Programme overview

Societal Transitions
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The study programme in a nutshell

Throughout the year you will follow different courses and tracks building up to the graduation project. You will study theories and methods from various disciplines and learn to approach these in a critically constructive way, while being encouraged to incorporate multiple perspectives and develop your own vision. Course formats include lectures, working- and discussion groups, design and experimentation sessions and field trips. 

What the programme entails

The programme includes 5 mandatory courses based on interdisciplinary fields (PDF), including:  

  • transition science (focused on understanding system dynamics, actor networks and transition patterns) 

  • philosophy (critical reflection, deconstructing and redefining complex concepts such as sustainability) 

  • ecological sustainability (impact of behaviour on climate) 

  • behavioural science (effects and change of social and economic behaviour and current societal frameworks such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals) 

  • urban planning (systemic perspective on innovations that aim at urban change and how they are globally connected) 

Reflection and leadership tracks 

Parallel to the core and elective courses, you will follow a reflection course and a (personal) leadership course. During the personal leadership training you will learn to understand your own role within societal transitions, communicate about them, and become an active leader for change. During the reflection sessions, you will critically assess your experiences. 


You will also choose relevant electives from master's programmes of different EUR schools. An overview of the possible electives will be added before the summer. 

Graduation project 

In the graduation project you are challenged to design your own transition strategy, related to a self-chosen social (un)sustainable challenge. First, you will research and analyse this challenge, then work together with stakeholders on possible solution directions. Last, you will record your research process and the chosen strategy in a paper and present it to an audience of scientists and practitioners. 

The curriculum visualised

The information displayed below is meant to give an impression of the programme, and can therefore not be considered complete and accurate for current students. Enrolled students should always consult the MyEUR page of their programme for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

Course overview

Block 1

In this first course of the master, you will get acquainted with each other and be introduced to the complexity of (un)sustainability by observing, researching, experiencing, analysing, and reflecting on a concrete urban sustainability challenge (such as waste, food, energy or mobility). Various learning activities are organised, including lectures, group work sessions, design sessions, excursions, and group presentations of the revision of the contested concept(s).

Block 2

This course offers an introduction to sustainability challenges with a focus on urban context. You will gain a basic understanding of the global institutional context for sustainability, the role of cities and the root causes of most persistent problems. You will start to analyse patterns of unsustainability, path-dependency and lock-in in cities. You will identify how different types of agency shape urban development and critically reflect upon the fit (or lack thereof) between interventions and actual transition dynamics.

This course provides you with a deeper theoretical understanding of the dynamics and mechanisms of societal transitions. The historical evolution of the scientific field, its key assumptions, and relevant concepts such as path dependencies, regimes, niches, inertia, disruption as well as socio-technical and socio-ecological systems are central elements. You will critically reflect about limitations of these theories and are offered further conceptual tools. The course also adds creative learning elements such as Pecha Kucha presentations and debates facilitated as Socratic Dialogues.

Block 3

The Philosophical Toolkit will teach various argumentation and strategy approaches, including ’street epistemology’ (finding ways of getting to agreement with people you disagree with), sociocracy decision-making practices, crowdsourcing methodologies, and the history and philosophy of sustainability as an adversarial rather than polderpolitiek activity. We will explore how to not just find the ‘lowest common denominators’ but pay attention to deep plurality/difference, glossed not as better or worse, but different methods of achieving common aims. The course will also include group work based on multisolving, and compare partnership v domination society archetypes. Through the Socratic method, role playing, theories of change exercises, we’ll explore how to maximize positive behavioral change and reduce resistance via kindness and empathy. 

There is room for elective courses in the master Societal Transitions. Electives in other MA programmes of the EUR are identified that correspond with this programme.

Block 4

This course assumes that to influence societal transitions, processes of searching, learning, and experimenting involving multiple societal actors need to be organised. You will be able to understand what transformative methods are, critically evaluate them and apply these types of methods in co-production processes. Emphasizing an experiential approach, you will design and experience different workshops within the safety of the classroom. You will make use of co-production and transition methods and deal with the tensions and dilemma’s arising in such processes, including issues like power and politics, legitimacy, roles of different actors, directionality, etc.

There is room for elective courses in the master Societal Transitions. Electives in other MA programmes of the EUR are identified that correspond with this programme.

Block 5

In this master programme knowledge and competences are equally valued: the graduation project serves as a challenge in which you must show your analytical and collaboration skills as well as your abilities to co-create, frame, inspire and organise a concrete intervention with and for stakeholders. It integrates the core courses in a self-directed learning project. In the graduation project, the core competences of a transformative leader come together: think - connect – act - reflect. You will analyse, research, and develop a transition strategy for a real-life societal transition context, and design and facilitate an intervention for the chosen challenge with and for stakeholders. The graduation project is approached as a collective learning experience – for you, stakeholders, and teachers.

Continuing throughout the year

Learning about global environmental and social crises can be emotionally difficult. Rather than push these feelings away, we invite you to continually reflect on your journey. Our teaching team will give you the tools to structure your reflection in a constructive way. This will allow you to take a critical distance and connect emotions and learning experiences to your personal and professional development. You will think about your contribution in group settings and your role in society. During this reflection track, we will using guided journaling and interviewing. The journals and interview transcripts will be used as input for group reflection workshops in which you will be offered a range of methods to understand your learning process holistically. You will come away from the reflection track with a sense of agency and personal empowerment to take action for transformative change and societal transitions. 

The leadership development track follows the flow of the programme in which you will go from understanding and shaping your own role within societal transitions to communicating about and becoming active leaders for societal transitions. We will start with discovering your style of leadership and how this is guided by your values and capabilities.  You will devise your personal narrative related to your desired role in societal transitions. Next, we dive deeper into team leadership and how to build productive collaborations with the people around you. Finally, you will learn to apply the concept of transformative leadership, which links directly to your graduation project. 

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