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Light, A., Wolstenholme, R., Twist, B. (2019) Creative practice and transfor-mations to sustainability – insights from research.



This document is intended to inform those involved in policy making, practice and re-search who are interested in how to encourage a shift to a more sustainable society. We demonstrate the quick wins and long-term value of employing, supporting and enabling creative practice that is collaborative and outward-oriented, inspires reflec-tion and develops a sense of agency, and we highlight that examples of such practice are already happening.
Sussex Sustainability Research Programme WP 1-2019
Creative practice and
transformations to sustainability
insights from research
Ann Light
Professor of Design and Creative Technology,
University of Sussex
Ruth Wolstenholme
Managing Director, Sniffer,
Ben Twist
Director, Creative Carbon Scotland
To cite: Light, A., Wolstenholme, R., Twist, B. (2019) Creative practice and transfor-
mations to sustainability insights from research. SSRP Working Paper No. 2019-1,
Sussex Sustainability Research Programme, University of Sussex.
Creative practice and transformations Light, Wolstenholme & Twist
This document is intended to inform those involved in policy making, practice and re-
search who are interested in how to encourage a shift to a more sustainable society.
We demonstrate the quick wins and long-term value of employing, supporting and
enabling creative practice that is collaborative and outward-oriented, inspires reflec-
tion and develops a sense of agency, and we highlight that examples of such practice
are already happening.
Table of Contents
A. Introduction ....................................................................................................... 3
B. Definitions ......................................................................................................... 3
C. Drivers .............................................................................................................. 6
D. Context ............................................................................................................. 6
E. Insights and Themes from previous research and projects .............................. 7
F. Summary and Manifesto ................................................................................. 13
G. References ..................................................................................................... 14
List of tables and figures
Box 1 Drivers of creative practice ............................................................................... 6
Figure 1 Shifting cultures rather than merely changing behaviour means encouraging
or introducing creative practice into the process. ..................................................... 10
Creative practice and transformations Light, Wolstenholme & Twist
A. Introduction
1. It is increasingly clear that the transition to a climate-changed world and sus-
tainable society will not be achieved simply by doing what we currently do more
efficiently with lower carbon emissions. Current efforts are necessary and val-
uable but not sufficient: a different way of being is implied by both the current
and baked-in impacts of climate change and the need for a radically lower-car-
bon, reduced-consumption society with values and practices that sustain and
pursue those changes.
2. Such a transition to sustainability will require a challenging but exciting trans-
formation in our institutions (e.g. government at all tiers), as well as in what
communities do and the way in which we all conduct ourselves. Such a trans-
formation can help deliver many and diverse desired outcomes, embedding
sustainability across all areas of public life, but is not well understood and will
not be achieved simply by accelerating or increasing current efforts. Something
different is required (Fazey et al 2018).
3. Employing creative practice can provide that difference - a set of understand-
ings, techniques, skills and knowledge to introduce to this area of work that can
help us achieve the essential transformation.
4. To inform policy and practice, this paper:
a. Defines what we mean by Sustainability, Transformation and Creative
b. Places this work in a wider Context of existing practice and a wide range
of Drivers for change
c. Provides an Evidence base for additional effort
d. Sets out a programme of next steps.
B. Definitions
1. Sustainability
a. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (sustainabledevelop- point to 16 aspects in
need of balance, including decent work, social equity and economic de-
velopment, and a 17th that is ‘Partnership for the Goals’.
b. In Doughnut Economics, Raworth (2017) argues that ‘Humanity’s 21st
century challenge is to meet the needs of all within the means of the
planet. In other words, to ensure that no one falls short on life’s essen-
tials (from food and housing to healthcare and political voice), while en-
suring that collectively we do not overshoot our pressure on Earth’s life-
supporting systems, on which we fundamentally depend such as a sta-
ble climate, fertile soils, and a protective ozone layer.’
c. Climate change and related socio-ecological uncertainties require flexi-
bility and resilience. The world’s use of 3 - 5 planets’ worth of resources
annually dictates that a major part of sustainable living is learning to op-
erate collectively within affordable limits and developing corrective socio-
economic processes, as well as better energy policies.
Creative practice and transformations Light, Wolstenholme & Twist
d. The RESTORE project ( points to different lev-
els of sustainability ambition:
Limiting damage caused;
Restoring social &ecological systems to a healthy state;
Regenerative, enabling social & ecological systems to evolve.
RESTORE argues for attention to the second level of ambition, leading
to the third, but notes that most effort now is allocated to the first alone.
