TRANSFORMERS – Leadership for transformative change

A global leadership program

We have less than ten years to achieve Agenda 2030, but change is slow. Some countries also argue that getting economic growth going again should be prioritized over meeting the sustainable development goals (SDGs). The current inequality crises including gender equality, climate change, and biodiversity – all aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic – are hitting the most vulnerable hardest. But ultimately these challenges are an existential threat to humanity; a majority of them are wicked, meaning they are complex, interlinked, unique as well as hard to conceptualize and predict. We need to address the totality of the agenda, not just a sectoral piece, and we need nothing less than transformation to meet these challenges, which requires transformative leadership towards sustainable development across sectors and levels. This program will develop leaders throughout the public sector, business, and civil society enabling them to become “transformers” working together. This goes beyond imparting knowledge in individuals. It is a case of recruiting leaders together with the organizations they lead, and inviting them to join with real-life cross-sector transformation projects. 

The Transformers program will inspire these leaders with a wealth of methods for driving change, work with them in their transformation project, and create peer-support groups for other transformation projects and participants. Over time their networks will extend into program alumni. The program will thus prepare leaders for the transformation of societies in three main ways: a) by using learning strategies that are interactive, participatory, multisectoral, and context sensitive; b) by combining individual sustainable transformation approaches with social structure transformation approaches, and engaging public sector, business and civil society organizations; c) by going beyond merely imparting knowledge, to “learn by doing”, through a process-oriented, systems approach to societal challenges where the participating leaders will take on, analyze and develop skills in a transformation project in their own organization and sector. Our program is unique in several ways. We recruit organizations, more than individuals. We focus on system changes (how the participants, teams and cases can lead to system change). We offer skills development in innovation management, system development and design thinking. And we work with “change teams” in the participants organizations. 

The program is implemented in collaboration with leading stakeholders in civil society, private and public organizations and with three high-ranking international universities. It highlights many empirically concrete experiences. We are mindful that not all participants will know exactly what they need, or have clear change goals either during the application process or when they begin participating. We provide support with a needs and prerequisite analysis. We work with the participants’ inner driving forces and motivation. A methodological focus is co-creation. 

Throughout the program, the participants will explore and apply an innovative, flexible, and strength-based toolbox and also reflect on and learn how to apply intersectional equality perspectives. The program runs in three modules. The first module – development of knowledge, motivation and preparation for action – includes three parts, introduction program, monthly learning sessions and regional meeting. The second module – networking – consists of sub-group sessions and individual mentorship. In the third module – transformation projects – the participants will work with a project from their own context. 

Period: 2022-2025

Core Partners:

  • Dept. of Civil and Industrial Engineering and SWEDESD, Uppsala University
  • Karolinska Institutet (KI)
  • The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) 
  • SKR International
  • WWF
  • Business Sweden


  • Swedish Institute
  • Sida
  • Vinnova

Contact at SWEDESD

Eva Friman

Researcher at Department of Women's and Children's Health, Swedesd - Sustainability Learning and Research Centre

Mobile phone:
+46 70 1679174
Last modified: 2022-09-07