T-Labs and climate change narratives: Co-researcher qualities in transgressive action-research

Blog post by Thomas Macintyre

In my birth home of New Zealand, the symbol of the Koru—the spiral—is a powerful metaphor for transformation. On the one hand, the Koru represents creation with the unfurling fern representing movement and expansion. On the other hand, the inner coil of the Koru, with its rolled inner leaflets, suggests a return to the point of origin. 

This spiral metaphor has influenced my action research project in Colombia, working with grassroots communities in the fields of climate change and learning. Rather than understanding transformation as neat, closed, and cyclical action-reflection loops, I have instead come to recognise transformation as unpredictable spiraling processes of learning-base change – of growth and decay – with strong elements of the unknown and the unknowable. T-Labs and climate change narratives: Co-researcher qualities in transgressive action-research

Such an understanding of transformation appreciates that we are simultaneously researching transformation ‘out there’ while undergoing transformation ourselves. Recognising that there are deep-seated values and societal structures which act as barriers to inner/intra/and outer transformation – there is a an increasing interest in a form of transformative learning called transgressive learning, which explicitly seeks to address the structures and dilemmas involves in ‘transgressing’ – moving beyond – the status quo through disruptive capacity building. 

In the linked article you will read about my research in Colombia involving academics and sustainability practitioners putting into practice transgressive learning in grassroots initiatives. Through practitioners acting as co-researchers and co-authors in this research, the article explores the qualities necessary for engaging and experimenting with transgressive learning in the context of climate change, whereby we present an innovative methodology merging action research and transgressive learning which we present as Transgressive Action Research.

Dear reader, reflecting on your own personal spiral of transformation, what are the barriers which you feel you must transgress in order to realize your full potential as a change agent in an increasingly uncertain and unknowable world?

Click to watch Hilary Bradbury interview Thomas Mcintyre about his work.

We invite you to learn more about this experience by reading our article in the Special Issue of Action Research HERE.

After you’ve had a chance to read this piece, please share your thoughts, ideas, or experiences with our community in the comments below so we can continue this discussion!