2. Transformation
a. Transformation is generally regarded as being more than superficial or
incremental. It refers to major shifts: ‘profound and enduring systemic
changes that typically involve social, cultural, technological, political,
economic and environmental processes’. (NORFACE Belmont 2017).
b. Whilst ‘adaptation’ has a sense of adapting as a passive subject to ex-
ternal change, ‘transformation’ implies taking a role in choosing and de-
veloping the planet’s fate, as ‘an active player in the future of the com-
munity and world’ (O’Brien and Hochachka 2010).
c. Transformation poses particular challenges for policy. ‘On the one hand
transformation implies a need for policies that may challenge existing
ways of doing things. On the other the abstract nature of concepts like
transformation and resilience make it difficult for policy makers to put
such concepts into practice.’
d. Transformation means not only changing what we do, but who we are
and how we do things, alone and together. A vision of ontological change
crudely, where we change what we are to change what we do ap-
pears in different ways across different traditions, e.g. in terms of aes-
thetic response (Dewey 1934), affect (Deleuze 2005) and the political
economy of enchantment (Bennett 2001).
e. The STEPS centre ( made
transformations its 2018 theme, collecting resources and asking: ‘What
does it take to make sustainability transformations emancipatory, di-
verse and caring, rather than repressive or controlling?’ (2018).
3. Creative Practice
a. The broad term ‘creative practice’ is used here to include all professional
and non-professional work which uses personal and/or collective craft
skills and ingenuity to make something new, renew or reinterpret some
aspect of the world: from writing, art and theatre to designing to repair
cafes and data hackathons; from community development to storytelling
to participative citizen science (such as making and using community air
monitoring kits, e.g. Disalvo et al 2008) and experimentation of many
Creative practice and transformations Light, Wolstenholme & Twist
b. Based on the evidence referenced below (Light et al 2018), creative
practice involves one or more of the following modes:
i. Illustrative: created to show relations, explain a theory, make at-
tractive or other instrumental adoption of a creative medium for
communication purposes.
ii. Responsive: created in reaction to a feeling or stimulus, to ex-
press an affective state and share a mood or opinion.
iii. Practical: created to change a set of materials into a more useful
iv. Transformative: created to have a significant affective, political
or spiritual impact on self, others and/or institutions, often to a
stated end but not always articulated in the work.
c. Transformative creative practice brings an experiential quality to pro-
jects, which, at best, enables collaborators to learn together and pro-
vides them with the opportunity to see differently. Such interventions can
lead to new ways of feeling and being as well as knowing.
d. Examples of how transformative creative practices enhances a behavior:
i. Starting to use a bike is good for the environment. But collabora-
tive projection and reflection transforms this into considering the
city layout and how to get others to leave their cars.
ii. Monitoring water quality is informative. Linking up people across
a catchment so that data is shared, turns isolated readings into a
system supporting local community initiatives, raising the inter-
connected challenge of ensuring clean water, food and energy
(e.g. Carroll and Beck 2018).
iii. Growing food provides fresh local resources. Add a facilitated
workshop and the opportunity arises for connecting this with how
we make meaning for ourselves through reflection on the seasons
and cycles of life (e.g. Light and Welch 2018).
Creative practice and transformations Light, Wolstenholme & Twist
Box 1 Drivers of creative practice
The SDGs provide a vision of an integrated approach to sustainability and
are a clarion call for action that crosses boundaries to achieve it. One exam-
ple of integration into policy is Scottish Government’s alignment of the Na-
tional Performance Framework and bolstered by its Community Empower-
ment Act. Such an approach promotes concerted action at all levels and kinds
of social actors, from government to private and public bodies to communities
and individuals to achieve multiple cross-cutting aims.
2. The Stockholm Institute’s work on the Planetary Boundaries (referenced in
Raworth, 2017) highlights the intersectional nature of the environmental chal-
lenges facing the world, whilst the SDGs highlight the interlocking nature of
the social and human challenges. Together these provide clear evidence of
the need for socio-cultural transformation as part of attaining the global struc-
tural change that will make life on earth viable in future.
3. Support for communities to reduce carbon emissions is not sufficient to bring
about a step change in behaviour. For example Scotland’s Climate Challenge
Fund has supported a wide range of projects aiming both to reduce commu-
nities’ carbon emissions and to strengthen the communities themselves as a
means of increasing their resilience. The 10-year programme has seen more
replication than acceleration and innovation. A different approach is now
needed to achieve a step change.
4. The easy element of carbon reduction through decarbonisation of the energy
supply is nearly over: the next steps involve challenging mass lifestyle tran-
sitions relating to questions such as diet, consumption and relationships with
energy and travel. These will require a fundamental transformation as de-
scribed above and there is as yet no widely accepted plan to achieve this.
C. Context
1. There is a considerable untapped knowledge about social change from the arts,
design and humanities that can inform transformations towards low-carbon, re-
silient living (Fazey et al 2018).
2. There are many good examples of previous creative practice work, but they are
spread across different disciplines and described in different ways. The multiple
practices and themes intersect but this is not necessarily recognised by practi-
tioners or external viewers. People appear to be doing different things, but they
are using similar processes and techniques and aiming at similar outcomes.
3. There are multiple policy makers and funders needing to solve interlocking
problems, albeit in different fields and often expressed differently.
4. Accordingly, there is growing interest in work in this field, for example from, on
the cultural/creative front, the Arts & Humanities Research Council (e.g. Light
et al 2018), Arts Council England, and, on a practical front, the worlds of climate
change and environmental sustainability.
Creative practice and transformations Light, Wolstenholme & Twist
5. There is therefore a need to bring the appropriate knowledge together in one
place and express it so that all can understand and make use of it.
D. Insights and Themes from previous research and projects
This section pulls out the Insights from existing research and identifies Themes,
which, we note, offer transformative potential. Research references are pro-
vided below.
1. Insights
a. Insight: The Importance of Direct Engagement
Most people are trying to secure a decent life for themselves and those for
whom they care. Yet sustainability work has overlooked the value of involving
people directly in re-imagining futures and working towards them.
Creative practice has a key role in leading this participatory experimentation
with changes in the way we might live. This ‘future-making’ involves activities
requiring imaginative work and a consideration of values, from rethinking gov-
ernance to planting a communal garden. Thus, many less obviously ‘creative’
activities can be transformed to become opportunities for transformative work
through interventions that inspire collective reflection about how things might
be different and valuable.
Effective transformative creative practice not only dreams up new ways of be-
ing, it creates the conditions for new ways of being to emerge. It is a means to
ignite multiple different experiments in living, all able to contribute to a bigger
story of change and move the world beyond the current impasse.
To achieve this, it is necessary to ensure that people have the elements that
together support transformative change:
Foruma space to contribute and people to connect to
Motivationthe desire to contribute
Articulacythe fluency to present one’s ideas in a particular domain
Confidencethe assurance to become involved
Knowledgeenough understanding to have an informed opinion
Sense of Agency an awareness that change is possible and of oneself
as an agent of change
Association the ability to interpret things together or see links, such as:
old and new, people and things, etc.
Together, these lead to:
Transformation the act of combining to make new ideas, feelings, con-
cepts and associations and connection. (adapted from Light et al 2009).
Creative practice and transformations Light, Wolstenholme & Twist
b. Insight: Transformation requires more than Behaviour Change
Persuading someone to take an action stays at the level of behaviour change.
Cultural change is promoted by bringing people together to consider their ac-
tions and the futures they want. This rethinking can be stimulated in different
ways (for instance, the examples of biking, monitoring and growing, given
above). Taking action (i.e. personally demonstrating effectiveness), looking be-
yond the immediate situation in time and/or space (i.e. making connections with
other contexts), putting this into an emotional and ecological future (i.e. reflect-
ing constructively as part of the activity) and joining with others to do so (i.e.
being affected and affecting others) together works to turn what could remain
as simple behavioural change into an enabling force in individuals’ and com-
munities’ lives. (More detail of the themes that support this is presented in the
final sections.)
c. Insight: Affective Change is Effective Change
Changes of the magnitude needed for living within planetary limits involve shifts
in knowing, feeling and being no single one is adequate. The ‘rational actor’
myth has led to emphasis on information at the expense of work on collective
values and more collaborative approaches (Crompton 2010; Marçal 2016). Im-
pacting feelings about issues is more powerful than addressing thought alone
(e.g. Coelho et al 2017) and more likely to result in longer-term change, since
it is closely related to self-identity (e.g. Terry et al 1999). Feelings of pride, in
particular, are a trigger for greater pro-social environmental behaviour (Bissing-
Olson et al 2016) and there is a link between the condition of ‘learned helpless-
ness’ where people who have been conditioned to expect pain or suffering
will, after enough conditioning, cease trying to avoid the pain at all, even if there
is an opportunity to escape it and a failure to act on environmental concerns
(Landry et al 2018). Overall a positive orientation has an impact on both breadth
of creative thinking and willingness to engage in pro-environmental behaviour
(Coelho et al 2017). Thus, inspiring people to act positively on their environment
works to change their degree of commitment and sense of agency and brings
beneficial side-effects, such as greater flexibility, virtuous influence on others
and further initiatives towards sustainability (e.g. O’Brien 2012; Macy and John-
stone 2012).
d. Insight: One Size does not Fit All
Different routes result in this changed sense of self; we all have our own path.
In common is a change to what matters to people and what they would fight to
preserve or alter to make a future worth living. But the starting points are plural
(especially in an inclusive society), even if the end point is more similar. One
approach does not fit everyone because how people decide what matters dif-
fers, based on life experience, tastes and personality. Meaning is the great mo-
tivator (Frankl 1946), so within a frame that keeps activity affirming, articulations
positive and outputs meaningful, creative practice can be devised to be respon-
sive to the context and the people it is serving. It does not have to look or feel
like what is happening in neighbouring areas; as long as it is following the same
underlying frame it will produce similar transformations.
