(Not) just another conference? Or what excites me to be part of #leverage2019

By Daniel J. Lang

Looking at my mailbox crowded with invitations to conferences, workshops and symposia that pile up every day, it is hard to escape the notion that we drown in distractions. Hence, it is worth asking how we can focus our time and resources to bring us closer to our goal of urgently needed fundamental sustainability transformations? Is another conference the right way to do so?

We see seemingly little change to many unsustainable trajectories in human-environment systems, despite a multitude of research and policy activities addressing these challenges. For many sustainability focused researchers and practitioners this can be  deeply frustrating. To counter this frustration, about four years ago some colleagues and I re-discovered the metaphor of “Leverage Points to intervene in systems” by Donella Meadows (Meadows, 1999). Inspired by this work we have embarked on a research journey to investigate these “places in complex systems where a small shift may lead to fundamental changes in the system as a whole“ (Abson et al, 2017). Learning from many ups and downs during this journey, our initial sense has solidified that the notion of “Leverage Points” can serve as a boundary concept to help connect often disconnected scientific as well real world endeavors implicitly or explicitly aiming to contribute to sustainability transformations. Such an approach focuses on more fundamental, but often neglected, intervention points and system interventions; and in so doing enables research, discourse and action that have the potential to make a real difference.

This inspiration and experience has motivated us to launch a conference that seeks to create new spaces to explore together, with a broad community of scholars from different backgrounds how the Leverage Points metaphor can help to “transform ourselves, our science, our institutions, our interventions and our societies for a better future”. In doing so, we want to offer and connect different formats, including presentations; discussions; interactive plenary sessions; case based mutual learning sessions and joint activities to explore leverage points, sustainability and transformational change.  The conference will focus on five main themes (i.e. re-structuring institutions, re-connecting people, re-thinking knowledge, systems thinking, and transformative research practice). Each of these themes has its own community and in this conference, we will seek inspiration by drawing connections between these diverse communities. Similarly, the  notion of leverage points itself can function as a metaphor, a research approach, a mindset or a concrete research object here to we seek inspiration from multiple perspectives (including from our inspirational key note speakers) in order to enrich and encourage science and practice that helps facilitate the transformative change we wish to see in the world.

With this wide yet focused spirit I am convinced that #leverage2019 (http://leveragepoints2019.leuphana.de/) will not be just another conference but a vibrant, inspiring and meaningful experience that will trigger new lines of thinking and change in science and society, as well as the interaction between these two.


I hope very much to see you 6-8 February 2109 in Lüneburg, Germany.

Daniel Lang


The Call for Abstracts is open until 30 June 2018.

You can register for the conference here.

For more information please visit: http://leveragepoints2019.leuphana.de

If you have any specific enquiries about abstract submission please contact: Leveragepoints2019@leuphana.de

Feel free to distribute the conference flyer, available as a PDF here.



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

Meadows, D., 1999. Leverage points. Places to Intervene in a System.


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