The Interdisciplinary Study of Societal Challenges

The Societal Challenges Lab is part of both the Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs and the Faculty of Social Sciences at Leiden University in the Netherlands.


In 2015, the United Nations (U.N.) formulated an intergovernmental resolution officially known as Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,  which includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), involving 194 U.N. Member States, as well as global civil society. Examples are: No poverty (1), Good health and well-being (3), Quality education (4), Gender equality (5), Reduced inequalities (10), and Promoting just, peaceful, and inclusive societies (16). These SDGs represent key global societal challenges that reflect the ambition to foster inclusive societies with equal rights, opportunities and access to resources across diverse populations.


These issues reflect the need for insights into the development, socialization, and cognitive underpinnings of societal inequalities in historical and sociocultural context, as well as the roles of governance,  politics, laws, and economics in the maintenance versus reduction of inequalities. The key questions addressed by the researchers affiliated with the Societal Challenges Lab indeed transcend traditional disciplines:

  • When, where, how, and why does human diversity lead to societal inequalities?
  • When, where, how, and why do governments and institutions create or perpetuate societal inequalities and hinder inclusive societies?
  • What are the most effective types of interventions to remove or diminish societal inequalities and contribute to inclusive societies?

The research program adopts a lifespan perspective, studying processes from early childhood into adulthood that might explain the ontogeny of inequalities and possible solutions. This includes the study of childhood socialization processes regarding citizenship and identity in multiple contexts (e.g., family, schools, neighborhoods), the study of educational, vocational, and lifestyle choices in the transition to adulthood, and the investigation of civic engagement, interaction with the physical environment, intergroup ideologies, and societal role-taking in adulthood. In each of these life stages, it is crucial to examine the changing and stage-specific roles of the (inter)national political, institutional, cultural, environmental, and economic context.


Judi Mesman on RTL news (May 2018)

Judi Mesman shows her scientific vision on gender specific child raising and gives some advise for parents who want to be more aware of the way they raise their child in a gender specific way. Watch the fragment HERE (in dutch)

April 2018

Judi Mesman elected as a member of KNAW

Judi Mesman is elected as a member of the KNAW (Koninklijke Nederlandse Academie voor de Wetenschappen). You can read the article HERE (in dutch)

March 2018

Annie Romein Verschoor Lecture  

On International Womensday, the yearly Annie Romein Verschoor lecture was organized. Minister Jet Bussemaker and journalist Lanyae Aharouay were the speakers on this evening. Read more... (in dutch)

February 2018

'Startimpuls' Event NWA 

On February 19, the researchers of 2 NWA routes gathered in the Volkenkunde Museum in Leiden. Both routes presented their work up until now. It was a very successful day! Read more HERE and HERE (both in dutch).

December 2017

Judi Mesman about genderconscious  childraising wrote an article about genderconscious childraising, and asked Judi about her opinion on the subject. Read more...