Leveraging inner sustainability through cross-cultural learning: evidence from a Quichua field school in Ecuador

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschungbegutachtet


  • Konrad Gray
  • David Manuel-Navarrete

Inner worlds and subjectivity are increasingly recognized as key dimensions of sustainability transformations. This paper explores the potential of cross-cultural learning and Indigenous knowledge as deep leverage points—hard to pull but truly transformative—for inner world sustainability transformations. In this exploratory study we propose a theoretical model of the inner transformation–sustainability nexus based on three distinctive inside-out pathways of transformation. Each pathway is activated at the inner world of individuals and cascades through the outer levels (individual and collective) of the iceberg model, ultimately resulting in transformations of the individual’s relationship with others, non-humans, or oneself. Our main purpose is to empirically investigate the activation of inner leverage points among graduate students who are alumni of an Indigenous language field school in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Semi-structured interviews designed around three core aspects—(1) human–nature relationships; (2) subjective change; and (3) acknowledgment for Indigenous culture—yielded expressions of becoming aware of new forms of relationships and empirically illustrate the roles of deep leverage points in triggering the three inside-out pathways of our model. A strategic focus on activating inner levers could increase the effectiveness of cross-cultural learning in fostering transformations in relationships with non-humans, oneself and others that may yield sustainability outcomes.

ZeitschriftSustainability Science
Seiten (von - bis)1459-1473
Anzahl der Seiten15
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 01.09.2021

Bibliographische Notiz

Funding Information:
We are very thankful for the feedback from two anonymous reviewers. They helped us to clarify and strengthen our work as well as gave insightful perspectives and guidance. Furthermore, we are deeply grateful to Tod Swanson for putting us in contact with alumni of the field school and foremost to the seven alumni for participating in this research.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).