End of First Quarter, 2019 Newsletter

Capacity Working Group Co-Launches Action-Oriented Research for Transformations

Developing both a Learning Platform and a Learning Centers for Transformations Network are among the next steps envisioned by a March Gathering in Sweden. The Gathering as a whole represented an important step forward in of action-oriented research for transdisciplinary transformation (ART). Transformations are about profound experimentation with learning through action, working with stakeholders and integrating personal internal development as well as changing external environments. Action-, transdisciplinary, engaged scholarship and other research approaches that reflect those three imperatives, however, are outside the main-stream of conventional research. Consequently, their practitioners are fragmented and arginalized and the practices under-developed. The Gathering represented a step to form a community to address those challenges and transformation action.

The Gathering was a joint initiative of Chalmers University, AR+ and the SDG Transformation Forum’s Capacity Working Group. The leads were Maria Elmquist, Hilary Bradbury (lead of AR+, Lead Steward of the Capacity Working Group – see next story) and Steve Waddell, with Bradbury doing the lion’s share of the organizing. The development follows the three activities of the Forum. It began with “seeing” by understanding the current structure of the emerging transformations system through interviews with over 50 people; this was followed by “Connecting”, first through four webinars on key ART issues and then with the Gathering itself. This priority actions which people listed on personal commitment sheets and nine groups that formed around topics people had passion to advance.


The third activity, radical action and learning, is now underway. Already some programs are coming together as pilots for the Learning Platform under Bradbury’s leadership – watch the Forum Blog for announcements. The Platform will evolve organically, as people come forward with programming ideas. “But we will ensure that there is a very high quality,” says Bradbury. The first activity is already scheduled for your participation: Transformative narratives towards regenerative actionAs well, explorations are beginning with more potential participants, including Open University based in the UK as the world’s largest and perhaps oldest virtual university with over 166,000 students worldwide.

The Learning Centers for Transformations Network’s development is being led by Waddell and Eduard Muller, President of Costa Rica’s University for International Cooperation. One immediate step has been proposing two sessions at Transformations2019 to invite people into expanding participation beyond the dozen who already signed up to work on the Network’s development. As well, Tony Cooke – former Capacity Working Group Lead Steward and CEO of the One Planet Environment Network (OPEN) and John North of the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative are engaging in discussions. OPEN is a global initiative begun by WWF-International for developing a million changemakers by 2030. GRLI is a network of business schools and Deans who are committed to transformation of their schools and business. “We want to make this a truly multi-disciplinary, diverse network that includes all those committed to transformational learning and action,” explains Waddell.

New Capacity Working Group Leaders

Hilary Bradbury – Lead Steward, Capacity Working Group and CEO – AR+ | Action Research Plus Foundation

Hilary is a scholar-practitioner focused on the human and organizational dimensions of creating healthy communities. A professor of organization studies since 1998 (Case Western, USC and OHSU), today she is editor-in-chief of the international peer reviewed Action Research Journal (Sage Publications). Hilary is the guiding convener and CEO of AR+, the global virtual community for participatory action researchers “accomplishing more good together.” She helps design and convene AR+ practice/inquiry ‘co-lab workshops’ for transformative education, healthcare, development, relational action inquiry, leadership and organizing.

Hilary enjoys formal affiliation with Chalmers U. (where she was named Jubilee Professor for 2018), the Institute for Development Studies, UK, California Institute for Integral Studies (CIIS), USA and Royal Roads University, Canada. Hilary has served as a member of the teaching circle at Zen Center of Portland where she led the ‘Next Gen Zen’ program, which integrated self awareness/mindfulness meditation with the work of sustainable social transformation.

Hilary enjoys formal affiliation with Chalmers U. (where she was named Jubilee Professor for 2018), the Institute for Development Studies, UK, California Institute for Integral Studies (CIIS), USA and Royal Roads University, Canada. Hilary has served as a member of the teaching circle at Zen Center of Portland where she led the ‘Next Gen Zen’ program, which integrated self awareness/mindfulness meditation with the work of sustainable social transformation.

Hilary was born and bred in Dublin, Ireland and educated at Trinity College after which she attended the Divinity Schools at Harvard and University of Chicago. Her PhD from Boston College focused on organizational change and transformation toward a more sustainable world. Author of numerous journal articles and editor of the popular series of Handbooks of Action Research, her latest books include Eros/Power: Love in the Spirit of Inquiry (Integral Publishers, 2016, with Bill Torbert) and Cooking with Action Research (2017, with AR+ Associates).

A priority as Lead Steward is to develop GULP (Global Unifying Learning Pluriversity) as an accessible resource for those wanting high quality materials and coaching in support of Action oriented Research for Transformation (ART). GULP merges head, heart and hands through embracing activism with spirituality, rigorous thinking and community organizing. GULP brings together a mosaic of integrative learning & practice for those wishing to act with stakeholders for global futures transformation. Hilary is proposing to change the Working Group name to Learning Futures for Transformations.

