The aim of this research is to look at the potential of ecovillages to be transformative social innovations. Ecovillages have been suggested as social innovations with potential transformative agency, conceptualized as ‘transformative social innovation’. Transformative social innovation refers to the process by which social innovation contributes to societal change.
It is suggested that the role of inner transformation has thus far not been sufficiently addressed in transformation and transition research. This inner dimension is defined in this research as transformative learning: a shift in consciousness from a modern, instrumental consciousness to an ‘’ecological consciousness’’.
This research aims to explore if and how processes of transformative learning take place in ecovillages and if and how this has a transformative potential if ecovillages as places are understood relationally. Three key processes of transformative learning are highlighted, including connection, cultivating (self) compassion and creativity.
Transformative learning is then suggested to contribute to help people and society seek their self-identity and self-worth not in modern life securities including social status, money, career, possessions, insurances and contracts, major transformations in modern society then will not directly threaten people’s self-identity and self-worth. Connection and (self) compassion are suggested to be key in this process. To get from this to actually creating a new world, the concept of creativity comes in to imagine new futures and make these imaginations concrete in ‘real’ places, for example ecovillages.
The research takes an ethnographic approach inspired by sensory ethnography combined with an intuitive, transpersonal research approach.
Key words: eco-villages, transformation, social innovation, transformative learning, ecological consciousness, connection, compassion, creativity