UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Transformative education for sustainability leadership : identifying and addressing the challenges of mobilizing change Gonzalez, Julian Matias


Using a transdisciplinary approach the dissertation explores how change occurs in human systems, and what is needed from us to mobilize such change. Part 1 explores the topic of change in human systems. It includes a literature review regarding the difficulties and realities of mobilizing change on all levels of human systems: individual, organizational, and societal. To complement current change theories and increase their effectiveness in explaining the process of change, two psychological concepts are introduced: individual cycles of emotional experience in the face of loss and crisis, and individual developmental meaning-making structures. From a perspective of practice and mobilizing change the challenges created by different sustainability worldviews are discussed. A simple framework and ten recommendations are presented to aid in the process of diagnosing and mobilizing change. Part 1 concludes with a case study in Costa Rica, diagnosing soil erosion challenges. The study explored motivations of local farmers regarding soil conservation practices, and analyzed their responses to a hypothetical payment for ecosystem services (PES) bidding scheme. It concludes that a PES scheme, in this context, does not address the reasons why farmers are not engaging in soil conservation practices; and is possibly counterproductive to the goal of behavioural change and soil conservation. Part 2 explores how we can better support university students to develop the skills needed to mobilize change and argues that the challenges of sustainability require individuals that have more practical know-how skills and more developed know-who awareness. It concludes that in the context of sustainability, higher education institutions can do more to contribute to the development of these ways of knowing. The cornerstone of part 2 is a case study of a sustainability leadership course taught at UBC. The course aimed to increase individuals’ adaptive leadership skills, and to support transformative learning. The course was successful at both increasing leadership skills and supporting transformative learning, however shortcomings of the course are also presented. The dissertation concludes with a discussion of what has been learned about the limitations of a course based approach to addressing the shortcomings of practical sustainability skills development in a university setting.

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