Learning Processes in the Early Development of Sustainable Niches: The Case of Sustainable Fashion Entrepreneurs in Mexico

Research output: Journal contributionsJournal articlesResearchpeer-review


There are still several gaps to bridge in learning and sustainability transition research, one of which is the empirical exploration of learning processes and outcomes involved in the formation and development of sustainability niches. The purpose of this study is to investigate the formation and development of a sustainability niche through the lenses of individual and social transformative learning, specifically the learning processes and outcomes. We conducted a qualitative exploratory multi-case study of six different projects participating in the sustainable fashion and textiles niche in Mexico. We used documentation and individual interviews (n = 7) to collect evidence of the learning process in the formation and development of this niche. We used transformative learning theory to guide the analysis of the learning phenomena occurring in the development of this niche, distinguishing three main phases where individual learning takes place in the first two and social learning in the third. Analytical elements such as prior learning, disorienting dilemmas, action engagement and network building figure prominently in the learning process and outcomes in the development of the sustainable fashion niche in Mexico. This work provides a better and more detailed understanding of the multi-level perspective model through exploring sub-levels within the niche level, by shedding light on the importance of individual and social learning in the development of sustainable niches.
Original languageEnglish
Article number8434
Issue number20
Number of pages26
Publication statusPublished - 13.10.2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was made possible within the graduate school “Processes of Sustainability Transformation”, which is a cooperation between the Leuphana University of Lüneburg and the Robert Bosch Stiftung. The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support from the Robert Bosch Stiftung (12.5.F082.0021.0). The first author wants to thank Mireille Acquart for her valuable help and support during the fieldwork in Mexico regarding this research. We also want to thank the entrepreneurs who agreed to be interviewed for this research.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

    Research areas

  • Sustainability education - transformative learning, Entrepreneurial learning, transition, sustainable niche