Governance & Sustainability Lab - Nachhaltige räumliche Entwicklung und Governance

The Governance & Sustainability Lab is the working group attached to the chair "Nachhaltige räumliche Entwicklung und Governance" - we are however more than just the chairholder. Therefore, and because we are committed to collaborative sustainability science, we call ourselves a Lab.

The lab takes up the challenge of exploring policies and governance mechanisms to cope with socio-ecological change and to steer development towards sustainability. Emerging governance forms, that strive for more legitimate and just ways to govern and arrange socio-natural relationships are of particular interest for us. 

The epistemological context for our research is the intertwinement and inseparability of nature and society, as we study for instance hydro-social arrangements or energy-scapes. The normative context of our research stems from the idea that governance is not primarily a question of institutional effectiveness but also of power. Therefore we belief that governance, of which spatial and environmental planning is just one form, is key for a deep understanding how society-nature dynamics are shaped and can be transformed. 

Empirically we study how politics and power shape practices of resource and land use. Conceptually we take a critical perspective on apparently given ordering systems in environmental geography such as scales and spatial entities or the dualisms of nature and culture or urban versus rural. Currently there is a major research project on urban waterscapes ongoing ( in which we study how the flow of water through the city is shaped and how this then reproduces inequalities within the city. 

On an applied level we aim to inform the process of designing and implementing resource management strategies – in particular to enhance adaptive and transformative governance solutions to respond to societal challenges. We are actively contributing to national and international networks such as the ARL (Academy for Spatial Research and Planning), the Future Earth Initiative, the Sustainable Water Future Program and the Earth System Governance Project. 

In teaching and education we provide a comprehensive training in spatial and environmental governance in undergraduate courses. There we also offer a module on the contestedness of socio-technical systems and urban infrastructures. Theoretically we build a curriculum in the field of political geography and critical political ecology to train geographers in critical thinking. 

For further information on events and activities please see also the announcements of conferences and workshops.