Creative practice and transformations Light, Wolstenholme & Twist
e. Insight: Looking beyond the Immediate Situation
Creative practice allows people to explode systems, expand cause-effect rela-
tions and raise consequences in a manageable way. The time and place of
interventions will impact on which activities will be effective, but, more broadly,
playing with time and place helps people situate themselves in the world and
appreciate interconnections that make up the ecologies of life. Bottom-up place-
making/shaping (Hester 1993) can be key to community-oriented pro-ecologi-
cal changes.
Prompting reflection on how factors link up and which parts of the system peo-
ple can influence alone or in groups is one of the ways that creative interven-
tions can change mindsets and ambitions.
f. Insight: Dealing Well with Change
Creative practice brings hope. Facing and accepting the need for change is
more challenging than continuing to do the same thing (e.g. Haraway 2016,
Macy and Johnstone 2012) and can be made more appealing by clear next
steps, the chance to do something constructive and the company of others.
Learned helplessness is a factor in stopping people acting (e.g. Landry et al
2018). Moving beyond this requires ability to look outwards and works best if
big leaps in imagination and comprehension are balanced by pathways for so-
cial connection and immediate opportunities for making small but practical dif-
ferences. This relates closely to the qualities of confidence, forum and sense of
agency referred to above (Light et al 2009). Some economic and social security
is necessary in people’s lives to allow them to consider broader themes of
change (Zimbardo and Boyd 1999). People need to have, as well as feel, some
control over their environment; for instance, poverty and poor housing make it
hard to be energy efficient in the home (Dillahunt et 2009), but there are other
ways of getting involved and seeing benefits (and these can also positively af-
fect other areas of people’s lives). Creative practice can adapt to the circum-
stances in which people find themselves.
g. Insight: The Need for Collaborative Reflection
Whether envisaging, planning or fixing, to work with others at points of reflection
is to escalate and embed changed mindsets. There are multiple reasons for
this. The first is that it accesses peer effects in the group and impacts norms,
i.e. people’s new reality will have been negotiated, normalised and endorsed
by others (e.g. Salazar et 2013). Second, groups tend to encourage each other
past sticking points, such as feelings of helplessness or despair, and produce
more imaginative results together. Third, strong social structures are the basis
for sustainable change towards environmental ends and this a) models that,
and b) creates new networks for promoting strong social structure.
h. Insight: Evaluation Judging the Conditions of Change
Most existing evaluation mechanisms are not tuned to detect the changes that
creative practice brings about in individuals or communities. Depth of meaning
and feeling are likely to be more indicative than metrics for this kind of transfor-
mation. New mechanisms are being developed (and need to be developed) that
Creative practice and transformations Light, Wolstenholme & Twist
can support this kind of evaluation and judge effectiveness over shorter and
longer terms (e.g. Light et al 2018).
i. Insight: A Support Role for Professional Intervention
Professional facilitation can help creative practices develop, but good work is
already happening and can be supported by nurturing existing groups that
demonstrate this ability to inspire change (e.g. Light et al 2018). At its most
effective, the creative process inspires people to make these changes for them-
selves and to inspire others to follow. It has its own style of leadership and this
emerges as part of the transformation. With support and access to the key ele-
ments, change can spread through a community, leading to new group behav-
iour and new priorities. Introducing creative support to an existing activity can
be a way of encouraging reflection and the application of specific learning to
wider societal issues. Figure 1 shows the position of creative practice in the
cultural transformation process.
Figure 1 Shifting cultures rather than merely changing behaviour means encouraging or intro-
ducing creative practice into the process.
2. Promoting Aspects of Engaged Living: 6 Themes
What makes these creative practice approaches so valuable is their appeal to
how we live, how we want to live and what makes life important, rather than
economic and efficiency measures. The more aspects of our experience of liv-
ing that a practice can touch upon, the more likely it is to trigger a rethink and
recommitment through a sense of feeling different, not just rationalizing a better
approach. Its goal is to impact our sense of meaning: our place in the world,
Creative practice and transformations Light, Wolstenholme & Twist
and how that relates to connection and belonging (e.g. Davis, Ghorashi and
Smets 2018, Frankl 1946/2006). Feeling valued, able to influence one’s envi-
ronment and fulfilled is known to be beneficial for health (e.g. Shepherd et al
2008). It can be triggered by considering other times and spaces and by daring
to dream (e.g. Weaver 2007).
