Conceptions of Human Flourishing — Reformulating the SDGs

How does a non-materialist conception of human flourishing inform the reformulation of the SDGs in 2030?

Conceptions of Human Flourishing — Reformulating the SDGs

How does a non-materialist conception of human flourishing inform the reformulation of the SDGs in 2030?


Starting in 2025, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will undergo a 5-year renewal and renegotiation process. Towards that end, the question of the nature of what constitutes the “human” in human development and, by extension, what “human flourishing” is requires a renewed inquiry inclusive of non-materialist philosophies and non-western cultures.

In contemporary politics, modern scientism has emerged as the dominant scientific doctrine informing policy frameworks of human flourishing. This perspective focuses on the material conditions of survival and its ontology and methodology has informed the design and formulation of the SDGs. This perspective on the human condition and its role and place in nature, however, hardly captures the complexity of human experience across the world and in different cultures.

Alternative conceptions, such as Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness, the modern idealist turn in the sciences, or conceptions of a New Enlightenment, signal a change in the contemporary scientific world view. This shift posits a transition towards an ontology that is more inclusive of different cultures and philosophical world views as well as one that is more attuned to a holistic view of human nature as a subset of nature itself.

The program on the “Conceptions of Human Flourishing — Reformulating the SDGs” brings together a diverse team to develop a non-materialist and inter-cultural conception of human flourishing that can inform the policy agenda of the reformulation of the SDGs starting in 2025. The team will work on sub-questions such as (but not exclusive to):

  • What are enduring and cross-culturally shared non-materialist conceptions of human flourishing across cultures?
  • How do the reductively materialist conceptions that have so far informed the SDGs limit human flourishing?
  • How to reformulate the overarching concept of human flourishing as well as the individual SDGs considering an inter-cultural, non-materialist conception of human flourishing?

Fellowship Call is now closed.



  • 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.

    Learn more about the Program

  • 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.

    Learn more about the Program


  • The Human Condition in the 21st Century

    How can we create a sustainable value-system for the 21st century?
    This foundational program asks what it means to be human in the 21st century and how to create a sustainable value system for our interconnected world. The program examines the relationships between humans and nature, freedom, morality, growth, animals, and technology, and seeks to turn insights from philosophy and social science into actionable projects.

    Learn more about the Program

  • The Future of Democracy

    How can we transition to an ecologically responsible and democratically resilient future?
    The program “The Future of Democracy” places its main focus on the prospects for comprehensive ecological democratization. The guiding rationale is that social transformations require a collective imaginary of a future worth striving for.

    Learn more about the program

  • Socio-Economic Transformation

    How can the economy serve social well-being within planetary boundaries?
    Our economy must serve our social needs and respect planetary boundaries. But this is currently not the case: we are on an unsustainable path. Our economic activities have contributed to societies growing more unequal across various dimensions, depriving some of meeting their basic human needs and putting political systems under stress.

    Learn more about the Program

  • The New Hanse Project

    How can cities use data to become more democratic and sustainable?
    The program “The New Hanse” investigates the relationship between urban digital infrastructures, data justice, and sustainability, supporting the city of Hamburg’s transformation towards climate neutrality with tangible data-driven pilot projects.

    Learn more about the project

| stay informed | stay connected


We are in this together – and our newsletter is the best way to connect and be inspired. Competent, constructive, creative. A wealth of insight and guidance in a world in turmoil.


We use cookies to measure how often our site is visited and how it is used. You can withdraw your consent at any time with effect for the future. For further information, please refer to our privacy policy.