Advancing transformations to more sustainable and equitable futures. Read more.

Projects & outputs

Transgressive social learning for social-ecological sustainability in times of climate change

Changes in human activities and social systems are critical to mitigating climate change and creating transformations to sustainability. People everywhere will need to learn how to create new forms of human activity and new social systems that are more sustainable and socially just. The need for more radical forms of learning-centred transformation is increasingly recognized in transformations to sustainability discourse. Yet these approaches to learning remain under-developed and under-theorized and limited research has been done on this type of learning, or on how such learning emerges or can be expanded to strengthen agency for sustainability transformations at multiple levels.

Working with and across civil society, youth, academic, government and community partners across nine countries in diverse areas that are vulnerable to arising impacts at the climate energy-food-water security and social justice nexus, the project aimed to 1) initiate, 2) frame and 3) investigate expansive, transgressive approaches to learning in selected community sites in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe. The project also aimed to develop theory, methodology and practice, especially transgressive learning theory and practice and generative, interventionist, learning-centred research methodologies.

Local learning actions and networked learning actions formed the focus of two different types of case studies. The case sites were identified in consultation with participating communities and organisations, who worked with T-learning researchers to (1) co-define matters of concern, 2) identify potentially catalytic focus areas or practices for further expansive learning within collaborating communities of co-researchers, 3) develop situated T-learning methodologies for learning-led change, and 4) undertake reflexive reviews of these processes of learning with emphasis on observing and commenting on power relations, contextually relevant debates around T-learning (e.g. pluralism, decolonial sensibilities, complexity etc.) and sustainability outcomes emerging in practice. A small summative methodological booklet was developed to capture the essence of some of the methodologies for T-learning praxis as developed in the project sites.

All of the case studies have contributed new insights, methodology and models for T-learning. All also showed evidence of practical outcomes for communities and sustainability, for example in the Mekong Delta networks of ‘scientific farmers’ emerged that are mobilising locally engaged and informed action for climate change adaptation. One of the South African T-learning case studies (‘Amanzi / Water for Food’) has impacted on the lives of students, lecturers, women and youth farmers, and is informing a new model for Vocational Education and Training in Africa, while in Colombia a vibrant bio-regional network of T-learning co-researchers contributed to substantive transformations in eco-village praxis. In the Netherlands transitions to local food systems are being informed by t-learning processes. In total, the project worked directly with approximately 3200 people in various co-engaged T-learning processes in the nine countries.

Find out more on the T-LEARNING website.

Highlights of T-LEARNING outputs

T-learning Open Source Archive

Generative applied dissertations/thesis projects and their outputs

Masters and PhD projects emerging from the T-LEARNING project which produced pedagogies, built networks, created educational materials, and contributed to wellbeing and responded to injustices in local communities, for example:

T-Learning knowledge commons pedagogies

The T-learning project developed the Living Aulas and the Pluriversity for Stuck Humans knowledge commons pedagogies: Pedagogical t-learning process for innovation for ECRs and other practitioners and activities. Outputs included:

Special Issue on T-Learning for the journal Sustainability (2020)

Global conference contributions

Academic substance and theoretical development

Information & Communication Technologies (ICT) – Mobile T-learning instruments

Policy engagement

Catalytic contributions to diversity in scholar activism

Development of networks and contributions to Social Ecological Justice for communities

Courses and educational resources


Professor Heila Lotz-Sisitka
Rhodes University, South Africa
[email protected]

This network received seed funding under phase 1 of the Transformations to Sustainability programme.
More on T-Learning seed funded activities.