Pluriversity: Resourcing transformative research

The t-learning transformative knowledge network developed a virtual, interconnected, on-line research school to support young researchers undertaking research focusing on transgressive social learning for social-ecological sustainability in times of climate change. The full name of this school is the Pluriversity for Stuck Humans.

The research school focuses on emancipatory and sustainability processes, and shares resources to support the role of research in bringing about social change (research as activism). It recognises that research is complicit in moral action that generates knowledge with both human and more than human beings. Such  research seeks to enrich the common good in direct ways that are linked to social activities and practices.

In the research school we encourage researchers to develop and share new methodologies that are co-engaged, that are transformative in nature, and that actively support t-learning processes. The pluriversity foregrounds cognitive, epistemic, social and environmental justice, and therefore does not de-couple the learning from processes that aim to bring about political, cultural, social and environmental change.

Research methods

T-learning research requires giving attention to co-engaged forms of learning and emerging action for change.  It involves multi-voiced engagement with multiple actors engaged in various individual and collective learning actions in diverse settings. As such, t-learning research methods are often also co-engaged learning methods.

Co-engaged t-learning centred research approaches involve:

1) Creating spaces for building trust, empathy, imagination, and changed practices
2) Working with people’s matters of concern in participatory and dialogical ways
3) Bringing new knowledge and action to the fore for engaging learning challenges at the climate-water-energy-food security-social justice nexus
4) Encouraging change-oriented learning actions that are critical, expansive and creative
5) Using narrative and aesthetic approaches to accommodate multiple ways of knowing
6) Being transgressive and challenging, yet morally intuitive and empathetic

Some of the methods that were used in  t-learning research case studies include:

  • Co-engaged focus groups: Here, questions are asked in an interactive group setting where participants are free to talk with other group members and raise questions in dialogue with researchers. Collectively, the group focusses on a shared matter of concern. Learning is collaboratively mediated through a process of balancing differences. Researchers take on the role of allowing that which is not known to be uncovered collectively, acting as responsible participants in the research process.
  • Arts-based methods: These have potential to bring together multiple ways of being, knowing and doing through various genres and creative disciplines. In t-learning co-engaged approaches, researchers work with theatre, visual arts, music, dance, participative mapping, narrative and social sculpture processes that awaken and facilitate new ways of learning that are transformative and transgressive.
  • Counter-hegemonic mapping: This aims to re-appropriate traditional forms of mapping that avoid mind-body blindness and include indigenous forms of knowledge. These methods also enable emancipatory social learning processes to emerge through the mapping itself. These methods allow people to express and analyse the realities of their lives and conditions, to plan themselves what action to take and to monitor and evaluate the results.
  • T-learning change laboratories or reflexive social learning workshops: these combine scientific knowledge; indigenous, lay knowledge and organisational knowledge; and reflexive knowledge. The intersection of these forms of knowledge stimulates re-negotiation and self-reflection leading to building shared views of changing activities. From this, new practices, tools, models and methods are developed in participating communities.
  • Empatheatre: Narratives are embodied through a co-engaged process that brings together actors, writers, theatre makers into a dialogical process with individuals and communities experiencing injustice. Drawing from real interviews and conversations, stories are re-enacted and staged using various forms of forum, documentary, verbatim, research and applied theatre models. The method aims to inspire and develop a greater empathy and kindness in spaces where there is conflict or injustice.

Research ethics

At the centre of t-learning research is a co-engaged ethical responsibility of all in the research process to do no harm and engage in practices of care. Researchers are positioned as caring researchers who are responsible participants and/or reflexive justice practitioners, empathetic apprentices and formative interventionist researchers oriented to the collective well-being of people and planet. These facets of the caring researcher situate moral action and ethics in the ongoing relationship that researchers have with those with whom they generate knowledge, both human and more than human, aiming to enrich the common good.


Grounding your research and questions in and with the context: this tool includes guiding questions for developing research that is attuned to the concerns of the context. It was developed by researchers on the T-learning programme.

Relevant publications: 

Leah, T., McGarry, D. and L. Weber (2019). From academic to political rigour: Insights from the ‘Tarot’ of transgressive research. Ecological Economics. Volume 164, October 2019, 106379: ttps://

Weber, L. et al (in press): Research Worthy of our Longing: Insights for relationship-centered transformations research. TKN research journal. (in press). 

James, A. 2018. Unpacking language and power: A living aula’s workshop.

Living Aulas [Living Classrooms] Research School

Representatives from this community met in June 2018 for a research school, Living Aula’s. This has culminated in an ongoing conversation about what is required for doing transformative research. Below you can see some videos of the researchers who attended the gathering. In the videos they answer questions such as “What is the future of transgressive research?” and “how has the planet been your educator?”

Injairu Kulundu:

Dylan McGarry:

Kuany Simon:

Gibson Mphepho:
Anna James: