Exploring consciousness in ecovillages through a place-based approach to transformative learning

What does transformative change towards different kinds of societies require from people? What experiences trigger transformative learning and how are processes of inner change linked to changes in behavior, disruption of systems and the creation of new forms of living? These are some of the questions that this research project addresses by exploring the learning journeys of ecovillages.

The theoretical lens is grounded in a place-based approach to transformative learning theory, centered around three main themes: connection, compassion and creativity.  Connection is about learning to experience life as interconnected, compassion is about learning to be mindful of, and responding to suffering, of other beings, oneself and nature and creativity is understood as the manifestation (concrete & tangible) of a consciousness of interconnectedness or practices through which connection is experienced. Learning takes place in the tension between these three dimensions and their opposite poles: disconnection, a lack of compassion and absence of creativity.

The research has been carried out in collaboration with three communities, Kujen Tila and Väinölä iin Finland and Tamera in Portugal. Methods used were inspired by a transpersonal research approach, specifically intuitive inquiry, sensory ethnography and participatory research. Methods including emersion, life-story interviews and photo-voice.

About Siri Pisters

A Bachelor in Nutrition and Health with a focus on malnutrition and food security led Siri to a masters in Rural Development and Innovation, both from Wageningen University. In her thesis and internship she focused on international development policy around food security and the impact of land privatization on rural livelihoods in Uganda. She continued with an Advanced Masters in International Development (Radboud University) in combination with a traineeship at the Center for Development Innovation.

In 2016 she became part of the European research project SUSPLACE (Sustainable Place Shaping) as early stage researcher on Ecovillages and Sustainable Living. Her host institute was the Natural Resource Institute of Finland (LUKE) and she collaborated with the University of Aveiro. Within this project she started her PhD research on transformative learning in ecovillages. Overlapping, she worked on a workshop and toolkit on ‘Arts-based Methods for Transformative Engagement’ with some of her colleagues at SUSPLACE. Furthermore she completed a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training at the college of Purna Yoga in Finland. At the moment she combines all these experiences in her current work as researcher, facilitator and yoga teacher.

Project team


S.R. Pisters, H. Vihinen, E. Figueiredo (2019) Place based transformative learning: a framework to explore consciousness in sustainability initiatives, Emotion, Space and Society, Volume 32.

Pearson, K.R., Backman, M., Grenni, S., Moriggi, A., Pisters, S., Vrieze de, A. (2018). Arts-Based Methods for Transformative Engagement: A Toolkit. Wageningen: SUSPLACE.