Identifying systemic levers for transformation:

collaborative holistic system analysis by interdisciplinary scientists to support the climate justice movements to meet the 1.5° target


  • Gabriele Harrer-Puchner Freelance @ Malik Institute St.Gallen Switzerland
  • Georg Förderverband erneuerbare Energien e.V., Berlin
  • Eva Architects for Future e.V.
  • Josef System Logics T.T. GmbH
  • Andreas Université de Liège
  • Franziska Ruhr Uni Bochum
  • Hartmut Scientist for Future
  • Thomas Scientists for Future
  • Christoph Scientists for Future


Holistic System Analysis, Collaborative Process, Climate and Sustainability, Scientists for Future, Fridays for Future, Transformaton, System Logics, Levers and Feedback Cycles, Sustainable Development Goals, Common System Understanding



The impact of climate change and loss of biodiversity are threatening the resources of human existence and peace. Time is short for reaching the internationally agreed climate and sustainability goals by 2030.

Civil societies, politicians, industries, and institutions search for policies and actions to facilitate, enable and realize transformations within all sectors: agriculture, forestry, energy and water supply, climate mitigation, buildings, transport, mobility, health and education. The transformation also concerns individual changes of behaviour. The main challenges lie in the complexity and interconnectivity of our system.

However, many actions still follow a linear way of thinking. Growth-focussed pathways, goals and strategies prevent integrated and futureproof ecological, economic and social transformation. The climate justice movement “Fridays for Future” (FFF) has initiated first new ways of thinking and acting.

Beyond scientific research the “Scientists for Future” (S4F) support the climate justice movement FFF on strategic communication and how to deal with opponents of an effective climate policy. Within this context, it was evident that a common understanding of the interdependencies, of levers and enhancements of transformation processes is essential.


The steps for this holistic system analysis have their origin in the methodology of the “Sensitivity Model” by Prof. Frederic Vester, and in approaches by Donella Meadows and other pioneers in systems thinking and sustainability.

In the recursive work- and learning process a set of 19 qualitative and quantitative variables was developed, which was later expanded to a total of 21 variables.

The guiding question

“How can Scientists for Future S4F support the climate justice movement (especially Fridays for Future) through scientific communication and other actions in such a way that sufficient decisions in all sectors are made so quickly that the "Paris climate targets" can still be achieved?”

The project focused on a national level in Germany, while also considering the integration into European and international contexts. During the analysis, it became clear that the pursuit of sufficient climate protection is closely linked to achieving the 17 sustainability goals (SDGs).

Validation, Conclusion, further Action

The interpretation of the factors of influence, their impacts, and the analysis of the identified “control levers” and feedback cycles led to the conclusion that the effectiveness of public demonstrations or statements can only influence decisions on climate protection over a "long" distance, i. e. indirectly. However, the influence of decision-makers of the economy on political decision-making is much stronger than the influence of individual scientists or the entire movement. That influence mainly occurs through public "communication" (fast) and "education" (slow). It is necessary to influence "decision-makers in economy" and national regulatory frameworks in such a way that substantial effects on achieving the Paris targets can arise.

The analysis showed the usefulness of systems thinking in order to establish an integrated view and action plan. The results will be communicated in regional S4F groups in order to establish a “Common Understanding” of the system and its relevant levers and control loops to support transformation towards sustainability and viability.

Author Biography

Gabriele Harrer-Puchner, Freelance @ Malik Institute St.Gallen Switzerland

Consultant - Sensitivity Analysis - Lecturer





Special Systems Track 1: The Future of the Human Social System