Transformation is complex and multi-level governance the admittance of this fact. Our paper presents the lessons learnt from a number of projects, which were / are meant to foster fruitful dialogue and transformative learning among a variety of actors. The projects are united by local climate action as the chosen political arena, our assumption that a level playing field or ‘middle ground’ is needed, and questions such as: How to build effective coordination structures between horizontal and vertical lines? How to facilitate common but differentiated learning? And how to measure and monitor the ‘fruitfulness’ of such dialogue? In trying to answer these questions we draw on applied research from transformative governance projects in Europe, Asia and Africa. One example given is the V-LED project, which will – in the context of the post 2015 agenda, the implementation of the Sendai Framework of Action, the adoption of the SDGs, and ‘après Paris’ – promote platforms for exchange on local climate action in four countries with very different political systems: communist Vietnam, post-apartheid South Africa, Kenya and the Philippines. Our research aims at understanding the coordination mechanisms that may lead to the emergence of dialogue, learning and eventually climate action in multi- level governance systems.