Applying Technologies of the Self in Transformation Labs to Mobilize Collective Agency


  • David Manuel-Navarrete
  • Lakshmi Charli-Joseph
  • Hallie Eakin
  • J. Mario Siqueiros-Garcia


Transformation Laboratories, technologies of the self, T-Labs, collective agency, transformative agency


Transformation Laboratories (T-Labs) are human-centered participatory spaces aimed at fostering both the personal development of participants, and the generation of new collective agency in heterogenous groups of actors motivated by the goal of transforming the social-ecological systems they inhabit. T-Labs can benefit from employing “technologies of the self” (ToS), which are participatory tools to assist self-reflection by drawing people’s attention to their own social-ecological agency. Academic researchers can act as convenor/facilitators of T-Labs by playing the dual role of providing both tested ToS for building collective agency, and access to specialized expertise and knowledges, according to the needs of each group. The process may involve existing or new economic activities but is transformation-driven rather than profit-driven. This paper reports on a 3-years project that implemented a T-Lab in Xochimilco wetland in Mexico City. The project created and applied 10 ToS. Two of them, Ego-nets and Avatars are presented to illustrate their transformative potential.

Author Biographies

David Manuel-Navarrete

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

Lakshmi Charli-Joseph

Lakshmi E. Charli-Joseph has been involved for the past twelve years in educational and capacity building projects related to wetland management, water governance, and sustainability science. She currently works at the National Laboratory for Sustainability Sciences (LANCIS-IE-UNAM) in stakeholders’ engagement, and transformation to sustainability in Mexico. She is also a PhD candidate at the Graduate Program in Sustainability Sciences (UNAM) and her research title is: “Promoting transformative pathways to sustainability through collective agency: The Transformation-Lab in the Xochimilco social-ecological system”.

Hallie Eakin

Hallie Eakin is a professor in the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University. Professor Eakin's research interests include household vulnerability and the sustainability of adaptations to global change, social-ecological resilience and integration of risk into development planning, the governance of telecoupled systems, rural development, sustainable food systems, agricultural change and food sovereignty.

J. Mario Siqueiros-Garcia

Mario Siqueiros-García is a researcher at the Instituto de Investigaciones en Matemáticas Aplicadas y en Sistemas (IIMAS-UNAM). He is an anthropologist working in complex systems, complex networks, humanities and computational modeling. His current projects focus on intersubjectivity, affectivity and agency, in the context of art and transformations to sustainability.




How to Cite

Manuel-Navarrete, D., Charli-Joseph, L., Eakin, H., & Siqueiros-Garcia, J. M. (2021). Applying Technologies of the Self in Transformation Labs to Mobilize Collective Agency. Social Innovations Journal, 5. Retrieved from



Social Innovation and Entreprenership