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Coleen Vogel – Councillor, Capacity Working Group and Distinguished Professor – Global Change Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

I work in the African context trying to understand the implications of a mix of global and local challenges that impact on the lives and livelihoods of local people and the environment. This journey has taken several years and I am still learning from a number of reflections, engagements and interactions. More recently I have also become very keen to become more actively engaged in trying to better understand these interacting ‘wicked challenges’, particularly as I work with the next generation of thinkers and leaders. Helping to find sustainable and more particularly transformative and where needed, transgressive’ options for change, is a major driver of much of my current work.

Some of the key challenges today is being able to find deliberative and also creative actions for transformative change – such challenges will require personal, collective and various experimental forms of change. I am hoping that the Forum will help inspire some of these actions that will be needed as we move forward.

Place-Based Transformations Assessment Network Forms

Many important efforts are underway around the world to do place based transformation, but there is no common framework that allows for a simplifying and more systematic, multivariable and comparative approach for analysis across the sites. Much existing work that focuses on biophysical trends or socioeconomic trends that have led to change, but there is no commonly accepted framework that includes both of these dimensions of ecosystem change with the additional and critical dimension of governance response to change. Action to address this gap was initiated at a workshop held in February 2019 organized by Glenn Page, Forum Councillor for the Evaluation for Transformations Working Group.

The Feb. 10 workshop was held in association with the Leverage Points conference at Leuphana University just outside of Hamburg Germany. Two dozen people participated from diverse regions, including the Himalayas, southern England, South Africa, Eastern Canada-US, the Balkans, Romania, and Ethiopia. The day was designed more as an introduction to the respective work in each of these particular regions, with deeper focus on five regions to better understand the objectives of the place-based transformations work as well as challenges and opportunities.

Ecosystem governance, a core framework concept, is defined as the sources of formal and informal power and authority derived from market forces (private sector), government (public sector) and civil society (third sector). By gathering specific sets of information on trends of key variables, development of cases studies and the development of a timeline, a “baseline” can be created from which to measure change. This baseline is critical for assessing trends in the social/ecological system of a given place to illuminate how the existing systems of governance have responded (or failed to respond) to the trends and issues that matter most to the people who live in these areas. The baseline is important to both sum up what has led to the current condition of a place – but also to serve as reference point against which future change (incremental, reform or transformational) can be measured and evaluated.

The workshop produced a deepening of effort to develop a common framework starting with two areas, South Devon England and Gulf of Maine at the US/Canada border. Glenn will be spending time in both places to gather more information and shape a more detailed report of the workshop and of the co-creation process to shape a funding request. This meta-framework is well aligned with the principles of Blue Marble Evaluation, a new field within evaluation that explores human response to a rapidly changing planet.

The work will ideally contribute significantly to the field of Blue Marble Evaluation by contributing meta-framework for measuring and evaluating governance response to ecosystem change and thereby enable more transformative forms of action-oriented change. Such an approach is of great interest to groups such as the Regenerative Communities Network, who are actively developing a global network of placed-based system change efforts but do not yet have a common language or framework to measure change. This effort could be ideal for application across multiple networks who support place-based system change efforts.

Submit Your Transformations Proposal

More transformations work is badly needed. To help spur its development, the SDG Transformations Forum is inviting proposals for transformational actions. By answering 14 questions, you can:

  1. confirm whether your work involves creating ‘powerful transformations systems’;
  2. sharpen your understanding about how to frame your work that way, in alignment with the Forum;
  3. complete an initial step in making a funding request that the Forum may work to get funded; and
  4. provide us with information about innovative approaches to creating transformations systems.

Go here to add your proposal!

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 (WGs)


Lead Steward: Hilary Bradbury –
Councillor: Coleen Vogel —

Activities over the last three months include:

  • The Action-oriented Research for Transformations (ART) meeting was held at Chalmers March 7-10 with about 60 participants. It resulted in individual commitments and tentative formation of 9 Working Groups; this included a proposal for a learning platform which is being investigated with Open University, and a Learning Transformations Network of Networks which will be advanced at Transformations2019 and before. Go here for a more detailed gathering report.
  • The ART meeting featured Tomas Bjorkman and the
    ‘The Nordic Secret,’ an amazing story of transformation of the Nordic countries from the late 19th century that was based in a network of centers supporting individual development. To see his presentation,
    go here.
  • Four webinars were held on ART aspects. Go
    here for more information about the them, and
    here to see them.
  • Proposals have been submitted to

Evaluation for Transformation (E4T)

Lead Steward: Zenda Ofir –

Councillor: Glenn Page –

Activities over the past 3 months include:

