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Working with hope on climate change

One of the greatest challenges of our time is to find answers to climate change. The various social cost-benefit analyses that currently exist often contradict each other due to complexity and radical uncertainty. This can easily lead to paralysis or polarisation.  High time for a completely different approach: one based on hope. For the project ‘Joining forces in developing a programme of hope as response to climate change’, theologians, economists, psychologists and designers from VU Amsterdam and the UT have joined forces. The project is being financed from the internal call and developed within the focus area Talent for Societies.  

Ernst Bohlmeijer (UT), Johan Roeland  and Jan Jorrit Hasselaar (VU Amsterdam) are the spiritual fathers of the project. According to Hasselaar, it was love at first sight. ‘There was a lot of interest and curiosity in each other's work and ideas. And there was also a shared will and drive to tackle the subject in this way. It was great to see that.’

Concept of hope in wisdom traditions

The project integrates the disciplines of theology, psychology and design. ‘In the field of theology, we connect to the inclusive, universal and realistic concept of hope in the wisdom traditions of people like Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. From positive psychology we use proven interventions to increase hope, such as the development and exchange of stories and metaphors and the imagination of desired futures,' says Hasselaar. The project applies the Responsible Futuring approach developed in the Design Lab of the UT. It uses design thinking and combines interdisciplinary practice, responsible design and the social involvement of citizens to create social impact.

Theoretical and practical

According to Hasselaar, within the project, the researchers want to develop a theoretical and practical programme of hope as a social response to climate change, including a toolbox. ‘In this context, hope is a collective journey in which all stakeholders learn to open up so that trust and perspective can be created to work together.’ Another aim of the project is to initiate teacher exchange between both universities and to develop new material for the bachelor's programme Religion & Sustainable Development in Amsterdam and the master's programme Technology and Behavioural Change in Enschede.

Bringing worlds together

The project started last May and four workshops have been planned for the next six months. In April 2023, the researchers will present their findings during a symposium for both an academic audience and the general public. According to Hasselaar, there is a lot of enthusiasm to work together. ‘And not only within the two universities. The municipality of Amsterdam, for example, is very involved in this project. . That is encouraging. It means that more and more parties realise that the major problems and challenges of our time must be approached not only in terms of facts, figures and technology, but also in terms of the great need for connection, meaning and spirituality. We bring these worlds together in this project.’