The Meaning of Transformations
Keywords:systems change, transformations, systems thinking, practitioner, transdisciplinary
“Transformations” are increasingly being sought as humanity approaches planetary boundaries that define the environmental limits within which societies can safely operate. Within social-ecological systems (SES) research, transformations are understood to affect different system elements simultaneously, occur at different rates and in distinct phases, and impact the system at multiple levels and temporal, spatial, and organizational scales. As this complexity implies, transformations are not predictable or controllable and can, at best be navigated. We draw on interviews with sixty practitioners within the Transformations Community to explore how their conception of ‘transformations’ highlights differences between interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary action research. Practitioners described transformation as a complex multi-level and multi-phase process and an engaged and embodied practice. They suggest that the ability to practice transformation is predicated on experiencing personal transformation, which involves re-examining assumptions and core beliefs through disruptive learning experiences. Transformations rely on forging alliances with marginal actors and communities to redress historical injustice, engaging powerful social and political actors and institutions who often resist the actions needed for sustainable and equitable futures. Accordingly, these practitioners emphasize that transformation was slow and unpredictable, requiring patient work by many people. Acknowledging that their work often has little immediate impact on transformation, transformation practitioners emphasize the importance of developing transformative capacity, which may lie latent until the time is right to catalyze systems change.
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2022 Bruce Evan Goldstein, David Manuel-Navarrete, Raksha Balakrishna, Hallie Elrod (Author)
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
The Social Innovations Journal permits the Creative Commons License:
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
Under the following terms:
Attribution — You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.
NonCommercial — You may not use the material for commercial purposes.
NoDerivatives — If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you may not distribute the modified material.
- No additional restrictions — You may not apply legal terms or technological measures that legally restrict others from doing anything the license permits.
- You do not have to comply with the license for elements of the material in the public domain or where your use is permitted by an applicable exception or limitation.
- No warranties are given. The license may not give you all of the permissions necessary for your intended use. For example, other rights such as publicity, privacy, or moral rights may limit how you use the material
Copyright and Publishing Rights
For the licenses indicated above, authors retain the copyright and full publishing rights without restrictions.