Profile area "Societal Transformations"

In this profile area, the Foundation supports research that expands and critically reflects on the body of knowledge on transformation processes with different focal points. We want to gain a better understanding of how such processes develop and the possibilities for science to influence and shape them. We encourage researchers to involve actors outside the sphere of academia in their projects, for example through participatory research or joint science communication. The aim is to better understand processes of transformation in order to anticipate important future challenges through fact-based scientific knowledge and, at the same time, to develop options for social action.

The profile area "Societal Transformations" aims to

  • identify "day-after-tomorrow" issues with the involvement of various stakeholders;
  • analyze and identify transformation challenges and promote research ideas that explore concrete transformations and identify options for action;
  • understand transformation processes and explore the contribution of science to such developments;
  • create framework conditions for transformation processes and encourage researchers to think about the transfer of their research into social structures.

Activities and funding opportunities

The following funding initiatives are currently assigned to the profile area "Societal Transformations":

This call for proposals is part of the international funding program "Global Issues - Integrating different Perspectives", which aims to generate new insights into challenges of global relevance that have so far been little explored.

The foundation supports the establishment of European research groups from the social, cultural and human sciences that deal with the demographic change in Europe. In addition, open-topic summer schools on "Challenges and Potentials for Europe" can be applied for.

The core of the initiative aims at joint, integrative research approaches in the social and technical sciences. It is primarily aimed at social and technical scientists at all career levels after completing their doctorate.

With this funding initiative, the Volkswagen Foundation aims to initiate a shift of perspective from poverty research to facets surrounding the phenomenon of wealth. In the first call '(Re-)Production of Wealth', the focus is on the genesis of wealth. 


For more general information on the profile area, please contact Dr. Adelheid Wessler, who heads the funding team "Societal Transformations". For information on individual funding opportunities, please contact the responsible funding manager (see the respective initiative).

Background: The new funding strategy

In the early months of 2021, the Volkswagen Foundation began implementing a realignment of its funding strategy. Central to this strategy are the three profile areas "Exploration", "Social Transformations" and "Understanding Research – Evaluation and Science Practice". In the contexts of all three areas, new or further funding initiatives are being developed in an ongoing process. For more information on the strategy and the funding guidelines, see "The new funding strategy".