Leadership for transition

A group of people gathered in a big room.
One of the methods used in LiFT is the collaboratory, a collaborative multi-perspective, multi-stakeholder dialogue forum aiming at engaging relevant actors in a collective visioning process around “big” social challenges. Photo: LiFT

The project rationale holds that in times of multidimensional crisis, leadership increasingly needs to empower individuals and society at large to take over responsibility for working towards the common good.

LiFT started off as a EU-funded Grundtvig Learning Partnership (2013-2015) and is now continuing its work as a strategic partnership between seven partners within the Horizon 2020 funding framework.


A new NTNU project brings together innovative researchers, practitioners and citizens engaged in the fields of leadership, education and societal transition to promote more integrative, effective and thus more sustainable ways of living in Europe and beyond.

Leadership for Transition (LiFT) was a two year Grundtvig funded project which has recently been given continuing support through a three year Erasmus+ project.
It brings together partners from Norway, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Luxembourg to work on ways to support the development of integral (the ‘i’ in LiFT) practices for collaborative leadership in relation to complex societal transition issues.

The integral approach at the heart of LiFT acknowledges the role of individual skills and behavior as well as structural, regulatory and other such collective external factors impacting change efforts. At the same time, it primarily focuses on interior (subjective) and intersubjective / cultural dimensions of both leadership and transition as often neglected dimensions essential for transition.

Collective laboratory

LiFT draws on extensive research showing that the scope, degree and complexity of conscious awareness (on individual and collective levels) is crucial for enabling adequate leadership in the face of complex adaptive challenges.

We also recognize that being able to «get our head around» today’s complex challenges is no longer possible for any one individual. The recently emerging field of collective intelligence has informed our approach and drawn us to exploring ways to cultivate it. Thus one of our core activities is to experiment with and further develop something called a “collaboratory” – a co-creative stakeholder engagement process for making progress on complex problems.

This kind of collective laboratory brings together a modular set of modern large group facilitation techniques and other types of activities to enable a diverse group of stakeholders with varied interests in a topic to have an innovative and productive way to generate new ideas, projects and reforms around a given topic.

So far, we have learned the importance of design, customization, fit to the topic and other key factors in generating outcomes that support people in taking innovative initiative in relation to the challenge at hand.

Leading transitions

In its initial round, LiFT ran four of these collaboratories on topics like

  • leadership
  • «Why School» (helping to raise the level of public discourse on school reform in Sweden)
  • the evolution of organizations
  • global sustainability
Group of people at a conference. Photo.
LiFT has hosted several events and stakeholder workshops. Photo: LiFT

For the Erasmus+ project, LiFT will engage a “Pop-up University,” run an event at Almadalen on political discourse in Sweden, host an inquiry into school dropout issues in Norway, look into eco-villages and alternative schooling and social innovation.

We will also write three books on the following topics:

  • foundations and resources for integral leadership
  • methodologies and tools for collaborative leadership – and our research into running these collaboratories
  • case studies illustrative of a diverse set of best practices

In addition, we will run a summer school in 2018 to train facilitators who wish to gain a deeper background in the considerations and practices involved in designing and running collaboratories.

It is the goal of LiFT to make the work we do as useful as possible for those who wish to make a difference on the complex challenges relevant to the lives of their communities and society at large.

If we can support individuals and collectives to be empowered to lead transitions on any scale they are motivated to engage, we will feel that our project has had a positive impact.

Follow up case

After our event in Stockholm, one of the participants who worked as a facilitator for organizational change work contacted us to get support for designing and facilitating an event for over 100 global leaders of Greenpeace.

They were faced with how to transition from an organization founded on interventions against established systems to raise awareness for environmental causes, to finding a better way to have influence on key environmental issues in a world that is changing so rapidly.

This required new ideas and changes in mindsets to take their leadership into the future. The collaboratory methods used, helped them gain key insights into their way forward and inspired new energy for how they wish to organize themselves.



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