Transformation Systems to Address a “Hard Landing”

Do you have an initiative or proposal that you think of as transformative? You may want to join those that the Forum’s is bringing together for a collective ask of financiers. The Forum is demonstrating how diverse transformation efforts it calls “Jewels of transformation” can be brought into coherence with shared language and strategy. Working with those committed to transformation, the Forum is addressing the scale and complexity inherent with transformation by developing powerful transformations systems. On the one hand, the Forum is creating a collective vehicle to fund transformation efforts. On the other, it is providing a vehicle to replace the paralysis, intimidation and confusion that people often experience with transformational complexity and scale, with clarity, insight and inspiration to guide their actions.

In their December meeting, Councillors discussed how we – our planet and people – are heading for a hard landing. That’s the real implication of climate change, our planet’s ecological trends, growing economic inequalities, closing civil society space, and the quality of responses to date. A desirable re-creation arising from the hard landing in the direction of the Sustainable Development Goals with flourishing futures for all, desperately requires purposeful transformation.

Purposeful transformation, far from being a questionable aspiration, is an extremely important and actionable concept. However, another hard reality is that the current institutions and strategies are not up to the job, and are in effect overseeing transformational collapse. To realize a desirable transformed future, we also need transformation in our strategies and organizations to get there. Transforming our approach to transformation is urgent; the longer it takes, the harder will be the landing, the longer the re-creation process, and the more people and our environment will suffer.

There are lots of people and initiatives working for transformation, but they need to (1) collectively develop much more powerful transformations systems, and (2) receive much greater investment. The first challenge requires shared language, strategy and new connections amongst them that will create the needed new organizations in the form of transformations systems. The Forum is bringing together current and planned change initiatives, to help them form these systems around a common action framework.

To address the investment challenge, the Forum is working to create a Transformations Financiers network. The network is distinguished by (1) its focus on financing transformation radical innovation and paradigm shifts through large systems change, and (2) integrating funding modalities including science programs,foundations, impact investors, crowd-sourcing platforms, and government agencies. These modalities have different roles in a transformations financing system, just as they do in traditional innovation systems focused on commercialization of physical technologies.

If you have an interest in joining in this effort with your own transformations initiative or as a financier, participate in one of the Forum workshops at various gatherings (see last newsletter story). Or contact Lead Staff, Steve Waddell at

Leadership Renewal

The Forum’s rules provide for each Working Group’s (WG) active members to elect a Councillor and Lead Steward. The former participates in the coordinating Council which provides leadership and connection across the Forum communities’ WGs. The Lead Steward provides leadership with organizing the particular WG community. When the 2018 incumbents agreed to fill the role at the beginning of the year, they made a one-year commitment to their position, as did the Lead Stewards of each WG.

At the December Council meeting, they were asked whether they would stand for the following year. The following announced that they are pleased to continue, unless another member of their WG wishes to contest the position.

  • Evaluation for Transformation WG – Council Glenn Page, Lead Steward Zenda Ofir
  • Financing Transformations WG – Councillor Steven Lovink, Lead Steward Steve Waddell
  • Innovation WG – Councillor Per Olsson
  • Meta-Narrative WG – Councillor Sandra Waddock, Lead Steward Chris Riedy
  • Capacity WG Councillor John Colvin has stepped down in order to focus his Forum time entirely on developing a sub-Saharan Africa network associated with the Forum’s Capacity WG; the WG Lead Steward Tony Cooke is stepping down although will remain active with the WG and focus more of his time on a Brightspot (see following Pathways Capacity WG report). Matthew Reading-Smith will remain active in the Innovation WG, but does not have time to be an active Lead Steward. Discussions are underway for filling these three roles.

If you are interested in playing these roles, please let Steve Waddell know before the end of January.

The At-Large Councillors, Josh Tewksbury of Future Earth and Katharine Trebeck of WEAll will be continuing to the end of 2019 since they only began their terms late in 2018.

Pathways Reports

The Forum is organizing around three pathways to develop transformations systems. One is focused on Deep Systems that require transforming, one on place-based transformation and the third on issues. Working Groups (WGs) are organized around key topics within each of these.

Deep Systems Pathway Working Groups


Lead Steward: Tony Cooke –
Councilor: John Colvin –

Activities include:

  • Organizing a global learning platform as a radical approach to “university” has emerged as a focus for the March meeting at Chalmers University in Sweden to advance the development of an “action-oriented research/learning community for transformation” – AR+Transformations (ART). Four webinars have been organized for January-February on topics associated with action-oriented research/learning for transformations.
  • Lead Steward Tony Cook who is also CEO of One Planet Education Networks (OPEN) reports that OPEN Fellows are engaging increasingly in the Forum.
  • Tony will be stepping down as Lead Steward; his priorities are shifting to local transformations and regenerative communities work of the Forum.
  • Discussions are underway to develop a sub-Sahara Africa network of advanced and emerging seedbeds of transformation to accelerate understanding and facilitation of SDG-focused transformation systems across the region. John Colvin announced he will step down as Councillor, so he can spend more time on its development.
  • A report on where change agents for sustainability get stuck is forthcoming undertaken with the Institute of Environment Management and Assessment (IEMA) and Society for the Environment (SocEnv).

