Cooperation and Transformative Governance (CAT) aims to analyze governance systems addressing sustainability at different scales and to generate cooperative solutions.

Societal transitions caused by unprecedented technological innovations and industrial transformations, such as energy transitions or digitalisation, as well as environmental or health related crises require new effective governance approaches to handle inherent social dilemmas and wicked problems.

Transformative governance includes formal and informal institutions which are involved - at multiple scales - in responding to, managing, and triggering positive shifts in coupled social-ecological systems towards sustainability. A growing complexity of decision-making processes in modern society requires improved synchronization and coordination of different branches and levels of governance. Transformative governance faces two major challenges. First, the underlying difficulty of any transformative governance process is a social dilemma, that is a collective action situation when interests of separate individuals contradict interests of a community or society. Second, transformative governance involves with wicked problems – problems that are difficult or impossible to solve as they are characterized by incomplete information and contradicting and constantly evolving views and objectives of involved stakeholders and social groups. 

Th CAT group focus is on wicked problems and social dilemmas in decision-making advancing appropriate methodologies and conducting a series of case studies. Areas of application include:

  1. Public health including COVID-19;
  2. Climate change and natural hazards,
  3. Biodiversity and ecosystems, including oceans;
  4. Societal transitions caused by technological innovations, industrial transformations or environmental changes; and
  5. Digital world and misinformation spread in the Internet. 

The CAT group is using the following methods:

  • cooperation models, including game-theoretical models for public good and common pool management with real-world complexities as well as bounded rationality, social heterogeneity, cultural dispositions, and institutional incentives;
  • decision support systems accounting for multiple conflicting objectives; and
  • methods to facilitate stakeholder dialogue, including participatory modelling, systems mapping, gamification, scenario planning. 

The overarching methodological ambition of CAT’s work is to advance the practice of using models to understand and support decision making processes that are characterized by uncertainty, volatility, ambiguity and complexity. 

CAT has a unique composition of researchers from a wide area range of disciplines that are fundamental for addressing its goals. The Research Group includes researchers from political sciences, mathematics, game theorists, behavioural economists, among others. The unique combination of deep disciplinary knowledge, a broad understanding of the practical challenges of transformative governance, and rigorous mathematical and systems-analytical focus is a strong basis for innovative work of high societal relevance. Extended networks of several young and senior scientists enables delivering real-world impact by addressing contested governance problems.


Platforms for profit and purpose

01 July 2021

Platforms for profit and purpose

Digital platforms are changing the way we do business. IIASA has been involved in a six-year research project to understand the consequences of this shift, including how platforms can improve resilience in an uncertain world.
Empowering citizens for successful energy transitions

03 May 2021

Empowering citizens for successful energy transitions

The terms “co-creation” and “co-production”, which denote the possibility for laypeople to participate in decision-making processes that affect their lives, have been gaining popularity. A new IIASA-led study explored options for empowering citizens as a driver for moving from awareness about the need to transform energy systems to action and participation.


Dnieper Hydroelectric Station in Zaporizhia Oblast from “Hydroelectricity in Ukraine”

Integrated modeling for robust management of food-energy-water-land use nexus security and sustainable development

INQUIMUS conference 2022

Transformations within Reach: Synchronizing Resilience and Agility for Sustainable Development (TwR)

Paper plane

Agent-based models to inform economic policies on migration (ABM2Policy)




The current state of the world affairs calls for a revival of systems thinking to improve decision-making. Recognizing that the tightening of socio-economic links heightens the need for holistic responses, that disciplinary and sectorial solutions are of limited effectiveness and efficiency, and that big data is not generating integrative perspectives by itself, highlights the need for policymakers to become thoroughly familiar with the promises and pitfalls of systems analysis. Challenges are systemic, dynamic, and interconnected, and systems analysis, coupled with an improved anticipation, provides a coherent methodology and necessary tools to develop new approaches so urgently required for more coherent and effective policy planning.
We are developing and applying a range of methods for integrated multi-attribute evaluation under risk, subject to incomplete or imperfect information, and evaluations of decision situations using imprecise utilities, probabilities, and weights, as well as qualitative estimates between these components derived from sets of weight, utility and probability measures. To avoid some mathematical aggregation problems when handling set membership functions and similar, we use higher-order distributions for better discrimination between the possible outcomes.


02 December 2021

Where are they now: Jessica Jewell

Options Winter 2021: Jessica Jewell was a 2010 YSSP participant and researcher at IIASA between 2011 and 2019. She continues to support the work of the institute as a guest researcher.

10 August 2021

Defense of the natural realm

Options Magazine, Summer 2021: At a crucial moment for beleaguered nature, IIASA research is showing that we can reverse biodiversity loss. It will need an effort that is grand in scale and focused where rewards are greatest.
Animals in front of a mountain


03 May 2022 Oxford, UK Virtual event

IIASA at the Oxford Energy seminar series

03 March 2022 Yola, Adamawa State, Nigeria

Application promises digital solutions to child healthcare

05 March 2022 Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

IIASA strengthens collaboration and relations with Jordan