This style of encounter can be strengthened by short interventions, but much is
built by sustained engagement, repetition and attention to local details. The fol-
lowing six themes appear in much of the best work of this kind.
a. Theme: Existence
Creative practice is well placed to tackle the metaphysics of human existence
and our relationship with life, death, loss, creation and other beings. While not
all creative practice concerns itself with such philosophical fields, transforma-
tional aspects of creative practice engage at the level of being and help us
question who we are and can become. This is often achieved experientially so
that ontological questioning comes from a deeply inquisitive place inspired by
a change of perspective and recognition that collective change would be pos-
sible in the short-term. We become what we do. A sense of agency and urgency
can move people quickly from bystanders to advocates for more sustainable
living. In looking for a sea-change, this is where we can stimulate and inspire
the engagement with life that leads to new ways of thinking. In Playing for Time:
Making Art As If The World Matters, Lucy Neal (2015) looks at how we mark
the transitions in our lives: ‘the celebration of new beginnings and endings could
become a shared community practice, in which we rehearse how to be resilient
in the face of adversity.... These reinventions of ceremony create an intimacy
with death that resists mainstream culture and aspects of medical practice’. An
example of motivating practice is Bridget McKenzie’s Remembrance for Lost
Species, an annual commitment to remember and mourn the passing of biodi-
versity (
b. Theme: Meaning
The affective dimensions of relationships, what we notice, where we put our
effort and how we build coherence for ourselves and situate ourselves within
the world are all matters that can be noted through reflection and changed
through encountering the right creative stimulus. Meaning is crucial to motiva-
tion and a small shift in sense-making can alter behaviour more dramatically
than any amount of manoeuvring at behavioural level.
Changes in the meaning we attribute to things and relations can be performed
through disruptive interventions, but more often take time and commitment from
dedicated practitioners. Mattering (the condition of being meaningful to some-
one) has patterns to it: caring; justifying this concern through its own value to
the individual; extending the rewards to be received from this investment
(Grossberg 2006). These patterns can be applied to approaching the living
world and how we develop it as committed citizens. For instance, the Transition
Movement has developed the concept of Inner Transition to create a culture in
the organisation (and beyond) that supports a balance between inner and outer
change: ‘The nature of our relationship with our inner life determines how able
we are to make the practical lifestyle, relational and cultural changes needed
Creative practice and transformations Light, Wolstenholme & Twist
for Transition as well as bringing depth, texture and meaning into everyday
life. Inner Transition supports the choice of healthier, more resilient, connected
and caring ways of being and acting in the world and experiencing inseparability
and interdependence. (
transition/inner). This inner journey is possible to envision in much the way that
positive material futures can be imagined (
c. Theme: Connection
Being in the world together, among other living beings, is a profound part of
what constitutes us as individuals (Vygotsky 1978 on people’s interdepend-
ency; Haraway 2016 on all life’s interdependency). The basis of ecological citi-
zenship is to be in balance with other life forms; it is an intrinsically relational
quality. Considerable creative work takes relationships as a starting point and
uses this to explore sustainability as a social issue. ‘Making is connecting be-
cause acts of creativity usually involve, at some point, a social dimension and
connect us with other people; and […] because through making things and
sharing them in the world, we increase our engagement and connection with
our social and physical environments.’ (Gauntlett 2018).
d. Theme: Time
Time horizons are critical in how we think and plan for sustainability, yet both
politics and commerce are caught in short-term cycles. ‘Our decades-long re-
search and personal involvement with aspects of temporal perspective have
convinced us that there are few other psychological variables capable of exert-
ing such a powerful and pervasive impact on the behaviour of individuals and
the activities of societies,’ say psychologists Zimbardo and Boyd (1999). Their
work points to the importance of a thinking with a future orientation in dealing
with challenges, rather than being stuck in a fatalistic or hedonistic present or
perfect past. This may point to why playing with time works well for some, less
well for others. Moreover, Pantzar and Shove (2010) have described the ways
in which daily practices (such as commuting and showering) condition and are
conditioned by temporal orders of daily life and make up more or less sustain-
able consumption patterns.
There is some evidence that future-gazing calls on a vaguer and more optimis-
tic mode of thought (D’Argembeau and Van der Linden 2004). This means that
situating change as having happened, rather than in the future, makes for more
detailed and convincing ideas of what can be achieved. The Museums of the
FutureNow ( is an evolving
artwork and participatory process that uses this device. It is set in a future from
which participants look back at events between then and now and decide on
how the world would have played out.
e. Theme: Space.
Considering spatial aspects of sustainability and community life is a popular
part of creative practice, with mapping of everything from places of significance,
to waterways to emotional touch-points. Helping people think of their space
transformed also introduces broader themes of how one local spot connects
with other places in the world and people living in them and a sense of the links
between community, conviviality and the interdependence of life on the planet.
Creative practice and transformations Light, Wolstenholme & Twist
A project that linked both practical and inspirational spatial work is Square Go.
The Stove in Dumfries invited local people to engage in conversation on topics
relating to the future of the town and then add ideas to a giant map of Dumfries
drawn out on the paving of the square. It was one activity in a decades-long
engagement in developing space meaningfully for the residents of an area with
a struggling town centre and it did more than just revive a part of the city; it gave
people hope through an opportunity to shape their place.
f. Theme: Imagination
Perhaps the most remarkable quality of humankind is the power to dream and
imagine how things might be different. We are not locked into the current mo-
ment, but can recall other situations and extrapolate into new ones. Whole
emancipation programmes have been built around this quality, such as Augusto
Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed (Boal 1979), which encourages people to take
over the action on stage and rehearse the changes they want to see before
using this extra confidence and wisdom as part of enacting the changes for real.
