Science & Practice for Transformative Change

Verbredende minor
10 weken


The Minor will be organised along three parallel streams of thinking, organising and doing. The thinking will offer thought provoking lectures offered by engaged sustainability academics from different schools and invites students to engage in critical discussions. It will offer new methodologies to support critical thinking and a systems and transition perspective as well as design methods to develop new interventions. The students will form small interdisciplinary teams to develop their shared transition analysis of a specific persistent challenge and develop a transformative intervention for e.g. food, health, finance, mobility or energy (organising). Each week will be a combination of seminars and group work.

The assignments of this minor (video pitch, final report and presentation and final learning reflection) are connected to the development of an intervention to tackle a persistent problem. Thus, the separate sessions that you will follow will be linked to the assignments providing the guidance and the tools to complete it.

This minor is based on an emancipatory approach, which means that you will be provided with tools and opportunities for learning about sustainability transformations that you will be able to explore and develop further together with your fellow-students in a small project group, together with a supervisor. You will use techniques such as defining and (re)framing the problem, interviewing local stakeholders and design thinking. In the meantime, you will learn how to remain critical and reflective, asking questions such as: Does our intervention contribute to a more sustainable and inclusive society, does it lead to a desired direction? Which other problems might it cause? In this way you will learn the competencies and skills and develop a mind-set that will facilitate you in tackling real complex problems in society.

In the first five weeks of the minor you will focus on defining and analysing a persistent problem. For that you will follow a set of steps of the Problem Based Project Oriented Learning (PPL) approach. In parallel, you will learn theories that will bring up the perspectives of different disciplines on transformative change for sustainability. This will be done through thought-provoking lectures that will activate your prior knowledge and stimulate you to think critically about the problems and solutions to complex sustainability challenges. After the lectures you will often be engaged in workshops to practice with the tools that you learned using real-life problems and finally you will re-convene with your PPL group to apply this knowledge to a specific theme such as food, energy, mobility and finance.

Over time and as you become more confident with the methods applied for transformative change you will be focusing more and more on designing an intervention to deal with a specific sustainability challenge, while taking into consideration the perspectives of the different disciplines involved. Therefore, the last five weeks of the minor are thus devoted to the application of research methods on social innovation, governance and business amongst others. Next to this, you will be working on your personal reflection on the learning process that you are going through (learning reflection).

Learning objectives

After completing this Minor, you will be able to: 

  • Analyze complex societal challenges; 
  • Evaluate patterns and mechanisms of transformative change and transitions; 
  • Apply transformative research methods;
  • Create transformative entrepreneurship ways to integrate different types of knowledge;
  • Apply interdisciplinary understanding through social learning and teamwork;
  • Apply design, systems, critical and strategic thinking; 
  • Anticipate future scenarios;
  • Develop collaborative skills for group work;
  • Develop self-awareness and a positive impact attitude;
  • Develop a can-do and pro-active mindset;
  • Communicate research results to a broad audience.

Special aspects

Attendance is mandatory and will be taken into account when grading the student’s professional behavior.

Overview content per week

Week 1: (Un)Sustainability

  • Introduction to environmental, socio-economic and the political economy of (un)sustainability
  • Introduction to Problem Based Project Work (PPL)
  • Analyzing persistent problems with system thinking
  • Environmental philosophy: denial in science

Week 2: Resilience and Transitions

  • Understanding resilience and critical transitions in nature and society
  • Problem definition and transition analysis
  • Ecological grief workshop
  • Ecological philosophy: transformation as sympoiesis

Week 3: Problem analysis and research methods in systems and design thinking

  • Introduction to systems thinking
  • Transformation by Design
  • Qualitative research methods
  • Future Food Systems
  • Public health, health inequalities, and the social determinants of health

Week 4: Transitions in Law, Trade and Communication

  • Legal barriers to Environmental and Social Justice
  • Trade and Sustainability
  • Principles of Science Communication
  • Intercultural aspects of sustainability

Week 5: Transitions in Arts and Fashion

  • Envisioning Alternative Futures
  • Sustainability and Circular Economy in the Fashion Industry

Week 6: Transitions in Governance and Business

  • Social innovation
  • Sustainability in the Global South: international trade and water resources
  • Corporate Social Responsibility and Consumer Activism
  • Sustainable Entrepreneurship

Week 7: Transformative Research

  • Transformative research, the role of researchers and scholarly activism
  • Transition management and the politics of transition

Week 8

  • Assignment writing: report and final learning reflection

Week 9

  • Assignment writing: report and final learning reflection

Week 10

Final presentations

Teaching methods

The sessions will consist of seminars and group work in a problem-based project-oriented learning setting.

    Teaching materials 

    Scientific articles, chapters from books, videos, reports.


    Method of examination

    Students will design a concrete intervention based on the theoretical foundation they acquire in this minor. They will be graded based on presentation, participation, and theoretical soundness.

    Assignment (40%): group analysis of a persistent problem that highlights its transformative change potential and elaboration of a report and presentation of the report

    Pitch (20%): individual pitch proposing an intervention to an external party

    Learning reflection (30%): individual reflection on the contents learned in the minor through the application of theory to a personal and a professional setting.

    Professional behaviour (10%)

    Composition of final grade

    The final grade will be composed of two small individual assignments (20% for a pitch and 30% for a learning reflection), a large academic group assignment (40%) and professional behaviour (10%).

    Feedback method

    Constant feedback to students will be provided throughout the Minor. In particular, feedback will be given:

    - At the end of each PPL session;

    - After each assignment’s deadline (outline and draft(s));

    - Together with the final assignment’s grades.

    Contact person

    Ana Vasques
    +31 623 673 146

    Location: Erasmus University College (EUC) 3rd floor

    Faculty website

    Verbredende minor
    10 weken
    Erasmus University College
    Studiepunten (EC)
    Erasmus University College

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