studies that involve diverse societal actors to transform possible futures
  • Crafting of your own personal narrative of how your research can contribute to just and sustainable futures
  • Participation in peer-to-peer learning sessions and walks
  • Home study (readings, videos, writing) in between sessions
  • Informal social interactions with peers and teaching team


Week 1
19/9: 9:00-17:30
20/9: 9:00-17:30
21/9: 9:00-17:30
23/9: 9:00-17:30

Week 2
26/9: 9:00-17:30
27/9: 10:00-12:00 + SELF STUDY
28/9: 9:00-17:30
30/9: 9:00-17:30

How to apply for a place

Application deadline: 26th of June 2022.

Note that we are aiming for a diverse group of PhD candidates; hence, places for the course will be decided based on the motivation of the PhD candidate when registering, and a good balance in disciplinary backgrounds.

Selection and registration

We will select participants based on 1) the diversity of interested PhD candidates, such as in terms of scientific background, research focus, and institute and 2) on the answers to the following questions you need to provide to us during registration:

  1. Why do you want to take this specific course? And why now? (max 250 words) - Save your answer offline, to prevent loosing work.
  2. What does 'transformative research' mean to you? (max 250 words) - Save your answer offline, to prevent loosing work.

We will let you know whether you are invited to join the course after the first week of July. Note that enlisting now does mean you are registered (if selected for the course), and the cancellation conditions apply.

Course fee

PhD candidates from:

  • WUR*, Utrecht University, Stockholm Resilience Centre, University of Twente, TU Eindhoven & UMC: €400
  • All other PhD candidates: €440

* = WUR PhD candidates: your graduate school will pay half of the costs if you have an approved TSP, following normal WUR procedures.

Fee includes: lunch for 7 days; coffee and tea; 1 dinner on Wednesday 21st; drinks on Monday 19th

Fee does not include: Accomodation, breakfast and dinners.
Accommodation is not included in the fee of the course, but there are several possibilities in Utrecht. Along with confirmation of a place on the course, we will share further details on affordable accommodation options in Utrecht.


We are pleased to offer three partial scholarships to support the participation PhD candidates from institutions based in the Global South. These scholarships will cover accommodation and the course fee. Travel to the Netherlands and food need to be covered by your institute. You will be informed by the first week of July if you are selected for this scholarship.

Cancellation condition

Up to 8 (eight) weeks prior to the start of the course, cancellation is free of charge.
Up to 4 (four) weeks prior to the start of the course, a fee of early bird reduced fee will be charged.
After this date you will be charged the full registration fee of €480, unless:

  • You can find someone to replace you in the course and supply the course coordinator with the name and contact information of your replacement. In this case you will only be charged a € 50,- cancellation fee.
  • You have a valid reason to cancel (illness or death in the family 1st or 2nd degree; Corona travel restrictions). In this case you will be charged the reduced fee and your supervisor/PI must send an email indicating the reason for cancellation.