Working Groups 

TWI2050 is operating through different working groups. Working Groups can focus on individual themes or methodological challenges. Working Groups are formed bottom-up or top-down and operate until they have answered their research question

WG on Narratives

Convening Lead: Sander van der Leeuw (Arizona State University)

TWI2050 seeks to frame the solution space for sustainable development pathways, based on comprehensively achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 and sustaining progress to 2050 and beyond within planetary boundaries. The current TWI2050 narrative, and to a lesser extent the SDG’s, are derived from a very ‘western’, globalizing perspective on the future of our planet. If the project is to be successful and its results are to be widely adopted globally, it needs to develop narratives that mobilize those parts of the world’s population that have different perspectives on the future of the planet, or different approaches to defining or achieving sustainability. As part of this effort, pathways and narratives need to be defined that can integrate unforeseen societal dynamics into the TWI2050 goals.


  • Develop a wider band of potential futures for the project by taking into account unanticipated dynamics that might occur
  • Increase global interest in the project through contributions to it from different cultures and different perspectives


  • Publication of a selected range of narratives from different cultures
  • Publication of a ‘futuring’ paper on societal changes that might affect the SDG goals

WG on Target Spaces

Convening Lead: Detlef van Vuuren (PBL)

TWI2050 seeks to provide scientific guidance to help policy makers implement the SDGs successfully. To this end, the SDGs provide the basis. However, the majority of the SDGs have 2030 as their running period, some even 2025 or 2020. The SDGs, their targets and suggested indicators and values are not always suitable for modeling purposes and need to be interpreted in many cases to make them operational for research. Furthermore, the SDGs are very comprehensive. Research groups need to arrive at a concise set of indicators for the target spaces representing sustainable development in 2030 and 2050 and beyond in their work. This will require reducing the complexity of the full set of SDG targets, while minimizing information loss so that the assessment can be considered representative of all SDGs. This will facilitate intercomparison of results and communication thereof with policymakers. The identification of suitable indicators should follow an internally consistent framework. TWI2050 is involving domain experts and stakeholders of the relevant fields to identify crucial indicators that can reflect as much information as possible, ideally across several SDGs. The target spaces should reflect what models need and can do. To make them usable for a wide array of models, different sets of indicators are likely needed.


  • To frame the target space for TWI2050, which fulfils the criteria of (i) meeting the SDGs by 2030, (ii) sustaining progress towards 2050 and (iii) respecting global environmental constraints
  • To propose representative indicators and associated target values which will inform the modelling protocol and guide the integrated assessment of TWI2050


  • Indicator list: Data base with explanatory note
  • Working paper or scientific publication presenting the TWI2050 indicators for the target space and the rationale for their selection

WG on Modelling Protocol

Convening Lead: Elmar Kriegler (PIK) and Keywan Riahi (IIASA)

The modeling protocol provides guidance and instructions along the full modeling ‘value chain’ in order to provide for consistency, interpretability and comparability of outcomes. This comprises several sequential steps and hierarchical decisions. Starting with the narratives produced by the corresponding working group these need to be operationalized coherent pathways and branching points need to be identified. These branching points need to be reflected in a set of diverging input tables or possibly even model formulation.  It moreover has to be assured, that the key input parameters to the models – where applicable -are harmonized (e.g. GDP, population, cost assumptions). In a similar manner key output variables that should be reported by the models will have to be decided. This of course strongly relates to the target space developed in the corresponding working group.

In TWI2050 different types of models will be used given the broad and ambitious scope of the initiative, whereby Integrated Assessment Models will be the workhorses when it comes to scenario analyses. The modeling protocol establishes how these models ‘talk’ to each other. In some cases outputs from one model will be inputs to another model and vice versa. In such cases the modeling protocol will provide guidance on model linkages. When models overlap in terms of their underlying systems they can either be run in parallel to explore the sensitivity of outcomes or hierarchical orders are established, where one model produces results that have to be replicated by other models. The modeling protocol will provide guidance on the most suitable approach depending on the defined pathway and need for convergence. 


  • To provide guidance to modelling teams for the implementation of TWI2050 pathways, describe main pathways set-up and assumptions (flexibility vs consistency)
  • To assure minimum degree of consistency (and thus integration)
  • To provide basic definitions for regions, sectors, reporting standards and data templates


  • Database on SSPs including terms of reference
  • First modelling protocol prototype by Spring 2018, full modelling protocol in the years ahead under continued refinement
  • Definition on branching points and integration of the transformation process

WG on Governance

Convening Lead: Ines Dombrowsky, Julia Leininger and Dirk Messner (DIE)

Next to technological innovations, transformations to sustainability require societal, political and institutional change.  SDGs 16 and 17 address these innovations. In other words, peace, inclusive governance and institutions for cooperation are not only an objective but shall also enable the achievement of other SDGs. Although all SDGs reinforce or counteract each other in one or the other way, SDGs 16 and 17 differ from other goals: SDG 16 and 17 address structural change, which usually takes a long time, up to decades. In addition, SDG 16 refers to a type of change that can be abrupt and disruptive. For instance, societal conflict can easily and abruptly turn into war in societies under stress. The nature of SDG 16 and 17 thus comprises three challenges for scenario-building. First, building sound and robust theories must reflect political and societal change, which is often hard to predict. Second, building representative indicators is a challenge due to the complex nature of social and political phenomena. Third, it will be challenging to avoid problems of endogeneity. Given the limits of predicting societal and political change on a large scale, the Working Group will elaborate how case studies and qualitative methods can inform scenarios for the TWI2050. Finally, the Working Group aims at informing policy-making by looking at institutional preconditions for an integrated implementation of the SDGs (nexus thinking; polycentric governance).


  • Narrative: To contribute to narrative-building
  • Modelling: To integrate theories of societal and political change in modelling scenarios and integrated assessment of TWI2050
  • Methodology: To inquire how case studies and qualitative methods can inform modelling of TWI2050
  • Target space: To propose representative indicators and associated target values with regard to peace, governance and societal change, social cohesion (“safe space for societies”)
  • Policymaking: To generate knowledge about integrated implementation of the Agenda 2030.


  • Two interdisciplinary workshops on Governance, theories of social change and modelling
  • Contribution to theory-building, narratives and indicator list for target space
  • Publications on theoretical and methodological challenges of integrating social and political factors in modelling and case studies on governance of SDGs.
  • Policy advice on integrated implementation of 2030 Agenda 

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Last edited: 01 February 2018


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