Of course, what we imagine has a bearing on what the world could become.
For instance, the Craftivist Collective addresses gentle action for change: ‘Gen-
tleness can be a great strength, and quiet action can sometimes speak as pow-
erfully amid the noise as the loudest voice. And if we want a world that is beau-
tiful, kind and fair… shouldn't our activism be beautiful, kind and fair?’ (Corbett
Harnessing imagination is a core part of transformation, but even more com-
pelling is what happens when people observe the degree of agency that using
imagination makes possible.
E. Summary and Manifesto
1. Shifting to a different and more sustainable world means going beyond the ‘aus-
terity narrative’ to focus on societal flourishing.
2. This shift requires new ways of thinking and working. Creative (cultural) practice
can help bring about such transformation. Creative practice goes beyond
awareness-raising to encourage different ways of thinking, feeling and organ-
ising, within institutions and across societies.
3. Using the power of the imagination, we can create new futures. Unlike science
and technology, which do not equip us well to imagine, design and cultural
practice provide ways of harnessing curiosity and exploring alternatives. It is
timely to reverse the hierarchy of discipline with imagination and design leading,
supported by science.
4. Hope and inspiration can bring about change. Without experiencing vision,
people are unlikely to take action. People don’t learn from a place of fear, or
they learn in a way that doesn’t lead to better places. We need to change how
people feel about uncertainty, providing the positives and helping to find mean-
ing. This will create greater opportunities for policymakers and scientists to sup-
port change.
Creative practice and transformations Light, Wolstenholme & Twist
5. Achieving a cultural shift will involve a diversity of approaches at different
scales, recognizing the value of relational assets. It is not about creating a uni-
form landscape replicating similar practice, but about encouraging creativity
and new ways of working. It is important to embrace difference in terms of per-
spectives, ways of working and context, acknowledging that how things are dif-
ferent is more interesting than commonalities. There are many entry points.
6. Achieving a cultural shift will involve challenging existing and traditional hierar-
chies. This means addressing the hierarchies of knowing, organising, partici-
pating, initiating, imagining and leading, not only in relation to practice but to
the perceived hierarchies of knowledge across academic disciplines.
7. Achieving a cultural shift will involve transitions in leadership with a rebalance
from top-down policy to community-led actions and systems approaches. The
drivers of wellbeing are increased sense of agency, autonomy, social connec-
tion and interdependencies.
F. References
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ings, Aesthetics, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
Bissing-Olson, Megan J., Fielding, Kelly S.and Iyer, Aarti. (2016). Experiences
of pride, not guilt, predict pro-environmental behavior when pro-environmental
descriptive norms are more positive. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 45,
Boal, Augusto. (1979). Theatre of the Oppressed, London: Pluto Press.
Carroll, John M. and Beck, Jordan. (2018). Sharing Community Data: Platform
Collectivism for Managing Water Quality. (eds Hendrik Knoche Elvira Popescu
and Antonio Cartelli) Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Smart
Learning Ecosystems and Regional Development, Springer, 62-69.
Coelho, Filipe, Pereira, Maria C., Cruz, Luís, Simões, Paula and Barata, Edu-
ardo. (2017). Affect and the adoption of pro-environmental behaviour: A struc-
tural model. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 54, 127-138.
Corbett, Sarah. (2017). How to Be a Craftivist. Unbound.
Crompton, Tom. (2010). Common Cause: The Case for Working with our Cul-
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... Pedagogies that consider the holistic and relational orientation of transformative learning through cognitive, non-cognitive, embodied, and social learning experiences, are already practiced in design education (Grocott, 2022). Design at its core is a reflective practice (Schön, 1983), and a change-oriented and future-directed discipline, in which creative practices are applied to facilitate sustainable change (Irwin, 2015;Ceschin and Gaziulusoy, 2019;Light et al., 2019). In the context of this paper, design education focuses on the social dimensions of design, and frames the role of design in the engagement of communities in active, situated, and participatory transformation (see DiSalvo et al., 2017;Grocott, 2022). ...
... In the design literature, self-awareness is closely related to professional development, the process of becoming a designer, but more broadly to how one is and becomes with others and the world (e.g., Akama, 2012;Hummels and Levy, 2013;Light and Akama, 2014). Awareness of one's personal sphere and positionality, as well as awareness of one's relation to others is emphasized with the idea that one is being affected by others and affects others at the same time (Light et al., 2019). ...
... In contemporary design education, there is a growing interest in addressing social and sustainability transformation through creative approaches (see Irwin, 2015;Light et al., 2019;Dolejšová et al., 2021). Contemporary design education aims to cultivate future visionaries, experts and actors with skills to navigate uncertainty, in unfamiliar cultural contexts and in relation to sensitive social issues (e.g., . ...
