Online-Course on Narratives in Sustainability Transformations

The tdAcademy Fellow group "Fostering inclusivity and transformative action through narratives in transdisciplinary processes" around Paula Maria Bögel (University of Vechta, DE), Karoline Augenstein (Bergische Universität Wuppertal, DE) and Meike Levin-Keitel (TU Dortmund, DE) in close cooperation with Anna Sundermann (Leuphana University Lüneburg, DE) has developed an online course on the relevance of narratives in sustainability transformations. The course covers an overview of research and the role of narratives in transformations. It helps reflecting on different perspectives in a socio-constructivist research mode and understanding the complexities of sustainability transformations. The online course can be used both as a self-learning course and as open educational material in teaching. The material includes videos with theoretical inputs, interviews with practitioners and two case studies. The course is in English.


The course covers an overview of research fields and the role of narratives in sustainability transformation processes. Students are encouraged to reflect on the different perspectives in a socio-constructivist research mode and adopt an analytical perspective to develop a deeper understanding of the complexities of transformations.

Learning objectives

Students …

… will be able to distinguish and differentiate between different understandings of narratives.

… will be familiar with disciplinary perspectives on narratives in transformation processes.

… will be able to recognize values and beliefs in narratives.

… will develop a deeper understanding of onto-epistemological questions in research and scientific work in general (from a realism mode of science to a socio-constructivist mode, recognizing different perspectives on realities).


Beside a syllabus and a short course description (“Introduction to the course material”, Video 1, we offer three different types of material:

Part I Integrative theoretical foundations with five presentations to gain profound knowledge about narratives in sustainability transformations.

Part II Perspectives on narratives - From theory to practice with insights in seven different projects working with narratives in sustainability transformations in manifold ways.

Part III Case Studies: Apply your knowledge in two different case studies 

Curious to learn more about narratives in sustainability transformations? Then check the manifold material, either as teaching material, as basics for further research, or as interesting input to learn more about transformation processes!

DOWNLOAD MATERIALS (dropdown menu):


Part I: Integrative Theoretical Foundation

Lecture 1 | Introduction to the course material

Lecture 2 | Introduction to sustainability transitions

Lecture 3 | Psychological challenges in transitions communication

Lecture 4 | How narratives shape transitions

Lecture 5 | Understanding sustainability narratives as communicative action

Lecture 6 | SusTelling: The act of telling a story for sustainability

Part II: Perspectives on Narratives-From Theory to Practice

Interview 1 | My Balcony Network (Helena Trenks, ITAS)

Interview 2 | Mobility Transition City Wolfsburg (Tobias Rosswog)

Interview 3 | Neue Narrative Publishing House (Emma Marx)

Interview 4 | Scientist Rebellion (Dr Lorenzo M. Perrone, AIP)

Interview 5 | Circulus Research Project (Prof Dr Sina Leipold, UFZ Leipzig & University of Jena)

Interview 6 | Land Magazin (Christiane Langrock-Kögel, Kombüse GmbH)

Interview 7 | Tex3 Experiment (Dr Volker Stelzer, ITAS)

Part III: Apply your Knowledge in two different Case Studies 

Case 1 | Your Balcony Network. Engaging citizens and creating community through energy production

Case 2 | Mobility Transitions: Cycling Referendum in Berlin, Germany


Transdisciplinary Case Studies

The tdAcademy aims to strengthen the skills of transdisciplinary researchers and raise awareness of challenges that may arise in transdisciplinary research by creating case studies. In this section, the developed case studies are presented by the team from Leuphana University, along with relevant materials for higher education teaching.

What is a Transdisciplinary Case Study?

A transdisciplinary case study is a capacity building format and can be used in teaching or for own learning purposes. Developed from real-world cases, transdisciplinary case studies provide practice-oriented knowledge to teach fundamentals, principles, and the design of transdisciplinary research to those interested in learning about the research mode. The aim of the case studies is to strengthen competencies of transdisciplinary researchers and raise awareness of challenges that can arise during transdisciplinary research by means of completed transdisciplinary research projects from different geographic, socio-economic, and disciplinary contexts.

Structure and application of a Transdisciplinary Case Study

The structure and objective of the case studies are based on Harvard Business Case Studies, which are used at Harvard Business School as an integral part of the Master's program in Business Administration (Hsu 2016). In these, students are given the task to collaboratively analyze and discuss real business cases. Instead of business cases, transdisciplinary case studies focus on societally relevant and locally specific challenges that have been addressed in respective transdisciplinary projects. They have been applied in various formats for teaching in higher education institutions such as ETH Zürich or Leuphana Univeristy Lüneburg (Burandt et al. 2003; Stauffacher & Scholz 2012).

Each of our transdisciplinary case studies consists of a case description, presentation slides, and a teaching manual to guide participants and teachers through the case study. They vary in topic, lengths, and complexity; thus, they can be applied in different teaching formats (e.g., online course, summer school, etc.). With the help of storytelling elements, pictures and graphics, the case description is designed to make the case tangible and relatable. The presentation slides include tasks and additional literature. In addition, instructors can find helpful preparation tips and an exemplary timeline for successful case study implementation in the teaching guide. Uploaded as docs and pdf documents, they can be adapted to various application formats.

All case studies are offered as free learning materials and are not allowed to be used for commercial purposes. 


Burandt, S., Döscher, K., Fuisz, S.-K., Helgenberger, S., & Maly, L. (2003). Transdisziplinäre Fallstudien in Lüneburg. ETH Zürich und Universität Lüneburg. Retrieved from

Hsu, W. (2016). Harvard Business School (HBS) Case Method to Teaching English for Business Communication. Education and Linguistics Research, 2(2). Education and Linguistics Research 2(2). doi: 10.5296/elr.v2i2.10192

Stauffacher, M., & Scholz, R. W. (2012). Transdisziplinäre Lehrforschung am Beispiel der Fallstudien der ETH Zürich. In M. Dusseldorp & R. Beecroft (Eds.), Technikfolgen abschätzen lehren (pp. 223-239). Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden. doi: 10.1007/978-3-531-93468-6_15

Transdisciplinary Case Study Transylvania

In this case study, participants are encouraged to learn from sustainability issues and real- world transdisciplinary research in Southern Transylvania in Romania.

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Transdisciplinary Case Study Amberg

This case study is about supporting physical activity of older people in the Amberg region in the south of Germany. It introduces participants to transdisciplinary approaches in health research and to navigating the needs of different stakeholder groups.

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