01. July | 2021

Creativity from Crisis

No 19 | July 2021

A crisis presents actors with an imminent threat, fundamental uncertainty, and a necessity to act under immense time pressure. Crises can lead into disaster, but they do not necessarily do so. Crises can also be turning points for the better. Notably, they can foster creativity and innovation. In this issue of IRS aktuell we reflect on the current coronavirus crisis, other crises like that experienced by internationally oriented universities under the conditions of Brexit, but also crisis and innovation in general. We also present some key contributions by IRS scholars to contemporary debates about crises.

When the lockdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020, the work routines of the IRS, like those of many other institutions, were massively thrown out of sync. But a new mode of working quickly established itself: with home office and online communication, not only writing and organisational tasks could be managed - virtual working also proved its worth for events and sometimes even for empirical research. And some research findings were applied more quickly than expected. more infos

Our perception of the world has been shaped by crises and crisis diagnoses for some time. But what kind of research on crises is needed? No scientific discipline alone can shed light on the complex dynamics of crises. That is why the Leibniz Research Alliance "Crises in a Globalised World", of which the IRS is a member, has been working on interdisciplinary approaches to crisis research since 2013. A new handbook is a central joint product of the research network. IRS scholars contributed three articles to the anthology. more infos

The spread of COVID-19 is a spatial phenomenon. Maps capture the degrees of affectedness of different countries and regions; hotspots are identified and the influences of mobility practices such as holiday travel are examined. Thus, geography can contribute significantly to understanding and combating the coronavirus pandemic. A special issue of the Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie with two IRS-contributions has addressed the geography of the coronavirus pandemic. more infos

Numerous research teams at the IRS deal directly or indirectly with the topic of crises. In the future, this thematic focus will be further expanded. The Corona crisis gave rise to an exchange on the question of whether and how we can learn from crises. In summer 2020, Tjorven Harmsen, Wolfgang Haupt, Oliver Ibert, Kristine Kern and Elisa Kochskämper discussed this via video conference. The conversation is summarised here. more infos

Crises typically expose structural problems that have often existed for a long time: unsound business models, for example, the political suppression of social problems or environmentally destructive production and consumption practices. At the same time, crises are also seen as opportunities to help new approaches achieve a breakthrough: "Never let a good crisis go to waste" is a quote that, like so many others, is attributed to Winston Churchill. Do crises promote innovation? And, asked the other way round, are innovations the answer to conditions that are structurally unsustainable and thus repeatedly produce crises? When the social sciences talk about innovative ways out of crisis situations, they do not primarily mean purely technical or purely economic innovations. After all, it is obvious that a socio-ecological transformation in response to the climate crisis, for example, cannot be achieved through technical-economic innovations alone, but that new social practices are needed, such as changed mobility habits. At the IRS, there is intensive research on social innovations, but not all researchers assess the concept of social innovation in the same way. Two researchers, the political scientist Timmo Krüger and the sociologist Ralph Richter, take a position here in the debate on social innovations. more infos

British universities are currently being hit by a double crisis: Brexit is jeopardising their access to the European Research Area and thus to EU research funding. At the same time, the COVID19 pandemic is jeopardising an important pillar of the globalisation of higher education, which is being pushed by France and the UK in particular: offshore campusses that attract affluent, highly mobile students. Universities are responding with adapted strategies and even taking advantage of the new opportunities offered by the crisis. more infos


  • The Spatiality of the Corona Crisis
  • Crises as Opportunities for Learning and Innovation
  • Universities between Brexit and COVID-19
  • Debate: Are Social Innovations the Answer?