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In view of the current global social and ecological predicament, what might constitute relevant forms of radical collective change? What role can processes of social learning play in facilitating such change? And to what extent are online networks able to support the unfolding of such processes?

This thesis addresses these questions. I first present the results of two participatory action research projects, taking place in two different prefigurative online communities attempting to bring about very different forms of collective change. The first focuses on building a transnational, decentralised grassroots economic system as an alternative to global capitalism, but struggles to shake free from the toxic influence of global financial markets, and from unhelpful ways of relating and organising. The second aims to foster self-organisation and new forms of relationality between humans and with the rest of the living world, but struggles to address the heritage of historical violence and injustice, or to bring about visible political change. With the help of the Wenger-Trayner social learning theory and evaluation framework, I consider what processes of social learning have been taking place (or not) in these networks, and their outcomes; and what other social change efforts may learn from these experiments and their limitations.

Finally, I present a reflexive account of my own process of learning and unlearning through my involvement with these projects and others, with regards to the question of what may constitute radical collective change. This critical assessment of my own thinking and aspirations leads me to argue in favour of decolonial approaches to social change as potentially relevant responses to the global predicament.

This thesis contributes to the understanding of social learning processes within prefigurative online communities, and to the practice of social change efforts in such contexts.


1. Introduction: Setting the scene

2. Tools of emancipation, or tools of alienation?

3. My research approach

4. Learning from our failures: Lessons from FairCoop

5. Introducing the Deep Adaptation Forum (DAF)

6. The Diversity & Decolonising Circle

7. The Research Team

8. The DAF Landscape: Cultivating relationality

9. Considering DAF from a decolonial perspective

10. Radical collective change

Thesis chapters


Chapter 1. Introduction: Qu'y puis-je ?

Chapter 2. Research context: Locating this study in the existing literature

Chapter 3. Methodology

Chapter 4. Learning from our failures: Lessons from FairCoop

Chapter 5. Different ways of being and relating: The Deep Adaptation Forum

Chapter 6. Towards new mistakes

Chapter 7. Conclusion

Annex 3.1 Participant Information Sheets

Annex 3.2 FairCoop Research Process

Annex 3.3 Using the Wenger-Trayner Evaluation Framework in DAF

Annex 4.1 A brief timeline of FairCoop

Annex 5.1 DAF Effect Data Indicators

Annex 5.2 DAF Value-Creation Stories

Annex 5.3 Case Study: The DAF Diversity and Decolonising Circle

Annex 5.4 Participants’ aspirations in DAF social learning spaces

Annex 5.5 Case Study: The DAF Research Team

Annex 5.6 RT Research Stream: Framing And Reframing Our Aspirations And Uncertainties