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An ever-growing number of scholars are developing and applying competency frameworks in the context of sustainability education. Despite the strong interest, most of the research has ignored the varying meanings of competency, which can be interpreted as a performed ability, but also as personality development. UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) recently suggested self-awareness to be a central sustainability competency. However, the sustainability competency discourse is lacking a thorough analysis of how and if personality development related dispositions can be considered as competencies, how can they be taught in higher education, and how can the potentially transformative experiences resulting from such teaching be considered. This article aims at a deep understanding of the concept of self-awareness and its interpretations. We have reviewed the roots and analyzed the current interpretations of self-awareness in sustainability competency research and explored how the competency frameworks connect to transformative learning. In addition, we give tangible examples from art based and creative practices of design education, in which we have examined how self-awareness is defined and how it connects to transformative learning. The interpretations of self-awareness addressed two perspectives: awareness of oneself and awareness of one’s relation to others and a wider society. Based on our research, becoming self-aware is a process that nourishes transformative learning. We additionally understand self-awareness as a process of internal growth instead of only a performable ability. This needs to be considered when developing the sustainability competency frameworks and their applications in education.
... where Economic Growth (Goal 8) sits at odds with ambitions such as Climate Action (Goal 13) and Peace and Justice (Goal 16). Several recent research reports and papers emphasize the need for transformative and paradigmatic shifts to cope with these multifaceted concerns (Gerst, Raskin, and Rockstr€ om 2013;Brondizio et al. 2019;Light, Wolstenholme, and Twist 2019). ...
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Research in diverse areas such as climate change, happiness and wellbeing emphasizes the need for transformative change, stressing the importance of rethinking established values, goals and paradigms prevailing among civil servants, policy- and decision makers. In this paper, we discuss a role that design can play in this, especially how processes of counterfactual world-making can help facilitate reflection on worldviews and the shape of future forms of governance. By exploring different presents, rather than conditions in the future, this approach allows civil servants to consider, create and resist playful alternatives to business-as-usual. In this way, we demonstrate how design can stimulate imagination both as to futures and people’s role in shaping these futures.
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Pivot is a series of virtual conferences organized by the Pluriversal Design Special Interest Group (PluriSIG) of the Design Research Society (DRS). The PluriSIG and the Public Visualization Lab of OCAD University invited designers, scholars, artists, and changemakers for two days of intercultural conversations about decoloniality and societal transformation. Pivot 2021 aimed to identify tools and practices of dismantling and reassembling that could favor ways of reshaping human presence on Earth and concrete cases of alternative future-making from all around the world.
The breadth of topics covered at this Symposium is proof, if proof were needed, of the enormous value of design research. In areas that range from the future of urban living to justice systems and neuroscience, design research is providing the frameworks and methodologies to answer questions which span disciplinary and conceptual boundaries; in an era of ever greater interdisciplinarity, design research is, once again, ahead of the curve. It is for this reason that the Arts and Humanities Research Council is delighted to support UK and international Design research, whether through the Priority Area Leadership Fellowship, to which we have just awarded follow-on funding, or through our open call research portfolios, or through other channels. Design has long been a discipline on which we collaborate with our sibling councils at UKRI, and it features strongly among the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships we sponsor. What we mean by “design” and “design research” is ever-changing, however, and it is right that the AHRC, and UKRI at large, keeps a close eye on those changes and responds to them in a way that allows the very best of innovative and transformative research to flourish. The impacts of that research – academic, economic and social – are enormously significant not only in and of themselves, but also in demonstrating the value of the field, and therefore the importance of the robust and ongoing public funding it richly deserves.
Technical Report
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Written for the AHRC to review how creative practice has led to culture change. A shorter and more incisive version can be found at:
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The most critical question for climate research is no longer about the problem, but about how to facilitate the transformative changes necessary to avoid catastrophic climate-induced change. Addressing this question, however, will require massive upscaling of research that can rapidly enhance learning about transformations. Ten essentials for guiding action-oriented transformation and energy research are therefore presented, framed in relation to second-order science. They include: (1) Focus on transformations to low-carbon, resilient living; (2) Focus on solution processes; (3) Focus on 'how to' practical knowledge; (4) Approach research as occurring from within the system being intervened; (5) Work with normative aspects; (6) Seek to transcend current thinking; (7) Take a multi-faceted approach to understand and shape change; (8) Acknowledge the value of alternative roles of researchers; (9) Encourage second-order experimentation; and (10) Be reflexive. Joint application of the essentials would create highly adaptive, reflexive, collaborative and impact-oriented research able to enhance capacity to respond to the climate challenge. At present, however, the practice of such approaches is limited and constrained by dominance of other approaches. For wider transformations to low carbon living and energy systems to occur, transformations will therefore also be needed in the way in which knowledge is produced and used.
