Transformations 2017:
Transformations in Practice

Centre for Environmental Change and Human Resilience (CECHR)
University of Dundee, Scotland, UK

Practice Sessions – Day 1

Day 1 – Wednesday 30th August

Chris Riedy

Room 2S12

Stories have power. In the social world, humans use stories to justify what is, and imagine what could be. Institutions are underpinned by narrative and compelling stories can help to create, maintain or disrupt institutions. Drawing on our creativity and imagination, stories can offer a vision of a transformed future, or warn of catastrophe. For those who want to facilitate and accelerate transformation, the ability to form and tell a compelling story is a key transformative practice.

But what makes a story compelling? All stories are not created equal. Human biology and cultural context make us susceptible to particular kinds of stories, structured in particular ways. There are some universal principles for good storytelling, but the values of our audience also matter when crafting a transformative story. In this transformative practice session, we will work on our storytelling skills together to get better at telling transformative stories. Through hands-on activities, the session will explore:

  • Why story matters?
  • What makes a great transformative story? What are the characteristics of compelling stories? What role do audience values play in storytelling?
  • Principles of good storytelling, drawing on the literature but also our collective experience.
  • Rapid story construction and storytelling practice in groups.
  • Reflection on storytelling as transformative practice.

The session will be facilitated by Professor Chris Riedy, Professor of Sustainability Governance at the Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney.

Saskia Ruijsink, Veronica Olivotto and Linda Zuijderwijk

Room 2S13

Do you recognise this?: During some periods things go smoothly, while in other periods nothing seems to move forward, and then, all of a sudden this changes again, for good or for worse. People who are engaged in transforming our society towards a more sustainable and socially just society typically experience that transformation is a process and a journey on a bumpy road, it does not happen from one day to the other. During this journey we are engaged in events, encounters and actions, which are decisive for achieving transformation. Some of those are carefully planned, while others occur by chance, spontaneously. Such decisive moments can be understood as critical turning points for achieving transformation. This session invites those who are interested to learn more about critical turning points in journeys towards societal transformation. It will introduce a tool for reflecting and anticipating on (potential) critical turning points. During this session you will practice with this tool and you will increase your understanding on the following topics: a) how can you recognize critical turning points?; b) how are critical turning points constructed by directly engaged actors, and what is the role for external actors, events and trends?; c) how can you best organize the process of reflection and anticipation on critical turning points? In addition to the hands-on practicing we will use illustrations to show how this tool has already been used for assessing critical turning points of 80 different transformative social innovation initiatives worldwide.

Philip Revell, Pamela Candea and Nick Wilding

Room 2S14

Come along to our experience: (a) a five step personal resilience inquiry; (b) two group systems change simulations; and (c) connect with three people you didn’t know you needed to meet!

If you sometimes wonder how to make resilience and complexity real for more people, we offer some inspiration grounded in many years of exploration and practice.

Communities and community-based organisations operate as part of complex, multi-layered and dynamic socio-economic systems. These systems are increasingly under stress. An era of rapid change brings the challenge of agile and flexible response at all levels. In this workshop, we will share a ‘resilience compass’, first developed in 2010/11 by fifty rural community resilience pioneers, which invites people to explore resilience through four dimensions (people, economy, culture, links) and three resilience ‘states’ – breakdown, breakthrough, and break-even.

The compass has been further developed as part of an EU funded project: TESS. The resultant workshop helps communities work with the model to continue to break-through and thrive on a continual basis, using challenges as they arise as a catalyst for positive change.

This taster session, based on the workshop, will be led by Dr Philip Revell, former engineer, now community activist and researcher on TESS, assisted by Pamela Candea, facilitator and community activist, and Dr Nick Wilding, an action researcher currently based in the Scottish Government, supporting the transformation of Scottish public service. All three have significant experience working with community groups, NGOs, public bodies, social enterprises, and the private sector.

Joost Vervoort, Aniek Hebinck, Tjitske Anna Zwart, Lucas Rutting and Laura Pereira

Room 2S15

Deborah O’Connell and Yiheyis Maru

Room 2S16

The Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel of the Global Environment Facility (STAP/GEF) proposes to demonstrate the impact of stakeholder engagement in enabling transformational change through a live-simulation. The goal of the game is to simulate the design and implementation of a development project that achieves transformational change. To ensure the simulation is realistic, the game will be based on a completed project funded through the Global Environment Facility, which was deemed to have the potential to create transformational change.

The session will involve up to 40 individuals who will be divided into two groups. In each group, the participants will each be assigned a unique stakeholder function. This will include the position and title of the person they represent in the simulation (e.g. project coordinator for the United Nations Development Programme), as well as the description of the values that individual will be upholding (e.g. scientific knowledge; providing for their immediate household needs; financial return on investment). Each participant will self-select a role for themselves based on pre-defined stakeholder roles, either as a catalyst, a champion, a driver, an enabler, or a facilitator.

The process will explore the stakeholder negotiations required to enable transformational change. The session facilitators will follow those negotiations closely to identify, for example, money flows, power struggles, competing interests, conflicting values, and how (or if) these are resolved under tight constraints. The session will conclude with a comparison between the two project designs, assessing the potential for transformational change in each.

Howard Silverman

Room 2S17

A transformation is a discontinuity. Attempts at “designing” (i.e., planning and patterning, creating possibilities) for transformative change thus face numerous challenges, in particular: the imagination, affiliation, and strengthening of and with alternative viabilities rather than current ones.

