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Transformation Is 'Experienced, Not Delivered': Insights from Grounding the Discourse in Practice to Inform Policy and Theory


Calls for transformation, transformative research, and transformational impact are increasingly heard from governments, industry, and universities to recast a course towards sustainability. This paper retraces a social, qualitative, and interpretive research endeavor to contribute to broadening the conceptual base of transformation. Drawing on perspectives of practitioners involved in working with communities to bring about change in how land and water are managed, the objective of the research was to elicit a range of practice-based encounters of transformation to inform policy and theory. In identifying precursors and processes for change, the findings bring into view the often unseen internal and experiential dimensions of transformation. As such, the research provides insights on where transformation takes place, what the first step of transformation might look like, and what might be deemed transformational. The paper also builds on social practice theory to produce an explanatory model of transformational capacity that is enabled and constrained by structures, processes, understanding, and authority that impact on social practices of knowledge generation (including science) and land and water decision-making.

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