About the programme

Innovating for resilience

Modern societies face many new challenges. Often these are complex and require input from multiple disciplines to be successfully understood and addressed. In such a complex context, it is crucial to better understand why some systems (individuals, organizations, communities, economies) can withstand pressures and absorb shocks (i.e., become and remain resilient), while others risk to suffer from serious consequences. Furthermore, understanding the causes of and the impacts on certain trends, like increasing poverty, inequality and issues related to health, education, social well-being and diversity, is important to improve the situation. Many of these trends seem to follow a similar pattern, whereby the situation can be significantly different before and after a so-called 'turning point'. 

Turning points

An example of the working of turning points is the ‘Broken Windows’ theory: if broken windows are not replaced in an apartment building, more windows will be damaged. The poorer condition of the building will eventually lead to even more vandalism up to the point that restoring the situation will become very difficult, if not impossible. To avoid this from happening, supervision of the building, preventing damaging of windows in a timely fashion and keeping the building tidy, is important. In order to address some of the grand societal challenges, it is important to identify, recognize and possibly manage such turning points.

A turning point is not a tipping point

A tipping point occurs when a system irreversibly collapses, for instance when certain meteorologic events such as gulf stream alterations usher in an ice age. A – positive – turning point is reflecting an operation in which exactly the right button is pressed to change a multitude of related variables. An example from the healthcare sector is controlled weight loss in which this health measure solves numerous medical complaints such as hypertension and joint complaints. These joint complaints may prevent overweight people from exercising, creating a vicious circle.

Identify and understand turning points

To further understand the existence and impact of turning points in important societal challenges, research is needed to identify turning points, and to address questions like: how do turning points develop, what are their effects, can they be predicted, influenced or generated and if yes, how? This focus can lead to a better understanding and thus to the use of these turning points as chances or levers for a positive impact.

Four societal challenges

The research program Innovating for Resilience contains several themes that can be grouped along four societal challenges. Turning points are the common denominator of all of the research projects within these four challenges:

  1. Inequalities in Vulnerable Areas
  2. Digital Transformation
  3. Open Societies
  4. Broad Sustainability

In these four challenges, questions are tackled not only in a multidisciplinary way (i.e., with multiple disciplines) but also in an interdisciplinary way (really working together and overcoming disciplinary boundaries), and preferably transdisciplinary as well (cooperating with non-academic partners in an effort to combine academic expertise with practical/professional knowledge and needs).

This research program thus reflects not only the pursuit of seeking - and possibly even influencing - turning points within societal challenges but also the pursuit of overcoming any kind of boundaries in team research (e.g., regions, sectors, levels or disciplines).

Team research

With Innovating for Resilience the Open Universiteit wants to achieve an integration of not only ideas and theories but also the creative exchange of research methodologies and insights across different disciplines within the Open Universiteit. This is precisely how the whole can become more than the sum of its parts and how we are expected to achieve significant impact on these four important societal challenges.