Evaluation for Transformation (E4T)

Lead Steward: Zenda Ofir –
Councilor: Glenn Page –

Activities include:

  • The WG of 35+ people is positioned to further mobilize expertise and other resources worldwide in order to (i) strengthen the transformative power of evaluative thinking and practice, and (ii) transform evaluation and assessment systems so that they can help create and accelerate effective efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Zenda has reached out to the interested parties for 8 areas of special interest to support the emergence of a powerful E&A system for transformation worldwide. Glenn has recently launched the Blue Marble infrastructure development process with several working group members including Michael Quinn Patton who is leading the Blue Marble Interest Group.
  • Zenda, Glenn and Michael are building a global network with a launch of a survey to 400 interested parties engaging them in the process of co-development of a website and knowledge platform to further transform the field of evaluation.
  • A series of kick-off webinars to introduce the Blue Marble topic were held on Dec 18 & 24, 2018 as well as January 3 & 18, 2019 to discuss principles for how to assess global systems change.
  • The WG is also designing and implementing a workshop on February 10th at Leuphana University as part of the Leverage Points Conference to develop a process to co-create place based measurement system for large-scale systems change.
  • With a committed membership in the working group and an extraordinary collection of very well-connected expertise, the WG keeps on growing. Several initial projects have been identified while funding is being mobilized for larger initiatives.

Financing Transformation

Lead Steward: Steve Waddell –
Councilor: Steven Lovink –

Activities include:

  • Steward Mark Halle is defining a Jewel from his Better Nature initiative which aims to transform conservation action to put nature center; the Jewel addresses the need to do this with finance. This is growing out of work in association with the UNEP, the Luc Hoffmann Institute, and the Oxford Martin School.
  • The Transformations Financiers Network proposal is now identifying organizations and people to play roles in the initiative.
  • Steven Lovink is organizing a meeting at the beginning of March to further develop business models for transformations.


Lead Steward: Matthew Reading-Smith –
Councilor: Per Olsson –

Activities include:

  • Per is taking action to advance the redirection of the WG to focus on innovation and scaling for transformative impact from the perspective of entrepreneurship. He had a call with a couple of people at Skoll Foundation and will be reaching out to more organizations. The idea is to contact several of these key players similar to Skoll, including Schwab, Ashoka, Omidyar, etc. in order to connect and collaborate around these type of programs that we address in the WG.
  • At the Stockholm Resilience Centre Per has also been part of running three change-makers programs. One is called BALTICLEAD, another is Transforming Change (ongoing), and one is an executive program for top CEO of Sweden’s largest companies.


Lead Steward: Chris Riedy –
Councilor: Sandra Waddock –

Activities include:

  • Discussion and project idea development on five narrative themes has been initiated in the WG’s Future Earth Open Network Transformations Narratives community.
  • A draft Jewel proposal on ‘developing a narrative transformation system’ has been developed.
  • The WG Stewards held a reflection session on what we have learned so far.
  • WG members will be engaging with upcoming narrative workshops led by We All. Sandra Waddock and Genevieve Boast will participate in a January workshop in Lancaster.

Place-Based Pathway Working Groups

Forum-associated place-based transformation efforts, known as “Bright spots”, are developing in three locations.

The Gulf of Maine (USA)

From Glenn Page:
This Brightspot is associated with of the most rapidly warming bodies of water in the world, resulting in numerous changes including the demise of the lobster industry which has been a mainstay of the economy. It is:

  • Relationship building with the Capital Institute/Regenerative Communities Network, creating podcasts and forming a working group convened under the name of COBALT (Collaborative for Bioregional Action Learning & Transformation).  COBALT will officially launch in Winter/Spring off 2019

The Balkans (Europe)

From Nikola Jurisic:
A team of residents and expats has organized Project Light with the vision of building a values-based society in which we all the citizens want and choose to live in. The 21 million inhabitants in the region have been historically racked by ethnic and religious conflict. The group reports that activities include:

  • A new NGO is being created by three leading NGOs in Serbia: EXIT Foundation, Novak Djokovic Foundation and Nick Vujicic foundations. All three are led by brilliant entrepreneurial individuals and already do great work.
  • Lead Steward Nikola Jurisic met with EXIT and was asked to join their Board.
  • Continuing discussions with a number of initiatives to support them in scaling, in particular the NextGen Peacebuilders, Fonterra and Exit Healing Festival. Intention is for the new governance system to pick and scale a few initiatives. Completed 3 week project from Fronterra with McKinsey support to help them get scale up funding from Porticus Foundation.

Bay Area (Greater San Francisco, USA)

From Manuel Manga:

Activities include:

  • The group met several times to design a social labs approach for the Bay area transformations systems.

Issues Pathway Working Groups

The Forum works on particular issues that require transformations.

