Agency represents growth of a person’s or group’s intellectual, social and emotional (self-confidence) resources for acting, taking place in a sustained process of solving complex problems and overcoming challenges within social communities and networks. The actor’s identity and trajectories of future development are transformed in conjunction with growing agency. The actor/agent in question may be an individual or collective. The concept of agency crystallizes the inherently creative and transformative nature of human activity (Engeström, 1999). Agency is characterized by experience-based social participation (past) that is focused on the future (examining alternative trajectories) and present (negotiating the past and present projects today) (Emirbayer & Mische, 1998, p. 963). Agency seems to grow through taking up challenging tasks and co-evolving with various projects and enterprises a person is pursuing.

See also Epistemic Agency, Interagency, Transformative Agency, Trialogical Agency.


Emirbayer, M. & Mische, A. (1998) What is agency? American Journal of Sociology 103, 962-1023.

Engeström, Y. (1999). Activity theory and individual and social transformation. In: Y. Engeström, R. Miettinen, & R.-L. Punamäki (Eds), Perspectives on activity theory (pp. 19–38). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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