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Christine Wamsler. Photo

Christine Wamsler

Professor, Docent, appointed Excellent Teaching Practitioner (ETP)

Christine Wamsler. Photo

BeChange: Sustainability education and leadership development : Assessing the links between inner development and outer change for transformation


  • Gustav Osberg
  • Christine Wamsler

Summary, in English

This report presents the assessment of a six-week online course offered by BeChange, which was given from April to June in 2022. Through a total of five online sessions, an interactive learning platform, diverse practices and individual coaching, the course aimed to support participants in reducing their CO2 emissions, increase their climate engagement, and at the same time enhance their wellbeing. The topics covered were sustainable food, consumption, living, mobility, and engagement. The course participants were 41 residents of the Swedish cities of Umeå, Luleå and Huddinge, including 20 municipal employees.

To assess the course, we systematically analysed the participants' reported inner developments and outer changes and the associated interlinkages between these. Inner development was assessed by looking at participants’ change regarding their relationships to i) self, ii) others, and iii) nature. Outer change, such as climate-related behaviour and engagement, was examined regarding i) participants' private life, ii) their work, and iii) their wider socio-political context.

Our analyses show that the course has helped the participants to develop a range of inner 'transformative capacities' that are crucial to support wellbeing and more sustainable engagement across individual, collective, and system levels. Examples are increased self-awareness, self-compassion, sense of agency, emotional regulation, optimism, hope, and intrinsic motivation, together with reduced feelings of being overwhelmed and climate anxiety. Reported changes regarding people's relationships with others include being less judgmental and more trusting. Many participants have also rethought the way they communicate and how they want to bring about change. The latter manifests in their changed understanding and action-taking: from being purely cognitive and information-based to more intrinsic and embodied, and thus becoming the change they want to see. For several participants, the inner capacities they developed have also led them to move from a technical understanding of climate change to understanding that is more relational, i.e., from a focus on external solutions (such as technological innovation and ‘climate-smart’ consumption) to an increased emphasis on addressing and integrating internal and social dimensions of climate change in their climate actions.

The identified changes relate, amongst other things, to the fact that the course focused on two aspects: i) giving the participants new tools and perspectives on climate change and engagement that emphasise the importance of inner dimensions of climate change, and ii) working practically with each individual's current conditions and abilities. The tools and practices included diverse self-reflection, perspective-taking, meditation, communication and visualisation exercises. They provide important examples of how approaches from different fields (such as psychology and contemplative science) can be adapted to the context of sustainability, to support transformation.

Through the content, practices and perspectives it provided, the course has helped the participants create a more sustainable source of motivation and engagement based on positive (rather than negative) emotions. But the course assessment also shows that capacities such as perspective-taking and critical, complexity and systems thinking could have been strengthened further. In particular, an important opportunity was missed for the participants to learn more about how they can tap into their inner potential to support collective and systems change through systematically integrating both inner and outer dimensions of sustainability in their work and engagement to ensure transformation.


  • LUCSUS (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies)

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Document type



  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
  • Applied Psychology