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1.6 million for interdisciplinary project ‘Conflict in Transformations’

Published: 10th January 2022 Last updated: 28th January 2022

Urban Europe has awarded Eva Wolf, Tobias Arnoldussen and Merlijn van Hulst of Tilburg Law School a grant of 1.2 million euros for their interdisciplinary research proposal ‘Conflict in Transformations’, which will be topped up by the research consortium partners with 0.4 million euros. The project studies whether and how political and legal institutions suppress or actively use conflict for transformation towards more sustainable cities.

European cities that plan for a sustainable future struggle with high polarization on the topic of climate change policies. This is problematic as urban resilience depends on the capacity of cities to collectively handle the environmental, political, social, economic, and technical challenges brought on by climate change. Polarization thus threatens the transformative capacity of cities at a time when collective plans for a more sustainable and resilient urban future are needed.

The typical answer to polarization has been to strengthen consensus building among stakeholders, but such approaches are known to lead to alienation, tensions with existing democratic institutions, and an increasing gap with legal practice. The Conflict in Transformation project, CONTRA in short, explores how institutionalizing productive conflict can increase the transformative capacity needed in the transition towards more sustainable cities.

Through a comparative study of urban planning law and practices focused on climate transition in four countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway and Poland), the project studies how conflict is handled and investigates the connection with political and legal institutions to determine whether conflict is suppressed or actively used for sustainable transformation.

Drama Labs

CONTRA also pioneers a new model of living labs (“Drama Labs”) that uses theatre-based methods to experiment with productive conflict. The project draws on the disciplines of Law, Public Administration and the Arts and the project partners include cities, universities, theater makers and national organizations (in the Netherlands: LSA bewoners, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water and DuurzaamDoor).

Signature Program Global Law and Governance

The project forms part of Tilburg Law School’s interdisciplinary research program Global Law and Governance, which focuses on how the local and the global levels interact in law and governance, and on how to organize the global level especially in the age in which humankind has a big influence on the future of our planet.

Urban Europe

Urban Europe is the collaboration of national funders (including NWO) that developed an ERA-Net call on Urban Transformation Capacities. The project partners and funders together invest 1,6 million euros in the project and Tilburg University is the project coordinator.


More information: project leader Eva Wolf, Department of Public Law and Governance, email E.E.A.Wolf@tilburguniversity.edu.