Leverage Points

Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformation

Understanding how changes in interconnected social-ecological systems facilitate the transformation to sustainability represents one of the key challenges of sustainability science. Drawing on insights from systems thinking and solution-oriented transdisciplinary research, this project will focus on hitherto under-recognized leverage points – system properties where a small shift can lead to fundamental changes in the system as a whole. Leverage Points will focus on changes in relatively intractable, but potentially highly influential, system properties that could help to realign complex social-ecological systems to the normative goals of sustainability.

Specifically, we will analyse three sustainability-relevant realms of leverage:

  1. Institutional dynamics (RESTRUCTURE);
  2. Human-environment interactions (RECONNECT); and
  3. Sustainability-related knowledge creation and use (RETHINK).

The three realms of leverage  will be studied individually and with regard to their interdependencies, on two key themes (food and energy) in two contrasting case study regions (Transylvania in Romania, and Lower Saxony in Germany).

Team: Daniel Lang (speaker), Joern Fischer, Jens Newig, Thomas Schomerus, Dave Abson, Julia Leventon, Ulli Vilsmaier, Henrik von Wehrden.

Leverage Points is funded by the Volkswagen Foundation and the Lower Saxonian Ministry for Education and Research from 4/2015 until 3/2019 with a volume of € 2’500’000.

For details, see www.leveragepoints.org.


Newig, J., Derwort, P., & Jager, N. W. (2019). Sustainability through institutional failure and decline? Archetypes of productive pathways. Ecology and Society, 24(1), 18 [free open access content].

Derwort, P., Jager, N., & Newig, J. (2019). Towards productive functions? A systematic review of institutional failure, its causes and consequences. Policy Sciences, 52(2), 281–298.

Abson, D. J., Fischer, J., Leventon, J., Newig, J., Schomerus, T., Vilsmaier, U., von Wehrden, H., Abernethy, P., Ives, C. D., Jager, N. W. & Lang, D. J. (2017). Leverage points for sustainability transformation. Ambio, 46(1), 30-39.

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