Becoming a Transformations Practitioner


  • David Manuel-Navarrete Arizona State University
  • Bruce Evan Goldstein University of Colorado, Boulder
  • Raksha Balakrishna Arizona State University


transformation pathways, inner sustainability, indigeneity, decolonization


What are common pathways to becoming a transformations practitioner practitioner? Do these pathways depend on ‘inner work,’ or rather just being in the right place at the right time? How do personal transformations relate to social or material ones? We draw on 56 interviews with active practitioners from around the globe to address these questions. Interviewees reflected on how they developed capacities to engage in personal and professional transformations.

In many cases, epiphanies and self-reflective practices led to turning points away from conventional career patterns. The realization, either sudden or progressive, that established forms of science and practice were insufficient, and that one needs to extend one’s scope beyond conventional frames and beliefs often happened in the context of ‘epistemological crises.’ That is, deeply questioning what counts as valid and useful knowledge and how learning occurs. An unexpected finding was that such personal crises were often triggered by meaningful interactions with non-Western cultures, through which the epistemologies and, occasionally, ontologies of these cultures were embraced or at least recognized as equally sound to their Western counterparts. In these cases, ‘letting go’ and ‘unlearning’ were identified as key skills to overcome onto-epistemological crises.

Author Biographies

David Manuel-Navarrete, Arizona State University

David Manuel-Navarrete is associate professor in sustainability at Arizona State University. He studies subjective dynamics in coupled social-ecological and technological systems, and inner sustainability transformations. His most recent research explores adaptation, resilience, and transformation of water infrastructures in Mexico City, and the promotion of indigenous biocultures and knowledge co-production to advance sustainability in the Amazon.

Bruce Evan Goldstein, University of Colorado, Boulder

Bruce Evan Goldstein is an Associate Professor in the Program in Environmental Design at the University of Colorado Boulder. He develops partnerships with learning networks and other transformations initiatives in order to understand how professionals and communities combine forces to adapt to social and ecological challenges and foster transformational change. Bruce leads the Transformations Community of Practice.

Raksha Balakrishna, Arizona State University

Raksha Balakrishna is a PhD (Sustainability) student at the School of Sustainability, Arizona State University. Her research is focussed on studying collective action for natural resource management, resource governance and institutions. She is interested in understanding how policy shapes shared management of resources in transitional spaces along the rural-urban continuum. Previously, she has worked with communities in rural India on management of land and water commons, securing tenurial rights, and strengthening resource-based livelihoods including agriculture and livestock rearing.




How to Cite

Manuel-Navarrete, D., Goldstein, B. E., & Balakrishna, R. (2022). Becoming a Transformations Practitioner. Social Innovations Journal, 15(5). Retrieved from



Transformations Practitioners