• Portrait of Dr. Ralph Richter

    Dr. Ralph Richter, Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space

As an urban and regional sociologist at the Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space (IRS), Brain City ambassador Dr. Ralph Richter deals with novel urban logistics solutions which contribute to social-ecological change and sustainable development in society . Berlin is an ideal research environment for him.

“I’m interested in how people in cities react to changing situations. What are the conditions that make them alter their behaviour or develop novel solutions? How is it possible to shape processes of change in a participatory way and arrive at joint solutions? I also find questions like these interesting in a spatial context, as it is shown time and again that people in rural areas, for instance, have different perspectives and needs compared to city dwellers”, explains Dr. Ralph Richter. The Brain City ambassador researches, for example, under what circumstances people in urban areas are prepared to use cargo bikes instead of cars or self-service parcel collection instead of home delivery. Because societies are subject to permanent change. And even in the digital age, people are shaped by their socio-spatial environment.

“For a long time, it was assumed that there was a homogenisation of lifestyles in cities, suburban areas and rural regions. But instead of a levelling out of differences, I observe a change towards new ways; a diversity of living environments in common”, explains Ralph Richter. When studying in Leipzig and Naples, the young academic began to specialise as an urban sociologist “because you can often pick up on societal changes very early on in cities.” He also researches such developments in Berlin: for example, on the ‘Mierendorff-INSEL’. One of the projects he is currently involved in is the research and practical project ‘Stadtquartier 4.1’ sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The aim is to test novel solutions for sustainable urban logistics and to research the conditions for the social acceptance of these solutions. “We find relatively environmentally-friendly travel behaviour here and an openness to novel logistics solutions”, he explains. “Berliners are already anticipating the transport revolution”. 

In social-ecological research, Berlin is a pacesetter for developments that can only be observed in other cities and regions with a time delay.

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