Transformative Transdisciplinarity (TTDR)

Is a research methodology for doing science with society when facing societal challenges that are too complex for tackling from within academia only. In other words, it is a context-sensitive approach focusing on bringing societal stakeholders’ practical / experiential knowledge into the research process to co-produce systems, target and transformation knowledge — not only for the better understanding (Verstehen) and explaining (Erklärung) the complexity of the challenges facing us, but also for changing them (Verändern).

  • Systems knowledge = factual knowledge of what ‘is’ (current reality or actuality)
  • Target knowledge = normative knowledge of a more desirable situation or what ‘ought’ to be (future reality or potentiality)
  • Transformation knowledge = process / strategic knowledge of how to transition from the current reality towards a more desirable situation — in short, moving from actuality to potentiality.
  • Note: potentiality does not necessarily imply some or other future reality which does not exist, as yet. On the contrary, potentiality may very well involve discovering the evolutionary potential in / of the present — which can be explored as ‘adjacent possibles’ embedded in and under the conditions of the current situation. This, in turn, avoids falling into the trap of becoming overly future-oriented by producing some highly idealistic / normative scenarios of the future — which run the risk of becoming so dis-connected from the complexities of the current situation that they become impossible to be achieved in the present — and therefore needs to be deferred to some or other idealistic / normative point in the future.

Epistemologically speaking, these are three quite different – yet related – kinds of knowledge, each with their own guiding problem statements and research questions (dynamic epistemic objects). The flexibility of these theoretical objects is critically important; i.e. their ability to change with the changing foci in TTDR processes — which are always shaping and being shaped by the formative contexts in which they are embedded. This is signified in the above triadic illustration by the moving human hand shifting the blue ball in three different directions and positions (foci).