“Transformational change” is needed for meeting ambitious 2030 climate mitigation, sustainability and
development goals. Definitions of transformational change in scientific and grey literature have the following in common: (i) movement away from the current status, opening new pathways; (ii) sustained change, through institutionalization or deep changes; (iii) focus on root causes; and (iv) harnessing knowledge and learning.
Depth, speed and scale are three dimensions of transformational change. Four types of drivers of transformational change: Processes, Resources, Norms, and Legitimacy. Empirical examination on these drivers’ efficacy is urgently needed.
The scientific literature is dominated by authors in high-income countries and rarely results from large collaborative efforts. This is in contrast with the drivers of transformational change that the literature itself has identified: inclusiveness, collaboration and cross-learning.
Specific research is needed on transformational change in land use and climate change, drawing on rich insights from health, education and business sectors.
Scientific knowledge and practical needs must be reconciled, e.g., by providing guidelines and tools for monitoring and evaluation, programme and project management, and financing mechanisms adapted to complex, multilevel and long-term, ‘transformational’ endeavours.