The dynamic profile of the KWI derives from its changing themes and fellows. Change was also a major part of 2016 and 2017 for the Institute. After ten years, Claus Leggewie’s period of office as Institute director came to an end in July 2017. The political scientist’s chief research interests at the KWI were Climate and Culture, Memory Research, and Interculturality. Consistent across all his work were his efforts to address global issues in a local context using qualitative and quantitative social research methods. He considered the Ruhr region to be an “ideal laboratory and proving ground”. For example, it was Leggewie and the director of the Ruhrtriennale arts festival, Johan Simons, who devised the “Zukunftsrat” (future council), a democratic experiment in participation to which all the citizens of the Ruhr region were invited to debate its future. In “Arrival Metropole Ruhr. Living space for refugees and long-time residents”, scholars and others working in art and culture talked with local citizens about wishes and requirements for improving living conditions in the region. The scientific basis of the discussion was a publication by Patrizia Nanz and Claus Leggewie called “Die Konsultative” (Wagenbach, 2016), a much revered guideline on how to use citizen participation to counteract disenchantment with democracy. “Energy Transition Ruhr – Framework to Implement the Energy Transition at the Local Authorities of the Ruhr Area” (2014–2017) is another research project that used future councils; it worked with actors engaged in a voluntary capacity to find out how local authorities can be supported and enabled to sustainably move the energy transition forward in the Ruhr region. The project closed with the team publishing a volume entitled “Geschichten einer Region. Agentinnen des Wandels für ein nachhaltiges Ruhrgebiet” (Kettler Verlag, 2016) (Tales of a region. Agents of change for a sustainable Ruhr region), which shows the innovative potential of local alliances for change with fieldtested knowledge for the energy transition. Like the KWI’s director, the consortium project similarly saw the Ruhr region as key: a successful and sustainable energy transition on the Ruhr could be a model for many other industrial regions worldwide. The same insight is shared by the “Energiewende Ruhr” energy transition project with the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU), which Claus Leggewie also belonged to until 2016. In its 2016 Flagship Report, the experts recommended supporting polycentric urbanisation and explicitly named the Ruhr area as a “model for the urbanity of the future”.

With his membership of the WBGU, Claus Leggewie was pursuing an important objective, and one that is set down in the statutes of the KWI: the transfer of scientific knowledge into political and social policy consulting. Two of the research areas established at the KWI, Climate and Culture and Culture of Participation, already work precisely along those lines and will continue to do so beyond his directorship. In the Virtual Institute (Culture of Participation), for instance, the researchers gather different non-technical perspectives on the energy transition in NRW. They identify obstacles and the desire for participation among the population, and find out how thinking in industry must change to achieve the energy transition.

A number of prominent projects that came to the KWI in Leggewie’s time as director also saw completion in 2016 and 2017. There were some staff changes in the research areas, too: the head of Culture of Participation Patrizia Nanz moved to the IASS in Potsdam, and the head of the Europe section, Tatjana Tönsmeyer, returned to the University of Wuppertal. These moves were accompanied by a careful realignment of the Europe and Culture of Participation research areas to reflect thematic developments. It was on this basis that the “Praxis Europa” conference in autumn 2017 brought people from the sciences, civil society, industry, official bodies and culture together at Zeche Zollverein, where they considered a democratic, just, and sustainable Europe and the threat of its disintegration. More events are planned for 2018.

The Praxis Europa conference also included a special edition of the popular “Literarischer Salon”; its title was “Europäischer Salon! Ein Fest für Europa” and it brought writings by European authors to the stage of Essen’s Grillo theatre. The Essen edition of the Literarischer Salon by Claus Leggewie and the former KWI fellow Navid Kermani came to a powerful close in December 2016 after five years. Renowned authors read texts prepared especially for the evening under the title of “Helden der Gegenwart. Zur Poetik aktuellen Schreibens” (Present-day heroes. On poetry in contemporary writing), which they discussed with Insa Wilke and Claus Leggewie.