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Dr. Niko Schäpke


Chair of Environmental GovernanceNiko Schäpke

Institute of Environmental Social Sciences and Geography
Tennenbacher Str. 4
D-79106 Freiburg


Consultation hours: Based on appointments



In short

Niko is an assistant professor at the Chair of Environmental Governance at the University of Freiburg. He is an interdisciplinary social scientist with a background spanning sustainability studies, ecological economics, and political sciences. His work is situated in the field of solutions-oriented sustainability science, focusing governance of sustainability transformations, transdisciplinarity and human agency. Nikos theoretical focus is on settings, methods and principles of action-oriented sustainability science, dynamics of human agency and spaces for societal learning and change. Empirically he builds on transdisciplinary case studies and comparisons (small N) as well as literature reviews building on case surveys and examples (larger N). Niko is driven by a passion to advance sustainability studies in its capacity to contribute to societal transformation towards sustainability.

 Professional Experience Education  |  Teaching  |  Publications  |  Academic Service  | Outreach and Transfer


Research Interest

  • Transdisciplinary research settings and transdisciplinary labs
  • Governance of transformations
  • Transformative knowledge systems
  • Human agency
  • Social and humanistic psychology   
  • Interrelating transitions and sustainability
  • Philosophy of sustainability science


Professional Experience

  • Assistant Professor (akad. Rat) at the Institute of Environmental Social Science and Geography, University of Freiburg (since 09/2020)

  • Fellow, MISTRA Sustainable Consumption Program, The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research (Mistra), located at Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden (03/2020-08/2020)

  • Post-Doctoral Researcher for Governance of Sustainability Transformation, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden (01/2018-02/2020)

  • Research associate, Leuphana University Lüneburg, Institute for Ethics and Transdisciplinary Sustainability Research: scientific coordinator of project ´Accompanying, systematizing and transferring research in real world laboratories´; Workpackage lead on societal engagement and evaluation, Global Consortium for Sustainability Outcomes project: Campus as a living lab (02/2015 -04/2018)

  • Assistant of the dean, Leuphana University Lüneburg, Faculty of Sustainability (11/2014-5/2017)

  • Research associate: Development of a further learning master´s program ´Strategic Sustainability Management´, University for Sustainable Development Eberswalde (11/2011-8/2013)

  • Freelancer: research, transfer, workshop-facilitation, author (since 2011)

  • Research associate: EU FP7 Project InContext, Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) (10/2010-4/2011)

  • Working student, Pricewaterhouse Coopers WPG, Federal Export Credit Agency, Sustainability Department (08/2010-10/2010 and 02/2006-02/2008)

  • Student research assistant, Centre for Sustainability Management, Leuphana University of Lüneburg (03/2008-04/2009)



  • Promotion (Dr. phil. – summa cum laude/ excellent) awarded by the Faculty of Sustainability, Leuphana University of Lüneburg (07/2018), supervised by Prof. Daniel Lang, Prof. Derk Loorbach and Prof. Uwe Schneidewind

  • Visiting Researcher, Dutch Research Institute for Transitions (DRIFT), Erasmus University Rotterdam (2/2016)

  • Diploma-Studies in Environmental Sciences at Leuphana University of Lüneburg (completion 2010)

  • Diploma-Studies in Economics and Social Sciences at Leuphana University of Lüneburg (completion 2010)



Niko is engaged in teaching the following courses:

  • "Sustainability and Governance" (MSc Environmental Governance, Core Module),
  • "Global Environmental Politics" (MSc Environmental Governance, Elective Module)
  • “Methoden der Umweltsozialwissenschaften” (Integriertes Nebenfach Umweltsozialwissenschaften, Kernmodul)


Find more information on these study programs here:



Most recent:

McCory, G., Holmén, J., Schäpke, N., Holmber, J. (2022). Sustainability-oriented labs in transitions: An empirically grounded typology. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, 43, 99-117.

Fazey, I., Hughes, C., Schäpke, N., Leicester, G., Eyre, L., Goldstein, B., ... & Reed, M. (2021). Renewing Universities in Our Climate Emergency: Stewarding System Change and Transformation. Frontiers in Sustainability, 54.

Woiwode, C., Schäpke, N., Bina, O., Veciana, S., Kunze, I., Parodi, O., ... & Wamsler, C. (2021). Inner transformation to sustainability as a deep leverage point: fostering new avenues for change through dialogue and reflection. Sustainability Science, 1-18.

Bergmann, M., Schäpke, N., Marg, O., Stelzer, F., Lang, D. J., Bossert, M., ... & Sußmann, N. (2021). Transdisciplinary sustainability research in real-world labs: success factors and methods for change. Sustainability Science, 16(2), 541-564.

Fazey, I., Schäpke, N., Caniglia, G., Hodgson, A., Kendrick, I., Lyon, C., ... & Verveen, S. (2020). Transforming knowledge systems for life on Earth: Visions of future systems and how to get there. Energy Research & Social Science, 70, 101724.

Caniglia, G., Luederitz, C., von Wirth, T., Fazey, I., Martín-López, B., Hondrila, K., König, A., von Wehrden, H., Schäpke, N., Laubichler, M.D., Lang D.,J. (2020) A pluralistic and integrated approach to action-oriented knowledge for sustainability. Nature Sustainability,

McCrory, G., Schäpke, N., Holmén, J., & Holmberg, J. (2020). Sustainability-oriented labs in real-world contexts: An exploratory review. Journal of Cleaner Production, 123202.

Wamsler, C., Schäpke, N., Fraude, C., Stasiak, D., Bruhn, T., Lawrence, M., ... & Mundaca, L. (2020). Enabling new mindsets and transformative skills for negotiating and activating climate action: Lessons from UNFCCC conferences of the parties. Environmental Science & Policy, 112, 227-235.



N Schäpke, F Stelzer, M Bergmann, M Singer-Brodowski, M Wanner, G Caniglia, P Bernert, C Liedtke, D Loorbach, P Olsson, DJ Lang (2018): Jointly striving for transformation? A comparison of real world labs, urban transition labs, transformation labs, niche experiments and sustainability living labs. In: GAIA-Ecological Perspectives for Science and Society, 27 (S1): 85-96.

I Fazey, N Schäpke, C Caniglia, J Patterson, J Hultman, …, Wyborn, C. (2018): Ten essentials for action-oriented and second order energy transitions,transformations and climate change research. In: Energy Research and Social Science (40): 54-70.

G Caniglia; N Schäpke; DJ Lang; DJ Abson; C Luederitz; A Wiek; M Laubichler; F Gralla; Hv Wehrden (2017): Experiments and Evidence in Sustainability Science: A Typology. In: Journal of Cleaner Production (169): 39-47.

N Schäpke, I Omann, JM Wittmayer, M Mock, Fv Steenbergen (2017): Linking transitions to sustainability: a study into social effects of transition management. In: Sustainability 9(737).

C Luederitz, N Schäpke, A Wiek, DJ Lang, …, F Westley (2017): Learning through Evaluation – A Tentative Evaluative Scheme for Sustainability Transition Experiments. In: Journal of Cleaner Production (169): 61-76.

JM Wittmayer, N Schäpke (2014): Action, Research and Participation. Roles of Researchers in Sustainability Transitions. In: Sustainability Science. 9 (4): 483-496.


Academic Service

  • Since 2021 Editor for the journal ´Sustainability Science´
  • 2021 Member of program board of the International Transdisciplinarity Conference ITD
  • 2018-2019 Member of Advisory Board of SynergyTrans Project on Social Innovation and Governance, funded by Austrian Climate Funds
  • 2018 Leading guest editor for the journal GAIA, special issue “Labs in the Real-World: Advancing Transdisciplinarity and Transformations”, with Daniel Lang, Franziska Stelzer and Matthias Bergmann



Providing reviews for journals including Nature Sustainability, Urban Transformations, Sustainability Science; Environmental Innovation and Societal Transition, Ecological Economics, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Regional Environmental Change, Environmental Science and Policy, Frontiers in Sustainability, Springer Briefs, Environmental Policy and Governance and others

Co-organizer and co-convener of 3 symposia on real-world labs, as well as more then 10 special sessions/ workshop at international conferences including ESEE (Ecological Economics), IST (Sustainability Transitions), and Transformations.


Outreach and transfer

Niko has engaged in organizing/ contributing to transfer workshops for various organizations, on topics of e.g. transdisciplinarity, transformative research and real-world labs, including for instance University of Kassel (Faculty City Planning), City and University of Flensburg, AMS-Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions, University of Kiel (Real-world lab Perle), TU Berlin (Centre for Technology and Society), BBSR Federal Institute for Urban and Building Research, MWK Ministry for Research, Education and Arts Baden-Württemberg, Climate Council City of Bonn, Green Party Hamburg and others


Recent transfer publications

  • More information on ongoing work on Knowledge System Transformation, including several blog posts by Niko and colleagues, for the Nature of Cities, YESS – Young Ecosystem Service Specialists, AR+ Action Research Plus and EADI - European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes, can be found on the website of the Transformations Community here.