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Emotions can greatly influence behavior, yet research on links between incidental emotions and pro-environmental behavior is limited. The present study uses an experience sampling design to examine how pride and guilt relate to daily pro-environmental behavior. Ninety-six university students recorded their engagement in specific pro-environmental behaviors, and their feelings of pride and guilt about these behaviors, at four time points each day for three consecutive days. Results showed that pro-environmental behavior during a 2.5-h time period was positively related to pride, and negatively related to guilt, during that same time period. Pride about environmental behavior was positively related to subsequent engagement in pro-environmental behavior (i.e., during the following 2.5-h time period), but only for people who perceived more positive pro-environmental descriptive norms. Guilt was not related to subsequent pro-environmental behavior. We discuss implications for further research on the complex associations between daily experiences of moral emotions and pro-environmental behavior.
Many concerned individuals refrain from meaningful pro-environmental actions. We examined whether self-reported levels of trait learned helplessness moderates this concern–behavior relation. Results confirmed that learned helplessness moderated links between environmental concern and both self-reported and in-vivo measures of pro-environmental behavior, such that concern most strongly predicted behavior when learned helplessness scores were low. Results are reliable after controlling for gender as well as depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms. These findings suggest that learned helplessness acts as a barrier to pro-environmental behavior in the face of environmental concern.
Pro-environmental behaviour (PEB) is an essential part of changing societies towards a more sustainable future. The literature on PEB has provided significant insights into how the anticipated emotions arising from specific ecological actions contribute to environmentally friendly conduct. Our research departs from these studies by focusing on general affect as a determinant of PEB. Moreover, we specify mechanisms for the transmission effects of trait (rather than state) affect into PEB. We use structural equation modelling to test the hypotheses, with a sample of 925 individuals. The results show that the influence of positive affect on (reported) PEB is partially mediated by environmental concern and perceived consumer effectiveness. As to negative affect, the findings suggest only a direct effect on PEB. We also found differences between males and females. These are novel results that help to illuminate the complex issue of what shapes PEB, thereby supporting relevant theoretical and practical implications.
THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER'I see [Raworth] as the John Maynard Keynes of the 21st Century: by reframing the economy, she allows us to change our view of who we are, where we stand, and what we want to be.' George Monbiot, Guardian'This is sharp, significant scholarship . . . Thrilling.' Times Higher Education'[A] really important economic and political thinker.' Andrew MarrEconomics is broken. It has failed to predict, let alone prevent, financial crises that have shaken the foundations of our societies. Its outdated theories have permitted a world in which extreme poverty persists while the wealth of the super-rich grows year on year. And its blind spots have led to policies that are degrading the living world on a scale that threatens all of our futures.Can it be fixed? In Doughnut Economics, Oxford academic Kate Raworth identifies seven critical ways in which mainstream economics has led us astray, and sets out a roadmap for bringing humanity into a sweet spot that meets the needs of all within the means of the planet. En route, she deconstructs the character of ‘rational economic man’ and explains what really makes us tick. She reveals how an obsession with equilibrium has left economists helpless when facing the boom and bust of the real-world economy. She highlights the dangers of ignoring the role of energy and nature’s resources – and the far-reaching implications for economic growth when we take them into account. And in the process, she creates a new, cutting-edge economic model that is fit for the 21st century – one in which a doughnut-shaped compass points the way to human progress.Ambitious, radical and rigorously argued, Doughnut Economics promises to reframe and redraw the future of economics for a new generation.'An innovative vision about how we could refocus away from growth to thriving.' Daily Mail'Doughnut Economics shows how to ensure dignity and prosperity for all people.' Huffington Post
In this article, we discuss the limitations of current approaches to climate change adapta tion, which focus predominantly on sectoral and technological approaches and reflect objective, third-person analyses. We then consider how Integral Theory can contribute to new understandings of adaptation by making room for many disciplines, perspectives, and validity claims. In particular, we focus on the benefits of integrating interiority and greater attention to worldviews, awareness, and motivation in adaptation research and policies. We describe what "integral adaptation" might look like in practice. We conclude that integral adaptation to climate change involves a radical transforma tion of the way that we think about change, from something that humans simply respond to and objectively manage, to something that humans consciously create.
This progress report considers the need for developing a critical body of research on deliberate transformation as a response to global environmental change. Although there is a rapidly growing literature on adaptation to environmental change, including both incremental and transformational adaptation, this often focuses on accommodating change, rather than contesting it and creating alternatives. Given increasing calls from scientists and activists for transformative actions to avoid dangerous changes in the earth system, and the likelihood that ‘urgent’ solutions will be imposed by various interests, many new and important questions are emerging about individual and collective capacities to deliberately transform systems and structures in a manner that is both ethical and sustainable. This presents a transformative challenge to global change science itself that calls for new approaches to transdisciplinary research.