Transformation is becoming an important concept and buzzword in discussions around climate change and sustainability. But what does it really mean? And how do we make it happen?
A transformation can be defined as a marked change in form, structure or meaning-making. By definition, transformation is not one “thing” — it has aspects that are directly observable and measurable, but also dimensions that are qualitative and subjective. What is considered transformative to one person or group may not be perceived as transformative to others. For example, including environmental costs in decision-making may be perceived as a transformative idea to some, yet represent a standard or norm to others.
When it comes to climate change, many people would like to see marked changes in greenhouse gas emissions through transformations in energy systems and human behaviors. Clean energy, sustainable agriculture, less intensive resource use and reduced consumption — these are important goals for transformation. Yet to experience these outcomes, other types of transformations may be necessary.
The dynamics of transformative change can be captured by three spheres of transformation. Transformations in the practical sphere — those that can be observed and measured — represent an important goal, and this is often the focus of policies and interventions. However, outcomes here are almost always influenced by transformations in the political sphere, where norms, rules, and regulations facilitate or impede change. When structures and systems change, so do the practical outcomes.
Transformations in the personal sphere can be one of the most significant drivers of change. Such transformations may offer a new “view” of the system and new visions for change. They can be experienced by individuals or groups, as meaning is often shared through language and culture. Changes in meaning making are related to beliefs, values, worldviews and paradigms — the lenses and filters through which we perceive and act in the world. Importantly, the power to affect change does not depend on transforming other people’s worldviews, but on finding ways to understand and relate to them. This may mean finding ways to work together, especially in conflictual situations, and it often means working for political solutions. The point is that the three spheres of transformation are related and interdependent — significant changes in one sphere can lead to changes in the others.
The cCHALLENGE involves committing to a single change in the practical sphere, an experience that can lead to insights related to the political and personal spheres. Follow the participants in their 30-day cCHALLENGE!