Global Transformations

Course code
Course fee (excl. housing)
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How can systemic drivers of global challenges be identified? What are transformations and how do they come about? How can different forms of experimentation - across multiple disciplines - and adaptive learning be used to achieve transformation? This one-week course focuses on the development of competencies for contemporary global leaders working to tackle global challenges. It is designed for programme coordinators, project leaders, strategists, and others seeking to facilitate transformative solutions in their work. It uses interdisciplinary theories and insights from practice to equip participants with the skills to critically understand complex global challenges and confront them in practice.

The world is confronting a complex set of global challenges, from climate change to inequality, that, in order to be addressed,  require of profound transformations in the way we live. While these challenges are universal, they are experienced across the globe in many and different local contexts. Hence, solutions need to be rooted in local contexts, but also draw on and contribute to emerging global and more universal standards. Global challenges require of systemic change, for which a series of systems thinking tools and frameworks have been developed.  Transformations and systems change have become the new language of various initiatives working on global challenges, from IPCC, UN SDGs, to philanthropic and development organizations. This has generated a thick and dense web of transnational communities of people and organizations navigating and contesting the nature of and solutions for global challenges.

This one-week module is offered by Utrecht University’s Centre for Global Challenges (CfGC), a joint initiative of the Faculty of Humanities and the Faculty of Law, Economics, and Governance. The Centre promotes interdisciplinary collaboration and experimentation between Utrecht University researchers, its students, and societal stakeholders from across the globe. Our aim is to critically understand and confront in transformative ways those global challenges that intersect human rights, conflict & security, sustainability, and equity.

It aims to generate a critical understanding of global challenges and the notion of transformations and systems change. It addresses questions such as: why are transformations necessary and helpful to address global challenges? How can a systems change perspective be used for transformations? It also develops an understanding of the different perspectives in which transformations are being approached, its commonalities, differences and best practices. It draws on a variety of disciplines such as global history, law, political science, sustainability transitions studies, science and technology studies and development economics. It begins by examining the notion of transformation in various discourses and connections with societal change and globalization, what do transformations imply from a systems perspective, and how transformations are understood and implemented in different organizations.

Those interested in this module may be interested in the two-week TRACK on Global Transformations and Experimentation. The two-week Global Transformations and Experimentation Certificate Programme not only provides participants a broad vision that includes comparative and interdisciplinary education from global perspectives in order to achieve transformative solutions to today’s most pressing challenges, but it also focuses on cross-cultural leadership and interdisciplinary collaboration and experimentation for real-world application.

Download the day-to-day programme (PDF)

Course director

Dr. Carla Alvial Palavicino


Prof. dr. Joost de Laat, Chair, Global Economic Challenges 
-Joost de Laat is Professor of Economics, and Director for the Utrecht Centre for Global Challenges at Utrecht University. Previously he managed the World Bank’s Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund, (SIEF), one of the largest multi donor trust funds to support evidence-based policy making, including a portfolio of 61 experiments in 31 countries. Most recently, he was also Director for Learning and Evaluation at Porticus, a large global philanthropy. His academic research has been published in a variety of journals such as Science, the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, and the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, among others. He holds a PhD from Brown University, was a Thomas J. Watson Fellow, and worked a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University under Nobel Laureate Professor Michael Kremer.

Prof. dr. Johan Schot, Chair, Global Comparative History 
-Johan Schot is Professor of Global History and Sustainability Transitions at the Utrecht Centre for Global Challenges, Utrecht University. He is Director of the Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium (TIPC) and former Director of the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex Business School. Professor Schot’s interests orientate around action-driven research that focuses on integrating disciplines and providing the historical perspective for increased knowledge to support positive societal change. Schot is a network-builder that fosters multinational interdisciplinary collaboration. He is a connector of academic disciplines, policy-shapers, governments, civil society, NGOs, the media and business worlds.

Dr. Julie Fraser, Assistant Professor, Human Rights 
Dr. Lauren Gould, Assistant Professor, Conflict Studies 
Dr. Carla Alvial Palavicino, Fellow, Centre for Global Challenges (History) 
Dr. Joseph Kassim, Fellow, Centre for Global Challenges (Economics) 

Target audience

The Global Transformations Certificate Programme is designed for professionals in public-, international-, and non-profit organizations and soon-to-be graduates who would like to pursue additional studies in order to upgrade the skills and competencies to contribute to transformative solutions for the world's most pressing challenges. These individuals are looking for flexible, cross-cultural programmes that facilitate interdisciplinary problem solving, as well as a programme that emphasises strong decision-making, strategic communication, and leadership.

Course aim

After completion of this module, participants:

  • gain knowledge about the (historical) background, the perspectives and the limitations of the notion of transformation (s) in the context of a globalising world;
  • have the ability to explain how a transformations lenses can help address global challenges of human rights violation, security and peace-making, sustainability and equity;
  • understand obstacles and opportunities for various organisations working on transformations in a globalising world can understand and create a human rights-based approach to specific global challenges;
  • learn to apply transformation and systems change theories and discourse to global s challenges.

Study load

Seminars, working groups, and an excursion; 6 hours teaching during 4 days. Plus 2 hours reading per day.


Course fee:
Course + course materials + lunch
Housing fee:

Housing through: Utrecht Summer School.


For this course you are required to upload the following documents when applying:

  • Motivation Letter
  • C.V.

More information

Dr. Carla Alvial Palavicino | E:

Recommended combinations
Experimentation for Global Transformation


Application deadline: 17 June 2020