Conventional welfare production is unsustainable. A societal emphasis on (green) economic growth may therefore be superseded by an extended concept of well-being. Taking a transformative approach, science may take part in catalysing this challenging transformation of both the understanding and the level of well-being. Instead of economic growth at the expense of sustainability, we aim to cooperatively refocus on integrating economic, social and ecological perspectives into a more holistic, sustainable approach to individual and municipal well-being in Wuppertal (Germany). Therefore, the research team investigates and develops concepts of local sustainable well-being production, e.g., by employing a new indicator system and the real-world laboratory approach. What are the conditions and constraints of transforming well-being in Wuppertal and most particularly of the role of scientists in this endeavour? Answering this research question with a comparative case study approach, we have analysed our resources, processes, contexts and normativity. The results show that the role of ‘transformative scientists’ in Wuppertal faces constraints of timing and funding, as well as challenges from the different demands of science and practice. Hampered co-design interacts with role conflicts. Open-minded stakeholders are crucial for local well-being transformation, as is the awareness that urban residential districts have bottomed out. However, the normative sustainability claims of the transformative research project are not fully shared by all of its stakeholders, which is both necessary and challenging for transformative research.
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