  • Glenn held a full day workshop on February 10th in association with the Leverage Points conference, with about 30 people. It advanced a 12-month process to develop a meta- measurement (baseline) system for place-based transformative work. He obtained commitments from communities to participate in the process.
  • Glenn and Zenda are integrating efforts where the overlaps between Blue Marble Evaluation (BME) and the WG lead to inefficiencies and potential confusion and makes sense for the Forum.
  • We are also doing some joint planning of webinar series, a website (largely focused on BME) and hopefully a set of materials (briefings, blogs, working papers) in different formats that can contribute to the Forum’s goals. The latter will likely be dependent on funding to get properly off the ground.
  • We have submitted several proposals through the WG for the American Evaluation Association and Transformations 2019 conferences.
  • We are starting work on possible partnership between the Forum and the International Development Evaluation Association (IDEAS) General Assembly (conference) in Prague end September. This means we posting the Platform’s logo on the Assembly website and identify sessions to be organised together.
  • The Third International Conference on Evaluation of Environment and Development will also be part of IDEAS. The Forum will be a recognized partner.

Financing Transformation

Lead Steward: Steve Waddell –

Councillor: Steven Lovink –

Activities over the past 3 months include:

  • Steven Lovink organized a SourceCode4Life meeting for a dozen people in Annapolis, March 1-3. Several project connections with the Forum were made, as well as progress on developing a funding Consortium. The idea is to put together a portfolio of breakthrough initiatives to be more easily funded, being at the leading edge of where transformation needs to take place. Participants included entrepreneurs, financiers. A short list of 30 possible ways for collaboration, reduced to 3-4, was produced. One is the idea of setting up Sacred Land Trusts, involving cryptocurrencies and an associated narrative; and to set up centers of excellence/innovation around indigenous innovation/knowledge. There will be a conference at the University of Guyana in December, which will help advance the next stage of the Guyana Shield Initiative which has received $5-6 million over the past few years.
  • The Transformations Financiers Network proposal is now identifying organizations and people to play roles in the initiative.


Lead Steward: Chris Riedy –
Councillor: Sandra Waddock –

Activities over the past 3 months include:

  • We’ve had some great conversations with new connections in order to identify a small group of people that can get to work on writing narratives and developing methods for place-based narrative interventions.
  • With WeAll joint funding proposals are being developed for face-to-face meetings to work on narratives.
  • Several proposals have been submitted to Transformations2019 – a pre-conference workshop on Transformative Narratives, a 90-minute practice session on Finding Transformative Narratives, and a paper session on Exploring Transformative Narratives with five abstracts. Steven Lovink has developed the idea of a book on transformative narratives, which will be connected to the above workshop.
  • Our next step is to get together the right sub-group of participants to do some writing together on transformative narratives. Achieving cultural diversity in this group remains a challenge.

Place-Based Pathway Working Groups

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

The Gulf of Maine (USA)

Lead Steward: 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:

  • Glenn is engaging with indigenous communities seeking prior and informed consent and deep engagement in the process of developing presence in the region.
  • In partnership with the indigenous communities and local organizations a design for a science diplomacy for transformation workshop is being planned for an event in November 2019.
  • The German Foreign Ministry provided very positive feedback and is encouraging a proposal to support the three day science diplomacy for Transformation workshop in the Gulf of Maine.
  • The Regenerative Communities Network is quite interested in the Gulf of Maine which has led to a series of productive conversations for potential “on-boarding” within the network.
  • Glenn continues to work closely with the South Devon Bioregional Learning Center.  Glenn has organized a field meeting with their team in May in preparation for a “learning Journey” to be held in South Devon in September 2019 that builds from the learning and experience with the Learning Journey held in the Gulf of Maine in July 2018.

The Balkans (Europe)

Lead Steward: 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 life in. The 21 million inhabitants in the region has been historically racked by ethnic and religious conflict.

The group reports that they:

  • Met the Digital Serbia Initiative (DSI) as the most effective at scale change governance structure we have found and are considering opportunities to work together
  • Are developing project proposal to present to the DSI leadership in April on the topic of diagnosing societal mindsets as a 1st step with input from the Forum and in particular from the Evaluation for Transformations WG.
  • Exploring the idea of setting up retreat centres as the 2nd project – see this clip (highly recommended):

Bay Area (Greater San Francisco, USA)

Lead Steward: Manuel Manga –

  • A budget proposal has been sent and the survey describing the initiative completed.
  • The group is looking into participation in Transform Series, a new initiative to bring together transformations communities and funders.

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 San Francisco, or Canada, or Czech Republic, or Chile?

Transform Series

San Francisco, May 22-24

TRANSFORM 2019 is a first-of-a-kind event that brings together systems entrepreneurs, stakeholders and funders to address some of the world’s most complex problems. Often, the cure is about transforming the system itself or building a new one. We’ve got folks focused on regenerative agriculture, refugee issues, sanitation, healthy food, climate change and many more.

