[Translate to English:] Missionen

Missions with Impact: A practical guide to formulating effective missions

A mission-oriented policy approach can effectively contribute to achieving the transformative change needed in economies and societies targeting holistic sustainability. Formulating a clear mission is crucial to maximizing the transformative impact of such missions. Aiming to support such efforts, the Bertelsmann Stiftung and Fraunhofer ISI have co-authored a practical guide on how to formulate missions with impact.


Contact person

Foto Daniel Schraad-Tischler
Dr. Daniel Schraad-Tischler
Foto Jan C. Breitinger
Dr. Jan C. Breitinger
Senior Project Manager
Foto Daniel Posch
Daniel Posch
Project Manager

A mission-oriented approach offers a way forward

The complex challenges associated with sustainability transitions pose major problems for modern political systems and raise the question of whether new ways of negotiation, decision-making and implementation are needed to address these challenges. For example, given the broad-reaching effects of an issue like climate change on diverse aspects of daily life, policy fields and action areas, conventional solutions are unlikely to prove effective.

Mission orientation proves to be a promising approach for addressing cross-cutting thematic challenges. It involves formulating well-defined “missions” intended to direct innovation, economic activities and societal initiatives toward desired outcomes. These missions aim for transformational change, targeting fundamental shifts that extend beyond the usual political timelines to ensure enduring impact. Across several OECD countries and at the EU level, initiatives embracing a mission-oriented approach are gaining momentum. For instance, the EU’s mission of “100 climate-neutral cities” exemplifies this approach by exploring new pathways to achieve climate neutrality by 2030. Here, stakeholders from diverse sectors can get involved to help generate effective solutions targeting the objective of climate neutrality.

In Germany, we see a noticeable shift toward embracing mission orientation, which is an encouraging development. The next step involves putting this approach into practice by fostering consistent cooperation across ministerial silos

Daniel Posch, Project Manager at the Bertelsmann Stiftung and co-author of the study

We also see a growing recognition of the importance of mission orientation in German policy circles. The Future Research and Innovation Strategy (“Zukunftsstrategie Forschung und Innovation”) outlined by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in 2023 underscores this commitment by identifying six specific missions for targeted action over the next few years. Moving forward, Germany’s political leadership is now called upon to tackle the next concrete steps of mission formulation, instrument design and mission implementation – and thus translate strategic plans into tangible outcomes.

Mission formulation is crucial – practical guide provides orientation

The initial phase of mission formulation holds significant importance as it lays the groundwork for subsequent implementation efforts. However, this phase is quite demanding: it requires the mobilization of key stakeholders across relevant sectors, the ability to overcome ministerial silos while ensuring mission legitimacy from the outset, and formulating missions that are both ambitious and feasible. To aid decision-makers and practitioners in navigating this process, the Bertelsmann Stiftung and Fraunhofer ISI have co-authored a practical guide. The authors consistently advocate for a cross-ministerial and cross-sectoral approach, emphasizing critical success factors such as defining clearly quantifiable mission objectives. The guide also delineates essential components of the mission formulation process, which range from clarifying responsibilities to stakeholder engagement methods and mission plausibility assessment. The political actors responsible for mission formulation can thus draw on the guide to refine and improve their approach. Finally, the authors examine how various political contexts, including acute emergencies, influence the implementation of mission-oriented approaches.

When formulating a mission, it’s important to strike a good balance between ambition and realism. Politicians should have the courage to agree on a manageable number of goals and then pursue them with unwavering determination.

Dr. Jan Breitinger, innovation expert at the Bertelsmann Stiftung