We gather thinkers across disciplines to engage the challenges of our time.

How can we recouple human and non-human nature, economic and moral values, democracy as a form of governance and as a way of life, technology and ethics, social complexity and realistic utopias, and, finally, the theory and the practice of social change? Our fellowship program takes an interdisciplinary and trans-sectoral approach, bringing together academics from different disciplines with politicians, entrepreneurs, journalists, and artists.


We gather thinkers across disciplines to engage the challenges of our time. Our mission is to nourish transformation through interdisciplinary and trans-sectoral collaboration. Our residential fellowship program hosts up to 30 fellows in Hamburg, Germany. In addition, we host events and workshops and collaborate with other institutions. The Institute is committed to incubating new ideas, expanding the influence of work already done, and making a tangible difference through its work.

Artwork by Cristiana Couceiro


All of our activities are clustered around three Research Areas: The Human Condition in the 21st Century, The Future of Democracy, and Socio-Economic Transformation. An annual theme provides focus across these areas, and structures our research activities, fellowship programs, lectures, and workshops.

Fellowships are primarily granted to research groups headed by program chairs. These groups address specific problems within The Human Condition in the 21st Century, The Future of Democracy, and Socio-Economic Transformation. Individual fellowships are also offered.

We live and work in the Warburg Ensemble, a series of 19th century townhouses that provide the conditions for hosting up to 35 fellows to work on collaborative projects. In addition to residential units, there are rooms for individual and group work, areas for public events, common dining rooms, a library, a public book store, an artists’ studio, and a garden.


Our research areas explore foundational issues of what it means to be human, how democratic self-governance could be improved, and how to accomplish a socio-economic transformation.

The Future of Democracy

The Future of Democracy investigates the reforms and practices necessary for the revitalization of democracy under the rapidly changing conditions of digitalization, climate change, and geo-political shifts of power.

Socio-Economic Transformation

The Socio-Economic Transformation research area works on recoupling economic progress and social wellbeing, which ranges from critically assessing the growth imperative of modern capitalist societies to imagining alternative economic practices.

The Human Condition in the 21st Century

The Human Condition in the 21st Century examines the value-laden structure of the human condition from a multiperspectival point of view, thereby shedding light on the direction and purpose of human activities.


  • Beyond Capitalism: War Economy and Democratic Planning

    How can we create a fairer, sustainable society amidst global crisis, using a democratic 'war economy' and redefined concepts of freedom and progress?

    This program explores the concept of a democratically driven 'war economy' as a means to reshape society towards equality and sustainability amidst global crises. It aims to redefine notions of freedom and progress in response to the unfolding planetary catastrophe.

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  • Africapitalism: Shared Entrepreneurship for Economic Development

    How are community-based businesses economically empowering rural and urban Africa?

    Capitalism receives criticism for its negative impacts, despite its benefits. Efforts to reform it are underway. Based on the concept of Africapitalism, this program explores fit-for-purpose capitalism and promotes shared entrepreneurship rooted in communal ties, offering a blueprint for addressing poverty and inequality. The program emphasizes the importance of indigenous approaches to economic empowerment in Africa and aims to contribute to the global discourse on the transformation of capitalism.

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  • Futures of Capitalism: Radical Democracy and the Financial Imagination

    How do the workings of financial markets shape our social reality, and how can practices of speculation and distortion become tools of radical democratic imagination?

    The Futures of Capitalism program seeks to develop a new language for analyzing, critiquing, and reforming the complex configurations through which finance exerts its influence. Bringing together scholars and artists representing diverse fields of research and practice, our work will be organized around three interconnected streams, each reflecting a core tenet of capitalist dynamics: technology, society, and politics.

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  • The Future of Food: Power and Biodiversity

    How can harnessing biodiversity enable progressive power shifts in the food system?

    Without a significant, proactive, and sustained long-term change in the power forces defining food, which includes recognizing the pivotal role of biodiversity and the imperative to diversify food production and consumption, it is hard to imagine achieving sustainable, healthy, inclusive, and fair food systems. In this project, we will address these and other challenges by identifying obstacles arising from power asymmetries and offering multidisciplinary and systemic solutions. We will provide a comprehensive analysis on biodiversity and power, developing concrete multidisciplinary recommendations to promote food systems diversification.

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  • Planetary Governance

    How can planetary governance reform proposals be implemented?

    This program will tackle the implementation of the Climate Governance Commission's report Governing Our Planetary Emergency to refine, sharpen, and move forward with the implementation of critical climate governance reform.

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  • Bitter Victory: What Kind of Victory is Possible in the 21st Century?

    Terror, violence, and wars persist relentlessly, affecting every corner of our planet. Civil and civic, socio-political, economic, scientific, and cultural discourses are contaminated by the pervasive presence of militant rhetoric and warrior-like language. Our project aims to dissect and compare the evolution of victory doctrines and explore their implications on the termination of violence and establishment of peace.

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PROGRAMS 2023/24

  • Governing the Planetary Commons

    How are the planetary commons to be governed in an ecologically responsible, just, democratic, and resilient way?
    The program "Governing the Planetary Commons: a Focus on the Amazon" examines how to responsibly and sustainably govern crucial Earth systems, using the Amazon Rainforest as an example, and explores different governance models that could work in an ecologically sound, democratic, and resilient way.

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  • Depolarizing Public Debates

    How can we depolarize public debates on socio-ecological transformations?
    The aim of the program „Depolarizing Public Debates“ is to develop tools for reducing polarization in public discussions about socio-ecological issues, engaging with practitioners from journalism, digital platforms, and civil society.

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  • Conceptions of Human Flourishing

    How does a non-materialist conception of human flourishing inform the reformulation of the SDGs in 2030?
    The program „Conceptions of Human Flourishing” explores how different cultures conceive of human flourishing, how the current materialist approach may limit it, and how to redesign the SDGs with a broader, more inclusive view of what human flourishing means.

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  • Black Feminism and the Polycrisis

    How can we use the unique insights and intersectional methods of Black feminism to respond to the complexities of the contemporary polycrisis?
    The program "Black Feminism and the Polycrisis" aims to offer a novel solution space to interlocking global crises by drawing on intersectional theory and praxis, developing critical arguments about its relationship to Europatriarchal systems of domination, and offering imaginative visions for a better future.

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  • Reclaiming Common Wealth

    What are pathways, processes and institutional designs for the generation and governance of land commons?
    The program "Reclaiming Common Wealth" explores pathways, processes, and institutional designs for the generation and governance of land commons, aiming to address discontents arising from institutional investments in land, assess theories and concepts of property and value, and establish a repository of the law and institutional design of land commons, with a focus on Commons Public Partnerships.

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