Transformative Research

Defining Transformative Research

Our living definition of transformative research

Transformative Research seeks to initiate change on at least three levels:

(1) On a personal, cultural and societal level through the research process itself, not just through its results.
(2) It exposes itself and dares to be transformed through the dialogical encounter with the subject matter.
(3) The researchers themselves come out of the process as somebody different.Transformative Research challenges the Western understanding of research as being objective, rational and secular. It gives room for other approaches and diverse forms of knowing that can be relational, holistic and circular. Thus, historically grown power dynamics and research paradigms are made transparent and can eventually be transformed.

Conducting transformative research must be regarded as an ongoing process which will always bear alienation and ambiguities.

Critical reflection, transparency, collaboration and exchange about personal experiences and insights as well as attitudes such as humility, courage and curiosity are profound characteristics that help to initiate and continue such a process. There are already various groups practicing transformative research.

The ZGF team members are in the process of finding their own understanding and definition of what transformative research means and how they can put it into practice. Follow the ZGF News or its Blog postings to be informed about the ongoing process.


Other definitions


"Transformative research involves ideas, discoveries, or tools that radically change our understanding of an important existing scientific or engineering concept or educational practice or leads to the creation of a new paradigm or field of science, engineering, or education. Such research challenges current understanding or provides pathways to new frontiers." - The National Science Foundation


"Transformative research aims to develop technical, social, and organizational solutions to current problems in a collaborative process between scholars and practitioners" (Schader Foundation)


"Transformative research is oriented towards concrete social problems and is characterized by an explicit claim to intervention. The goal is to catalyze concrete change processes and to actively involve stakeholders in the research process" (Wuppertal Institute).


„Unsere Mission ist es, transformatives Wissen für Wege in nachhaltige Gesellschaften zu entwickeln. Dafür forschen wir transdisziplinär, transformativ und ko-kreativ, um gemeinsam mit unseren Partnern aus Wissenschaft, Gesellschaft und Politik Lösungswege für drängende Nachhaltigkeitsprobleme zu entwickeln und Entscheidungsprozesse auf nationaler und internationaler Ebene zu unterstützen.“ (IASS)