Forests and Climate

The Director of UN-REDD continues to raise money to work with the Forum and create a transformations systems strategy for UN-REDD

Community Gatherings

See You in Germany…or Sweden, or Canada, or the Czech Republic, or Chile?

The Forum both organizes gatherings and joins with others’, as places to develop connections and collective actions through workshops.


Transformations2019 – Call for Proposals

The University of Chile – Santiago, Chile October 16-18, 2019

Now’s the time to propose sessions and workshops for the 2019 premier gathering of the SDG Transformations Forum community. To enhance both practice and theory to support transformative changes, the Transformations 2019 Conference will provide a platform for reciprocal learning between researchers and practitioners. Therefore, we particularly encourage the participation of delegates whose work goes beyond disciplinary research, to include government and civil society organizations, and the private sector.

We warmly invite submissions for abstracts and proposals that focus on at least one of the six themes of the conference, organized in five possible formats:

  • Oral Presentations: Individuals or Sessions
  • Poster Presentations
  • Video Presentations
  • T-Practice: Transformative Practice Sessions
  • TransAction: Pre-Conference One-day Transformation Workshops

Proposals for abstracts must be submitted via our online system to be opened from the 15th of January 2019.

Remember the dates (midnight CLST UTC-03)
-> Abstracts and proposals submission deadline: 3rd of March 2019
-> Abstracts and proposals notification of outcome: 17th of April 2019
-> Registration for authors of accepted abstracts and proposals: 28th of June 2019


With the theme Learning from Transformative Action and Thinking, this will be the first meeting in the Southern hemisphere.  Transformations 2019 aims to provide a platform for reciprocal learning between developing and developed national and local contexts, and between researchers and practitioner. The Continuity Committee includes the lead organizers of the previous three Transformations International Gatherings (Karen O’Brien, Per Olsson, Ioan Fazey, Mark Howden), and Paulina Aldunce from the University of Chile; Paulina has organized a Local Strategic Committee.

The gathering aims to provide a platform for reciprocal learning between developing and developed national and local contexts, and between researchers and practitioner in order to enhance both practice and theory to support transformative changes for addressing climate change and other contemporary societal and environmental challenges.

The Forum is organizing an additional day for those interested in working with it and developing Jewels of Transformations (see first newsletter story).

Leverage Points Conference

Leuphana University – Lunenburg, Germany Feb. 6-10

Join the SDG Transformations Forum community at the Leverage Points Conference being organized by the Leverage Points for Sustainability transformations agents. You can see the Forum’s significant participation described in this blog.

Workshops Feb. 9, 10

Join us for a Forum meeting on Saturday, Feb. 9 in a day of action planning. This is a great time for people new to the Forum to learn more about it, and how your work and interests can be furthered through it. To register contact Steve Waddell at

The day following the Forum meeting, Feb. 10, you can join a workshop to co-create a meta-measurement (baseline) system for place-based transformative work to better see, connect and accelerate large-scale system change. It is led by Evaluation for Transformations Councillor and Gulf of Maine Brightspots lead, Glenn Page. You can register by contacting him at

See more about these workshops.

AR+ Transformations Gathering


Chalmers University – Gothenburg, Sweden, March 8-10

AR+Transformations is a community organizing space, designed by and for those committed to action-oriented transformations research. Hosts are AR+, Chalmers University, and the Forum. Our gathering convenes a new global community to enable creative interaction around the question of how to do science with stakeholders.  If you’re engaged in creating transformative knowledge, emphasizing participation, inquiry, action and deeper values orientation, then you belong! We see our transdisciplinary work not only as an alternative but also as a compliment, to conventional ways of doing “objective” science. We want our research to be more useful in the crises of sustainability and the promise of co-generative societies; we want our collaboration to piggyback on the important work already underway around the work, we want to help connect efforts up. Go here to register.

As a radical approach to “university”, the meeting will discuss developing GULP: Global Unifying (University, Ubuntu) Learning Platform. Join us for four webinars leading up to the meeting.

Come, be part of, and contribute to, shaping this community.

International Sustainable Transitions 2019 Call for Proposals

Ottawa, Canada June 23-26

Over the past few decades, the damage being done to global ecosystems by established development trajectories has become increasingly evident. Above all, progress remains slow when compared to the scale of damage being done to ecosystems and the climate. The theme of IST 2019 – Accelerating sustainability transitions – seeks to address this challenging context by encouraging researchers and practitioners to examine obstacles to transitions processes and strategies to speed up the transformation of systems of production and consumption.
Proposals for the conference can be submitted until Jan. 22.

International Development Evaluation Association

Prague, Czech Republic Oct. 2-4, 2019

The International Development Evaluation Association (IDEAS), has adopted the theme Evaluation for Transformative Change, reflecting alignment with the focus of the Forum’s Evaluation for Transformations WG. WG Lead Steward is also IDEAS Vice President, asks you to contact her (Zenda Ofir: ) to discuss how the Forum can help shape the effort into something really useful and interesting, beyond convention in the evaluation space.