Socio-Economic Transformation

How can the economy serve social well-being within planetary boundaries? How can we measure progress? How can we ensure that digital governance serves public interest and the common good?

Socio-Economic Transformation

How can the economy serve social well-being within planetary boundaries? How can we measure progress? How can we ensure that digital governance serves public interest and the common good?


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. Our economic activities are also responsible for progressing climate change, environmental degradation, and the loss of biodiversity, putting the earth’s natural capital at high risk. Our future depends on our ability to transform the economic system – to take on stewardship with our collective goals in mind. This program is about the socio-economic transformation. We will explore how we can transform our current economic system in a way that meets human social needs without undermining the integrity and stability of the environment.

An economic transformation that serves social wellbeing within planetary boundaries requires an investigation of new paradigms for economics. Orthodox economic theory is based on characteristics that stand in contrast to these goals, for example individualism, socially disengaged behaviour, utility-based well-being, or progress as economic growth. In a workshop series and a fellowship program, we will explore alternative paradigms.

A socio-economic transformation also requires reliable measures of prosperity so that we can evaluate if we reached our economic, social and environmental goals. Businesses also have a responsibility for reporting their contribution to society and the planet, and not just to shareholders. In our fellowship program on the Measurement of Prosperity, we will develop a normative dashboard of indicators for the economic, social, and environmental domains. We will also collect disaggregated statistics that fall within these domains. As a result, discussions about the normative framework of a dashboard will be connected with the actual provision of indicators.

Against the background of rapid proliferation of digital technologies, it is an urgent task to ensure that the rules of the digital economy are directed at public interest and the common good. Our Global Initiative for Digital Empowerment (GIDE) will bring new concepts and diverse international partners to an increasingly complex digital governance agenda. The program assembles pivotal policy makers and institutions of influence to develop a humanistic model of digital governance.

Through our collaboration with the Global Solutions Initiative and engagement with global policy advisory processes for the G7 and G20, other aspects pertinent to the economic transformation agenda will also be tackled in this program.

  • What should new paradigms for economics look like?

  • Which scales and actor coalitions seem most promising for a systemic rethinking and implementation of innovative economic models?

  • Where do prime barriers of the implementation of long-standing ideas for sustainable economies lie and how could they be overcome?

  • Can we create dashboards with regular and consistent measures of economic, social, and environmental prosperity?

  • What are effective policies for promoting economic, environmental, and social prosperity that are consonant with the dashboards?

  • What are the measures of policy effectiveness that should guide the politics on wellbeing?

  • Which social and environmental challenges will digital technologies create in the future?

  • What policies do we need for the digital economy to serve broad interests of humans, and our planet, not just of businesses and governments?


Sim Chi Yin, Burmese Spring, 2012, © Sim Chi Yin

Most Burmese Sim Chin Yin has met recently seem to hold out hope, however tentative. As a local NGO worker in Mandalay put it: “For us, it is now it’s like 3 in the morning. We can sense that the sun is coming out, but we can’t see it yet.” Not only in the old city of Yangon, but in every port of the world, people question if political change will be real or lasting, and even the optimistic worry if the regime will relapse into old ways. Sim Chin Yin depicts in her series "Burmese Spring" an undeniable sense of expectation manifesting not only on the streets, but infiltrating in every form of mainstream media.

Curatorial Note

The first cohort of fellows is expected to take up their work by October 2022. Fellow work will address new paradigms for economic, measurement of prosperity, and digital empowerment. We are currently looking for fellows to join us in the academic year of 2022/23 and 2023/24. If you are interested, please refer to our section How to join for further information.



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    The program “Voices from the Past – Lessons for the Future” is analyzing key-moments in Europe and beyond, treating change as a generational practice as well as an exercise in memory.

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