Societal Change Unit

Society and the forest are currently facing major challenges, not only through climate change, but also as a result of other social, technological and ecological upheavals of our time. At the same time, the cultural significance of the forest and its functions are also changing on many levels: its significance as a natural space, a cultural landscape, an economic factor, or as a recreational space. The Societal Change Unit (SGW) has made these upheavals and their consequences the subject of its research, looking closely at the following questions:

  • What social changes are coming to the forest, or are already being felt by the forest?
  • What are the opportunities in these changes?
  • How can the forestry sector help shape such changes?

The Societal Change Unit is a “seismograph” for changes in society and their direct and indirect effects on the forestry sector. With the help of social science research, monitoring and consulting, the Societal Change Unit tracks the human-forest relationship in the context of social upheavals (urbanisation, demographic change, democratisation, ...). It provides background analyses and shows stakeholders in the forestry sector potential ways of dealing with the changes. The focus is on the topics of “Recreation, health and sport”, “Nature relations in transition” and “Social dialogue”.

The Unit develops and collates fundamental information, and provides impulses for balancing interests, constructive debates and conflict resolution approaches relating to forest issues.


Recreation, health and sport

We focus on the cultural dimensions of forest sustainability: recreation, health, tourism and all that motivates people to visit the forest in their free time. We observe new trends and possible conflicts, and develop concepts for visitor guidance, dialogue and participation.

Social dialogue

We work together with state and civil society stake holders in forest policy in a broader sense. This gives us a better understanding of their self-image, their networks and their interactions. We carry out research into social engagement, ecological and social movements, and new practices of democracy - in their respective significance for the forestry sector and for forest policy issues. In doing so, we not only conduct research about, but also with people who care about the forest (e.g. within the context of Citizen Science).

Nature relations in transition

Our research looks not only at what people do, but also at what moves them. We analyse the values of different social groups - not only among people visiting the forest, but also within the “culture of foresters”. We deal with the cultural meanings of nature (conservation), forest, wood and wild animals in their historical and current development, as well as with related conflict and communication potentials for the forest sector.

With its activities, the Societal Change Unit supports the State Forestry Administration and forest owners, as well as actors from the fields of politics, sport, tourism and the health sector with concept development in their respective fields of action.

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