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A care-based approach to transformative change [Research Paper]

Contributed by
Angela Moriggi

A research paper drawing from ethics of care literature to explore transformative change

What is so radical about caring? Which dimensions matter for transformative change? In which ways can researchers practice care-ful(l) work?

These are some of the questions animating the research paper: A care-based approach to transformative change: ethically-informed practices, relational response-ability & emotional awareness, published in December 2021 in the journal Ethics, Policy, and Environment.

Angela Moriggi from Re.imaginary, and co-authors Katriina Soini (Natural Resources Institute Finland), Alex Franklin (Coventry University), and Dirk Roep (Wageningen University), draw from care ethics and feminist scholarship to inform the emerging field of sustainability transformations.

Two key assumptions underlying this research are: (1) Care is both a series of practices and an ethical framework; (2) Our foundational interdependence & vulnerability are at the basis of caring process.

The paper explores three dimensions of caring that can inform sustainability transformations: 

  1. CARING PRACTICES: a way for individuals and communities to express their ethical creativity and their interdependence with the living world, in the places they inhabit. Examples include permaculture farming and commoning practices;
  2. RELATIONAL RESPONSE-ABILITY: the ability to respond to needs around us, and in that way, choose who want to be and in which way we want to shape the future, rather than feeling burdened by the past;
  3. EMOTIONAL AWARENESS: we need 'emotionally-sensed knowledge’ to navigate wicked issues of the Anthropocene. We need to 'stay with the trouble' [cit. D.Haraway], but also regain a sense of wonder [cit.Rachel Carson].

The paper also reflects on the following questions:

--> How do we transform the sustainability debate in a care-ful way - from a theoretical perspective?

(a) Supporting eco-centric paradigms; (b) Bringing morality at the core of scientific discussions; (c) Going beyond pillar thinking & including values & worldviews in the cultural dimension.

--> How do we transform the sustainability debate in a care-ful way - from a practical perspective?

By applying caring principles in our research practice, for instance when engaging people in participatory action-research, in processes of transformative learning, in contemplative practice, in arts-based inquiry. The Re.imaginary pool of methods offers plenty of hands-on tools that can support these efforts, such as: storytelling, guided meditation, and more-than-human intervision.

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