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 programme 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.


Each of the following projects addresses crucial aspects for conceiving, analyzing, and realizing a sustainable transformation.

Paradigm Change

Paradigm Change

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 programme, we will explore alternative paradigms.

Measuring Prosperity

Measuring Prosperity

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 programme 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.

This page connects research around the topics of measurement, wellbeing economics, prosperity, planetary boundaries, inequality, and the common good.

Digital Empowerment

Digital Empowerment

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 programme 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


  • 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

  • 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.

    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

  • 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

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