In the long term we will launch a handful of deep dives (we’re calling them labs)  into some specific problems which will carry  on well after the conference

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International Development Evaluation Association

Prague, Czech Republic Sept. 30 – Oct. 4, 2019

The International Development Evaluation Association (IDEAS), WG

img2Lead Steward Zenda Ofir is proposing as its 2019 theme Evaluation for Transformative Change: bringing experiences of the Global South to the Global North with the hope that the Forum can be a strong partner. 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.


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

And Oct. 19 for a Forum Workshop!


With the theme Learning from Transformative Action and Thinking, this will be the first meeting in the Southern hemisphere of the premier global gathering of the Transformations Conferences and the Forum community.  Transformations 2019 will 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).

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Guiana Shield Conference

University of Guyana, December 2019

The Guiana Shield is one of the world’s most important ecological sub-regions. The conference will lay the groundwork for cooperation in the Guiana Shield Project. The Project will facilitate regional and institutional cooperation among the parties involved, providing a fundamental framework for the foreseeable future. The Project promises to promote green energy, continued biodiversity, and address climate change issues using multicultural, multilingual, multidisciplinary methods for the betterment of the region. With the help of participating institutions, scholars, and professionals, the Guiana Shield Project will create a scholarly journal as a forum for discussion on the region.

The current institutional contributors are Florida International University, the Jack D. Gordon Institute for Public Policy, the University of Guyana, and the Guiana Shield Facility. There are more institutions that will be added to the project. For more information, contact Percy Hintzen at

Media Opportunities

Toward a Sustainable Wellbeing Economy

Call for Papers

Our current economic systems have become addicted to “growth at all costs”, as measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP). They assume that GDP growth is synonymous with increased wellbeing and prosperity. However, this approach has led to growing inequality, an escalating climate crisis, and the depletion of natural and social capital. We are no longer generating genuine progress. Our approach to economics and development needs to be fundamentally transformed.  This Special Issue is devoted to articles that address the following theme:

What are the characteristics of a Sustainable Wellbeing Economy and how do we achieve it? It is about describing the problems with our current system, but also describing solutions to make the transition to a better, more sustainable and desirable world.

More information here.

Climate Change and Action-oriented Research for Transformations Published

Our Action Research special issue on climate change selected five papers that illustrate the value of action research in scaffolding transformative knowledge creation – linking experience with sense making, and reflection to action. Three of the five papers focus on work with young people, providing a real opportunity for reimagining our future with those who stand to lose the most from continued unsustainability.

You are encouraged to read more about these experiments in action oriented research for transformations which we introduce here.

Hilary Bradbury, Capacity Working Group Lead Steward, is Lead Editor of the Special Issue.

Luminarias Webinar Series on Impact Investing

Luminarias is a live video webinar series featuring the leading lights in impact investing and entrepreneurship.
Visit our Calendar for upcoming live video webinars in the Series.

Once the webinars have been broadcast, we archive the broadcast for re-streaming as well as produce an edited audio podcast version (MP3) that is available for download in our store. Click on the program images below for more information or visit our audio podcast store.

This webinar series is co-sponsored by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors as part of its Scaling Solutions initiative. Laurie Lane-Zucker, Steward of the Forum’s Financing Transformations Working Group, is organizer and sponsor of the series.


Podcasts with Transformations Entrepreneurs

ChangeHackers podcast provides insight and inspiration for people changing their world. Every episode I share a conversation with an inspiring ChangeHacker – someone who is moving the needle on the front line of change and transformation for sustainability. Since launching in May 2018, ChangeHackers has rapidly grown to reach an audience of many thousands of listeners across 80+ countries.

I’m partnering with organisations such as Ashoka, Circular Economy Club and the National Union of Students to develop series of episodes focusing on specific themes, as well as a number of guest contributors to a new CHANGEx format of short series on driving change in geographical contexts. If you would like to talk about becoming a guest contributor, drop me a line at

ChangeHackers is now available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Soundcloud and Tunein. Tony is a Steward of the Forum’s Capacity Working Group and CEO of One Planet Education Network.

Participate in the Co-Lab Course Transformative narratives towards regenerative action

You are invited to join a co-lab that places the practice of storytelling at the heart of catalysing transformations towards regenerative futures. Storytelling in this workshop setting is a practice that emphasizes reflexivity, i.e., the ability to bring unconscious thinking and behaviors to awareness so that we become more choiceful in how we act with stakeholders in pursuit of regenerative outcomes.

Structured as a co-lab course, the web-based program is nestled within the Learning Futures co-lab series to support the flourishing futures for all in the service of a learning society.  It is an initiative of the Global Unifying Learning Pluriversity (GULP) platform that is growing out of the Chalmers meeting with AR+ and the Forum (see lead newsletter story).  Go here for registration and more information.