What are the Challenges to Being an Effective Transformations Practitioner?


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


lack of resources, science-practice disconnect, well-being, radical shifts


Transformation work is central to addressing environmental sustainability challenges in the present day. However, engaging in transformations can be a challenge in itself. This paper draws on the experiences of current transformations practitioner-academics (practitioners) to discuss the challenges and obstacles they face at different levels – personal, professional, and systemic – throughout their transformations journey. What kinds of challenges are faced by those engaged in sustainability transformations work? Are these challenges largely professional or more personal? Do they reflect the rigidity of systems within which transformations work is carried out? How does resistance to change or ‘transform’ take shape? What has been the experience of the Transformations Community in this regard? These questions drive the discussion around challenges to transformations designed to support sustainable systems. The challenges identified by the interviewees include lack of financial resources, rigid systems, and institutional structures, challenges to collaborative work, low priority for action-oriented work, and personal struggles of those engaged in transformation work. We also highlight solutions discussed by the interviewees and the need to address these challenges by leveraging the collective experiences of the Transformations Community.

Author Biographies

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.

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.




How to Cite

Balakrishna, R., Goldstein, B. E., & Manuel-Navarrete, D. (2022). What are the Challenges to Being an Effective Transformations Practitioner?. Social Innovations Journal, 15(5). Retrieved from https://socialinnovationsjournal.com/index.php/sij/article/view/4972



Transformations Practitioners