This course explores how the social sciences can address the broader and deeper challenges of the day. We approach the social sciences as a fascinating and continuously evolving discipline, a creative space for new thinking and new practice.
The course reflects on the need to consciously and strategically align science, society, and self to solve complex and interwoven problems. We examine questions such as: Who defines the broader and deeper challenges of the day? What are the theoretical and political implications of major contemporary trends, such as climate change and growing inequality? How can the social sciences enhance our capacity to interpret and navigate in the world? How does the social sciences touch upon the foundation of my everyday life, and is thereby personal?
The first part of the course invites us to reflect on how we relate to ourselves and others. We discuss how new thinking and new practice come with uncertainty, ambiguities, and controversies. By listening deeply and speaking responsibly, we transform disempowering conversations. We explore how compassion as a value can guide our study of the world.
The second part of the course reflects on social scientific principles. We explore how interdisciplinarity enables novel perspectives on problems, and how transcending disciplinary silos can be challenging. We proceed by discussing another principle, one that has increasingly been recognized as an important criterion for thoughtful social science: reflexivity.
The final part of this course explores how the social sciences can matter more meaningfully in these turbulent times. We shift our gaze from knowledge for the sake of knowing to the practical wisdom needed to make an impact in a complex, interdependent world. Today is a new day for a new generation of social scientists, and that generation is us. This course therefore invites students to align science, society, and themselves to make a meaningful contribution to the world.
Through this course, we strive to achieve that students are able to:
explain the interdependent relationship between science, society and self
explain the key principles underpinning radical transformational leadership
reflect on how science, society, and self can address complex challenges
dialogue, reflect, and collaborate in an interdisciplinary context
The material for this course comprises articles, book chapters, and movies. We engage with critical and reflexive social scientific texts, anchored in philosophy of science, sociology, and psychology literatures as well as transformation, feminist, and post-colonial scholarship.
Mode of instruction
Students are expected to invest approximately 140 hours for this 5 ECTS course by:
Attending 10 sessions (participation is mandatory) – 24 hours
Engaging meaningfully with the course material – 64 hours
Working on the individual reflective assignments – 28 hours
Working on the interdisciplinary group assignments – 16 hours
Working on the final essay – 8 hours
The assessment is made up of the 6 weekly individual assignments, 3 group assignments, and 1 individual essay.
6 Individual assignments (pass/fail)
Each week prior to the plenary session, students answer reflective questions about themselves and the course material to enhance the transformative potential of the plenary sessions.
3 Group assignments (pass/fail)
Students respond consciously and strategically to complex problems in their interdisciplinary think tanks. Students use transformative design templates based on universal values.
1 Individual essay (pass/fail)
For the final session, students write an argumentative essay in which they answer the following question: How can science, society, and self address the broader and deeper challenges of the day? Students present their argument to receive feedback for growth.
The English language is used during the sessions. Group assignments must be submitted in English. Individual assignments may be submitted in English or Dutch.
The skills predominantly covered in this course are shown in bold:
|Analysing||Oral Communication||Independent learning|
|Generating solutions||Written communication||Resilience|
|Digital skills||Societal awareness|
Please note that the sessions start at 18:00 h sharp and that the session on Providing Feedback (04-06-2023) is optional.
|27-02-2024||18:00 - 20:30||Leiden||Embracing uncertainty|
|05-03-2024||18:00 - 20:30||The Hague||Reinventing organizations|
|12-03-2024||18:00 - 20:30||Leiden||Listening deeply|
|26-03-2024||18:00 - 20:30||Leiden||Being compassionate|
|02-04-2024||18:00 - 20:30||The Hague||Speaking responsibly|
|16-04-2024||18:00 - 20:30||Leiden||Transcending silos|
|30-04-2024||18:00 - 20:30||Leiden||Practicing reflexivity|
|07-05-2024||18:00 - 20:30||The Hague||Manifesting wholeness|
|14-05-2024||18:00 - 20:30||Leiden||Making impact|
|28-05-2024||18:00 - 20:30||Leiden||Synthesizing knowledge|
|04-06-2024||18:00 - 20:30||The Hague||Providing feedback (optional)|
This introductory course is mandatory for students that start with the FSW Honours College Science, Society and Self track in the second semester of their first academic year. This course welcomes students from all disciplines and all walks of life.
Students do not need to register for this course. Registration is automatic when participation in the Science, Society and Self track is confirmed by email.
If you have any questions, please contact the course coordinator at