Seeking narratives of transformation in Transylvania

By Liz Clarke and Ágnes Balázsi

In an earlier post on this blog, Karen O’Brien describes humans as being simultaneously individuals (particles) and collectives (waves), and that we have individual agency to be leverage points as well as being part of system processes and relationships.

This is very apt for our research in the fertile and biodiverse, but rapidly changing, landscapes of Transylvania, where we have been interviewing change agents or “transformers” who are seeking transformation of livelihoods, food production and their relation to the land, to create not just a sustainable future but a regenerative and meaningful one. The narratives we heard wove together individual insight, innovation and transformation and at the same time revealed deep and emerging connections – to other people and to the landscape in what we describe as a system of social innovation.

We were particularly struck by the diversity of these change agents and the networks of transformations for sustainability that are emerging within the Transylvanian system. These change agents already hold some of the key ingredients for sustainable system change such as: 1) small, but influential local networks of change agents and community; 2) practical pilot projects or individual activities; 3) influential international backgrounds and flow of global knowledge transfer on sustainability; 4) strong sense of environmental stewardship; 5) motivation to act against the dominant mindsets which we argue limit our efforts to achieve sustainability transformation.

From the Leverage Points perspective, these narratives reveal sources of deep leverage — engaging with the deepest of Donella Meadow’s 12 leverage points to intervene in a system:

No. 4: Self-organisation

No. 3: changing the goals of the system

No. 2: changing the mindset out of which the system arises

No. 1: the power to transcend paradigms


But more personally, the interviews and the narratives struck a deep personal chord within each of us, and led to some deep self-reflection.

Liz said: Listening to these stories inspired me and renewed my faith in our (human) ability to change and be changed for the better, as well as admiration for those who are prepared to undertake the difficult and painful process of self-reflection and personal change. Feeling their deep connection to their landscape, I began again to feel the deep tug of my own roots in the landscapes of Australia as well as reinforcing for me the importance of strong international connections and dialogue.

Ágnes said: Each story found fertile ground inside of me and activated something that I was hiding for a long time. I am a potential change agent, but I do not assume my motivations actively and constructively. Interviewees repeated several time “practice what you preach”. The most meaningful was to see that they followed an internal motivation to act, to make their place a better one. It was empowering for me to connect with such potential change agents in Romanian society and to see the opportunities that might appear as a next stage of our research, and of my life.


Hear more about this at the 2019 Leverage Points Conference, February 6-9th.

The call for abstracts is now open until 15 July 2018.

For more information please visit:

If you have any specific enquiries about abstract submission please contact:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s