The platform approach: Stimulating transformative knowledge creation for the Rhenish lignite mining area

In 2019, the German federal parliament issued a report on a nationwide exit strategy for coal-fired power stations. With this, the Rhenish lignite mining area – a region populated by 2.1 million people and located between Cologne, Aachen, Mönchengladbach, and Düsseldorf – was confronted with unprecedented change. The fundamental political decision provoked a multitude of actions on all federal levels of government. Other institutions with historical partnerships in the region, such as the RWTH Aachen University, became embroiled, too. The ongoing transformation process has become an opportunity to rethink and further develop the role of the university as an intermediary in the region. In 2019, a group of researchers from different disciplines set up REVIERa as a transformation platform to strengthen interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary exchange, networking, and coordination. The platform has become an exploratory space both for researchers and regional partners; it has been set up with the hypothesis that knowledge is a key resource to shaping transformation processes. More importantly, it is based on the premise that existing knowledge becomes transformative when new linkages are stimulated. In transformation processes, system, goal, and transformation knowledge are highly related and fluid in the face of highly complex situations and uncertain outcomes. Analogous to the human brain, REVIERa aims to create new synapses that dissolve deadlocked patterns and hence open paths into the future. In this vein, the platform develops innovative methods that follow the principles of reflexivity, resonance, and open learning. This paper addresses the evolution of this platform and evaluates its activities and transformative moments, as well as its inherent contradictions and limitations.

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