Jerneja Penca, EMUNI

Evaluating transformative change: EUI and Sciences Po host first CIVICA Excellence Tour


The new CIVICA Research Excellence Tours kick off at Sciences Po and consecutively at the EUI with the talk "Governance for transformative change: Lessons from the EU’s sustainability transition" by Assistant Professor Jerneja Penca (EMUNI).

On 25 May, the first CIVICA Research Excellence Tours at the EUI inaugurated a new format that will allow scholars in CIVICA universities to present their research and share their expertise across various partner institutions. The event featured a talk by Jerneja Penca, Assistant Professor at the Euro-Mediterranean University (EMUNI), where she leads the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence on Sustainable Blue Economy.

The talk, hosted in Villa Salviati, focused on the EU’s efforts to bring deep and systemic changes in values, practices, and institutions, particularly for and through biodiversity. Members of the EUI Environmental Challenges and Climate Change Governance Interdisciplinary Research cluster participated online and in person in the Q&A session following the presentation.

When introducing Professor Penca’s work and the subject of her research, EUI Dean of Research Giacomo Calzolari highlighted her expertise in the field of interdisciplinary research, noting how this approach is especially challenging for younger scholars. However, he added, interdisciplinarity is likely the only way to address “important societal issues that require a complex policy response.”

Professor Penca, who is also an EUI Law Department alumna, said she felt grateful not only to be back at the EUI, but also to see her research fitting so well into one of CIVICA’s focus areas. The framework of CIVICA Research, she said, strongly resonates with how she sees the future of universities: “It’s international, collaborative, cross-disciplinary, and very much engaged with stakeholders.”

In the first part of her presentation, Professor Penca focused on defining transformative change as a fundamental reorganisation across technological, economic, and social factors, needed for long-term human wellbeing and sustainable development. Far from being only a scientific concept, transformative change, she explained, has now become a concrete policy goal, particularly through international agreements and conventions.

While in the short term the implementation of effective policy instruments and regulations is the best tool we have to support transformative change, Professor Penca pointed out that in the long term additional measures will be needed to instigate change in social, economic, and technological structures within and across nations.

The second part of her talk was dedicated to a thorough assessment of the EU’s efforts in promoting transformational change, efforts that are mostly linked to two major initiatives: the EU Commission’s European Green Deal and the Recovery and Resilience Plans.

While the inclusion of new policy instruments such as the “Do No Significant Harm” principle represent an important step towards a more successful governance in the promotion of transformative change, Professor Penca pointed out that the two strategies are not as integrated as many hoped they would be. Some of the promises they hold are “somewhat divergent”, she explained, and more needs to be done especially for biodiversity conservation and restoration.

The CIVICA Research Excellence Tours invite leading scholars on a ‘tour’ whereby they give seminars or workshops to faculty and early stage researchers across CIVICA host institutions. During the first tour, Professor Penca provided the same presentation both at Sciences Po and at the EUI.


Written by the EUI Editorial team (Luisa Della Pietra, Soraya Binetti and Jessica Carter)

Photo credit: EUI Graphic Design Team (Irene Oddo)

CIVICA Research brings together researchers from eight leading European universities in the social sciences to contribute knowledge and solutions to the world's most pressing challenges. The project aims to strengthen the research & innovation pillar of the European University alliance CIVICA. CIVICA Research is co-funded by the EU's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. Subscribe to the newsletter to stay updated with CIVICA Research developments and opportunities.