The concept of transformation in relation to climate and other global change is increasingly receiving attention. The concept provides important opportunities to help examine how rapid and fundamental change to address contemporary global challenges can be facilitated. This paper contributes to discussions about transformation by providing a social science, arts and humanities perspective to open up discussion and set out a research agenda about what it means to transform and the dimensions, limitations and possibilities for transformation. Key focal areas include: (1) change theories; (2) knowing whether transformation has occurred or is occurring; (3) knowledge production and use; (4) governance; (5) how dimensions of social justice inform transformation; (6) the limits of human nature; (7) the role of the utopian impulse; (8) working with the present to create new futures; and (9) human consciousness. In addition to presenting a set of research questions around these themes the paper highlights that much deeper engagement with complex social processes is required; that there are vast opportunities for social science, humanities and the arts to engage more directly with the climate challenge; that there is a need for a massive upscaling of efforts to understand and shape desired forms of change; and that, in addition to helping answer important questions about how to facilitate change, a key role of the social sciences, humanities and the arts in addressing climate change is to critique current societal patterns and to open up new thinking. Through such critique and by being more explicit about what is meant by transformation, greater opportunities will be provided for opening up a dialogue about change, possible futures and about what it means to re-shape the way in which people live.
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- social transformation
- sustainable development
- transformative adaptation