The Transformation Laboratory of the Social-Ecological System of Xochimilco, Mexico City: Description of the Process and Methodological Guide


The activities described in this guide are designed to support participatory research in the search for transformative pathways to social-ecological system sustainability. The guide offers activities with practical examples to help researchers creatively explore new ways for participants to relate to each other and to their environment.

This publication draws on the experiences of implementing the project ‘Transformation Laboratory of the Xochimilco Social-Ecological System, Mexico City’. It describes the process and methodology developed during the life of the project (between 2016 and 2019), and provides practical resources associated with its main activities, to help facilitate similar processes in different contexts. This guide is aimed at groups who are genuinely committed to the sustainability of the social-ecological systems they inhabit.

The guide accompanies a film ‘Voces del Humedal de Xochimilco’ (‘Voices of the Xochimilco Wetland’), which provides an evocative visual survey of the landscape, and introduces some of the people that live or work in the area, who share their concerns about the Xochimilco wetland and their ambitions  for its future.

About the project

The project ‘Transformation Laboratory of the Xochimilco Social-Ecological System, Mexico City’, was developed by the National Laboratory of Sustainability Sciences (LANCIS) of the Institute of Ecology, and by the Research Institute in Applied Mathematics and Systems, both housed at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), and the School of Sustainability of Arizona State University (ASU), as part of the STEPS Pathways to Sustainability Global Consortium.

The PATHWAYS Network carried out comparative research in six countries to explore how to work with local people on social transformations in the context of environmental change. The project conducted ‘Transformation Labs’ (T-Labs) with diverse groups in each country to address a specific socio-ecological problem. Insights about methods and outcomes are shared between the six sites – in Argentina, India, China, Mexico, the UK and Kenya.

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