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About the programme

Innovating for resilience


Modern societies face new challenges. Communities, cultures and economies are more interconnected than ever before, technology presents new possibilities but also threats. They often work on the basis of divergent value systems. The various constituting elements of our emerging global village display complex interactions and transformations that are often poorly understood.

New and unexpected dynamics

New and unexpected dynamics emerge frequently, and uncertainty and complexity, often coupled with ambiguity and value disagreements, have become key elements of modern societies. In this fast changing context, the challenges are manifold and they are often characterized by non-linearity, tipping points, and cascading effects. 

Resilience is key

In such a complex context, resilience is a key societal asset. The term 'resilience' refers to the capacity to absorb shocks and still maintain normal systemic functioning on the one hand. On the other hand, it points to the capacity for renewal, re-organization, development or even transformation. More insight in the constituting elements and processes that influence both forms of resilience is an important scientific challenge. It is crucial to better understand why some systems (individuals, communities, companies, economies) can withstand pressures and continue to fulfill their functions. But it is equally important to understand the dynamics of renewal, because societal (and economic, cultural and ecological) environments can change so fundamentally that they leave their “stability domain” and need to radically innovate and transform. In short, societies will need to keep Innovating for Resilience. The resilience of people, organizations, cities and societies thus is constantly put to the test. Science and innovations can help to pass that test. 

The role of science

Science can play an important role by increasing the understanding of these complexities and to advance resilience. This can be achieved by producing fundamental knowledge, but also by conducting applied research that offers prospects for action for social actors. Addressing complex issues and solving social problems requires action, and often includes behavioral changes as innovations generally heavily rely on learning.

Multidisciplinary approach is essential

Because extensive societal developments are multilayered and multifaceted, they can be only understood and managed with integrated multidisciplinary approaches. In order to successfully address today’s challenges, insights into the operation of all systems, practices and stakeholders involved, are required to understand. As modern transformations emerge at the intersection of social, technological and environmental systems, only multidisciplinary research can generate valuable insights into how to embark on them and how to face the ethical, juridical, technical, governmental and psychological dilemma’s involved.

Education and collaboration with practics

Moreover, a vital interplay and interdependence between multidisciplinary research and educational innovation is important for contributing to modern global challenges. While conducting multidisciplinary research is a first, important step in understanding these challenges and providing solutions, innovative educational technologies that focus on digital, blended, flexible and activating learning can make these insights useful and ultimately contribute to building a resilient society. In order to address the complexity of the challenges described above, close collaboration with practice and thus facing real problems is an important aspect of the approach in this  multi-disciplinary research.

The multi-disciplinary research program Innovating for Resilience

The OU accommodates several relevant disciplines that can address these modern global challenges. For this multidisciplinary programme it has created a research environment that facilitates the integration of insights from different research disciplines in order to understand and explain existing and emergent global challenges. The programme wants to serve the following aims: 

  1. Integrating disciplinary knowledge and generate scientific insights into modern transformations and their impact on society (individuals, communities, cities, companies, economies, legal systems);
  2. Finding solutions to the issues and problems (e.g. social, legal, ethical, normative, and economical) engendered by recent developments in society;
  3. Analysing the problems and dilemmas posed by the solutions to these challenges and looking for ways to deal with them;
  4. Developing innovative educational activities and practices aimed at tackling these modern challenges. 

Three lines 

The program contains several themes that can be grouped along three lines, with all disciplines ideally contributing to each line: 

  1. Safety and Resiliency in Urban Environments
  2. Innovation in Education
  3. Learning and Innovation in Resilient Systems

Download the Research programme Innovating for resilience.