In the broad sense of design, everyone designs. Design is an anticipatory activity that may be as unremarkable as rearranging an agenda or as daunting as preparing for tomorrow’s unknowns. If in taking a scientific stance, one examines “what is,” then in adopting a designerly stance, one envisions “what could be.” Following designerly logics, one seeks not valid arguments but instead plausible enablements.

In this workshop we will explore design literacies. Through a series of conversations and hands-on exercises, we will elicit the experiences of taking a designerly stance and then discuss the ways in which such a stance complements a scientific one. The artifacts we produce will serve as lenses for examining one’s social environments, comparing one’s understandings with others, and developing strategies for transformative change.

Lotta Andersson, Tina-Simone Schmid Neset and Julie Wilk

Room 2G12

The way in which research is being performed is drastically changing towards open, collaborative and global research. This transition requires a fundamental shift from traditional concepts where data is individually collected and eventually published together with methods and results towards collaborative and interactive sharing of methods, data and results at earlier stages. Virtual science laboratories may be a means to facilitate this transformation.

Within the SWITCH-ON project a virtual science laboratory has been developed and implemented in collaborative experiments. In this practical session, we will share user insights, provide hands-on experiences, and reflect on further possibilities and challenges to make this innovation useful in your own scientific domain.

A virtual science laboratory can be useful for community building by facilitating the sharing of data and learning experiences from different case studies. However the concept also faces a number of challenges. Scientists would need to change their mind-sets of how research is implemented and performed. Incentives are needed to ensure that the extra efforts, by joining a virtual science lab, are appreciated in research evaluation and funding.

Foreseen benefits include: Transparency –participants and others can follow what has been done, assess data and results; Consistency –  a joint research protocol ensures that all perform a process in a uniform way, which enables comparability when several research groups are involved in an experiment; Repeatability and reproducibility – others can repeat/reproduce what has been done and develop this further for other locations, as they have access to protocols and open access of data and results.

Dominic Duckett, Anna Conniff, Richard Hewitt, Katherine Irvine, Andrew Thorburn and David Ania

Room 2G13

TouchTables or interactive surface computing takes ubiquitous iPad or Android touchscreen technology to a new level. Where handheld devices open-up possibilities for individual experience of apps, TouchTables create a group experience by operating at scales that facilitate interaction. Among the emergent possibilities is enhanced participatory mapping; a methodology particularly useful in relation to environmental challenges that demand shared understandings of the spatial properties of landscapes. Conventional maps have long been deployed in participatory mapping. TouchTables make maps dynamic. Using readily available apps such as Google Earth on TouchTables, stakeholders can scroll and zoom to go from the global to the local effortlessly. Equally they can switch between Ordnance Survey (OS) and satellite views with a single click. Geographical Information Systems (GIS) take this simple but powerful affordance further. Layers of both qualitative and quantitative information, from boundaries of protected areas, to surveys indicating resources or population densities, can be overlaid at the touch of a finger. Furthermore, stakeholders can create their own layers of information embedding digital information, from personal photographs to ecological survey data, into existing maps, co-constructing new perspectives.

This session will showcase a number of research projects (case studies) that have harnessed TouchTables to build transformative understandings of socio-environmental challenges. Participants will gain a hands-on experience of a TouchTable loaded with the research instruments used in each case. The practice session will stimulate a comparison of various approaches and a critical discussion about the potential of these novel tools and methods in transformative, environmental projects.

Kathleen Curran, Angela Bednarek, Jon Padgham, Carina Wyborn and Melanie Ryan

Room 2G14

Focusing on the flow of knowledge at the intersection of science, policy, and society has the potential to accelerate sustainability transformations. Those working at this intersection aim to improve the use of knowledge to inform policy and practice by creating more efficient linkages. For example, decision-makers may participate in the idea development phase of a research project so that the research more directly meets their needs. Yet, these efforts can require expertise that is outside of current paradigms of training and research (e.g., how a researcher can find and connect with decision-makers who might use research).

Training and research support provide critical opportunities to understand and experiment with work at the boundaries, but vary according to career stage and career trajectory. For example, graduate students could experiment with including users in their dissertation project. Or, mid-career researchers could explore pathways to policy impact. Options for professional boundary-spanners are even murkier – how to train them, their role in relation to researchers, and their career opportunities.

This session explores the conditions and processes that enable individual transformations by experiencing work at the boundary to catalyze a ripple effect towards greater sustainability. In groups, we invite participants to explore assumptions and options for working across boundaries for students, early-career researcher or practitioner, and mid-career researcher or practitioner. We will explore a theory of change for the different career stages to identify opportunities and actions that could create space for improved connections between science, policy, and sustainability.

Lotte Kravitz


Join artist Lotte Kravitz for a hands-on session, creating elements of the change ceremony that will take place during the conference. A key part of the conference is considering how to let go of the old and bring in the new both individually and collectively. The artwork will be introduced in the plenary session on the first day of the conference. The aim of the practice session is to allow delegates to actively participate in the creation of the art piece which will be presented at the conference dinner.  .

Looking at the theme of Transformations as a crucible for a change in thinking, we will work together to build a symbolic piece of art.

We will aim to:

  • Generate a fresh perspective.
  • Allow space for play and imaginative thinking – to approach topics from different angles.
  • Shift gear. Giving the brain a shake so the dust settles in interesting ways conducive to new thought patterns.
  • Explore how this relates to transformations

Participants are invited to get their hands dirty and contribute to the creation of the artwork during the practice session, adding clay to create the initial structure. The process will culminate in a ceremony at the Falkland Centre for Stewardship, to actively let go of the old and bring in the new.

Lotte Kravitz is founder of Fantom, which specialises in site-specific participatory art. Her focus is on interactivity and imaginative use of materials.