Sustainability Transformations Practice as a Transdisciplinary and Metadisciplinary Field


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


systems change, transformations, transdisciplinary, action research


What does a “transformations practitioner” do to change systems, how do they do it, and what abilities do they need to do it well? Drawing from 56 practitioner interviews of members of the Transformations Community, we explore how transformations practitioners bring about a just transition toward a more sustainable future. We identify how the field is rooted in three core transdisciplinary capacities: participatory diagnosis, expertise in knowledge co-production, and co-production action. The capacities primarily rely on ‘people skills’ such as interpersonal communication, personal empathy, and interactional capacity. We also describe how practitioner work is not only transdisciplinary but also metadisciplinary, in that they seek to take what they learned in individual projects and initiatives to advance the field of transdisciplinary research through specific techniques and practices, integrative leadership practices, training, and reflexive theorizing on the nature of their practice. We identify how the Transformations Community supports each of these domains to expand the scope and reach of transformations practice.

Author Biographies

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.

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.

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.

Chukwuma Paul, African Leadership University

Paul Chukwuma is an undergraduate student at the African Leadership University in Rwanda. He is passionate about climate change and uses his research skills to create knowledge to address gaps in climate change action. In the past, he has worked with the Rwanda Environment Management Agency on a research project focused on the assessment of Greenhouse gas reduction achieved by Rwanda’s national cooking stove project. He is also leading a research project with PayingTone to develop the first ecological footprint tracker in Rwanda. On an individual level, he is working on a research paper, “Integrating Diffusion of Innovations and the Theory of Planned Behavior to Predict Intention to Adopt Electric Motorcycles in Kigali”,  this paper is one of the two research paper series Paul will be working on to help the government and private stakeholders make informed decisions on Kigali’s transition to electric motorcycles.




How to Cite

Goldstein, B. E., Manuel-Navarrete, D., Balakrishna, R., & Paul, C. (2022). Sustainability Transformations Practice as a Transdisciplinary and Metadisciplinary Field. Social Innovations Journal, 15(5). Retrieved from



Transformations Practitioners