History of ISTTON


History of the International Social Transformation through Occupation Network (ISTTON)

2015 ENOTHE (European Network of Occupational Therapy in Higher Education) Annual meeting in Ruse, Bulgaria

The founding group met and decided to submit an abstract for a workshop „Creating a think tank for occupation-based social transformation” at the 2016 joint COTEC-ENOTHE Congress.

2016 COTEC-ENOTHE Congress in Galway, Ireland

The first Think Tank at the joint COTEC-ENOTHE Congress (Galway 2016) was organized in order to establish: whether participants shared our interest in putting social transformation on the occupational therapy/occupational science practice, research and education agenda; their prior experience/knowledge; and how we might move forward collaboratively.

Over 70 participants voiced the need to draw on practice emerging across the world, as well as furthering theoretical development. They identified several overarching priorities:

  • The political responsibility of occupational scientists and therapists to advocate for participation and occupational justice;
  • The need to bring practice to where people live their lives;
  • Changing educational standards and content to empower occupational therapy students from diverse backgrounds to be agents of change;
  • Making occupation central to action for change, and ensuring that its power is recognized at micro, meso and macro levels.

On the following day, a second workshop was informally organised to continue the discussions and for those unable to attend the first workshop. The purpose, activities and outcomes (grouped into areas) of the first workshop were outlined and the subsequent discussion focused on items considered most important by the members of Workshop 1. It was agreed that the next think tank meeting would be held as a one-day workshop prior to the next Occupational Science Europe Conference.

Activities between June 2016 and September 2017

A mailing list of participants from the think tank was created and made open to all interested.

A questionnaire exploring areas of interest, practice and research was designed and distributed via the mailing list. It was returned by over 70 participants The Facebook group “Social transformation through Occupation” was created.

2017-19 ENOTHE Project group on occupation-based social transformation

Research project by a group of occupational therapy researchers and practitioners from Europe and Canada, supported by the European Network of Occupational Therapy in Higher Education (ENOTHE). The aim was to explore the theory and practice of working towards social transformation through occupation by using a case-study design with semi-structured interviews. Participants were people with expertise in the field, working at group, community or population level, in partnership with people involved, with an expressed intention to alter for the benefit of those involved the structural conditions of people’s everyday lives through occupation. Analysis across cases identified key themes and theoretical underpinnings. Next to a research article, one of the intended outcomes of the project was an e-book with case stories.

More information can be found  on the following link to Project Group report on ENOTHE website.

2017 Occupational Science Europe conference in Hildesheim, Germany

The 2nd Think Tank was opened by Lisette Farias, a doctoral student at the University of Western Ontario, Canada, who presented an ‘igniter talk’ on: “Social transformation through occupation: Moving beyond intentions for enhancing justice?” Loosely following the Future Search methodology developed by Marvin Weisbord and colleagues, this one-day pre-conference workshop provided an opportunity for open discussions and exchange of views for participants working in small groups around specific themes that had been developed from the outcomes of the 1st meeting of the Think Tank (Galway, 2016) and the results of the questionnaire that had been distributed. By the end of the day each group had contributed to naming and building action steps in areas of practice, research and education to further develop social transformation through occupation.

More information about the pre-conference workshop can be found here.

For more information see

  • Laliberte Rudman D, Pollard N, Craig C, Kantartzis S, Piškur B, Algado Simó S, van Bruggen H & Schiller S (2019) Contributing to social transformation through occupation: Experiences from a think tank. Journal of Occupational Science 26(2): 316-322.
  • Trimboli C, Rivas-Quarneti N, Blankvoort N, Roosen I, Simó Algado S & Whiteford G (2019) The current and future contribution of occupational therapy and occupational science to transforming the situation of forced migrants: Critical perspectives from a think tank, Journal of Occupational Science, 26:2, 323-328.

2017 ENOTHE Meeting in Zagreb, Croatia

This workshop on “Social Transformation through Occupation: Recent Steps and Future Directions“ discussed the potential of Social Transformation through Occupation in its relevance for evolving occupational therapy practice with interested participants with the aim of contributing to the international network. Outcomes and proposed future directions of the thematic groups that emerged from the Think Tank meeting at the 2017 OSE Conference in Hildesheim were presented and participants were invited to join the ongoing debate and initiatives on these topics areas.

2018 WFOT Congress in Cape Town, South Africa

A poster on the steps that had been involved in building the international network so far provided an opportunity to get into conversation with interested congress participants.

Module on Social Transformation with teachers and students at ZHAW in Winterthur (Switzerland), 2018, 2019,2020

2018 ENOTHE Meeting in Estoril, Portugal

Workshop “Developing Competences for Social Transformation through Occupation“

The participants discussed extracts from five cases developed by the ENOTHE project group. They considered it useful to have a number of cases to discuss and compare. Based on their discussion of the cases, they described social transformation as complex, at multiple levels, an internal-external process, and ranging between individual and collective.

2019 Occupational Science Europe Conference in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The third Think Tank was organized as a one-day pre-conference workshop and ran under the motto “Understanding the role of activities and occupations in transforming contemporary society.“ It was opened by Dr Flor Avelino of the Dutch Research Institute for Transitions, who presented an ‘igniter talk’ on: “Social innovation and transformative change: concepts & examples.“ The focus of this meeting was on partnering with other disciplines or stakeholders and future perspectives for ISTTON. Following morning sessions organised around themes developed around the participants’ thematic areas of interest, the afternoon sessions offered opportunity for the development of projects and partnerships on particular themes or topics in practice and research to work further.

Link opening the PDF file with the programme of the preconference workshop can be found here.

2019 ENOTHE Meeting in Athens, Greece

The workshop “Teaching and Learning for Social Transformation through Occupation“ introduced participants to the cases developed by the ENOTHE project group between 2017-2019 and particularly explored questions of how spaces can be opened in the curriculum for students to engage with processes of social transformation. Key elements of these processes that the cases illuminate and which indicate critical elements of the learning process were discussed.

2020 ENOTHE E-Book Social Transformation through Occupation

The cases shared within the e-book display that such practices can mobilize occupation, or ‘doing together’, as a means for transformation, and/or target occupational inequities within identified outcomes of transformation.

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