MA Ecological Design Thinking


Program Description

Never has there been a more important time for a new approach to engaging with the challenging situations we face from the local to the global levels. In a rapidly changing dynamic situation, solutions rarely remain optimal for very long and continuous active participation is a necessary ingredient for success. Growing resilience in individuals and communities is the way to keep going despite the continuous change around us.

Our program in Ecological Design Thinking embraces and explores this complex world of interactions with lively engagement and an optimistic approach. It offers powerful, practical and ecology-centred skills and knowledge to apply to a diverse range of practices from design, education and business to the more specific roles of leadership, management and consultancy.

The Ecological Design Thinking program is trans-disciplinary, insightful and universal in its application; pragmatic and integrative in its operation. It brings together theoretical and practical discourses on ecologically inspired design, with methods of design thinking that are merged with the latest developments in anthropology, psychology and socio-political economics. It aims to create a novel ground for change makers at the forefront of our transition to sustainable societies.

Ecologically inspired design includes the study of ecological worldviews, systems dynamics and applied complexity theory alongside the philosophies and practices of permaculture and biomimetic design.

Design thinking is a well-established participatory technique grounded in the empathic understanding of the feelings, experiences and emotions of others. It engages people in lively conversations, visually stimulated interactions and playful prototyping. It frames problems as opportunities, forms insights and generates creative and collaborative solutions in complex situations.

The Ecological Design thinking program aims to provide a nourishing environment for participants by incorporating short-courses led by internationally recognised thinkers, place-making projects in collaboration with the Dartington Hall Trust, the home of Schumacher College, and short live projects offered by external partner organisations.

This program is the fourth radical postgraduate program developed at Schumacher College and contributes to and enhance the College’s ongoing collaborative inquiry into sustainable living – a live and networked inquiry of practice underway around the world by the College’s 20,000 alumni and others.

Our Teachers:

In this program, we benefit from the contribution of a range of internationally acclaimed teachers. Regular guest lecturers have included:

Dr Stephan Harding, Schumacher College
Dr Philip Frances, Schumacher College
Lou Rainbow, Craft Revolution
Professor Seaton Baxter, Visiting Professor, Schumacher College
Dr David Sanchez, Biomimetic Design
Dr Daniel Wahl, educator and author of Designing Regenerative Cultures
Dr Terry Irwin, Professor and Head of the School of Design, Carnegie Mellon University
Gideon Kossoff, Adjunct Professor, School of Design, Carnegie Mellon University
Kate Raworth, Senior Visiting Research Associate at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute
Tom Crompton, Common Cause Foundation
Tim Crabtree, Schumacher College
Lucy Neal, Author of Playing for Time: Making Art as if the World Mattered
Ruth Ben Tovim, Creative Director, Encounters Arts
Dr Martin Shaw, Author, mythologist, storyteller and award-winning wilderness Rites-of-Passage guide

This list will be updated as contributors to the 2018-19 academic year are confirmed

Who is this course for?

We would be delighted to receive your application whether you are coming directly from an undergraduate degree, taking a time-out to study mid-career or wanting an opportunity to develop your understanding of a practice that is of great importance to all of our futures. We encourage applications from community practitioners and activists as well as planners, educators, architects, politicians and policymakers. You do not necessarily need a first degree in design to apply for this course. You only need to be enthusiastic, resilient and committed.

We are looking for enthusiastic agents of change who are ready to co-design new approaches to the way we live that are socially just and ecologically sustainable. We are looking for those prepared to take risks and stand on the cutting-edge of new practices in this area.

Schumacher College welcomes students from all over the world in a diverse mix of cultural experience and age that allows for rich peer- to- peer learning.

This unique course is about design for all life, not just human life. With its focus on new ways of thinking and acting in the world, it equips you with the skills, concepts and contacts you'll need to engage with the next economy that is now emerging. Enlivened as it is by the real-world context of Dartington as a learning estate, I know of no other community in which ecology, permaculture, systems thinking, complexity science and Gaia theory are integrated as they are at Schumacher College.

Hear from past students
Find out how this program has changed the lives and careers of students who have taken the course by reading our Ecological Design Thinking student profiles.

You Will Learn

  • The foundation of an ecological worldview through subjects such as ecology, deep ecology, systems thinking, complexity science and Gaia theory.
  • Living systems principles through the philosophy and practice of permaculture design, biophilia and biomimicry.
  • Creative and process-focused problem-solving techniques by applying the methods and principles of design thinking
  • A multi-perspective appreciation of ethical issues and their implications for the future consequences of redesigning existing systems and creating new ones.
  • To apply ecological design thinking knowledge and skills to the design of social systems as a part of an emerging new economics
  • Personal and group enquiry practices to raise awareness of the interdependent relationship between the individual, society and nature and between theory and practice

Co-creative participatory practices and theoretical principles for new approaches to the ecological design process that include a range of stakeholders in the full lifecycle of projects, and you will apply these both in the studio, on the Dartington Hall Estate and in short placements on live projects.
John Thackara, writer, bioregional event producer, founder of Doors of Perception

Special Features

  • An interdisciplinary program integrating design methods with those of ecology and the social sciences.
  • An integrative design program rooted in deep ecological understanding and practice and informed by cutting-edge thinking in new economic approaches and social dynamics.
  • A balanced distribution of time and resources on skill-based and cognitive-based knowledge and between practice and theory.
  • Access to some of the world’s leading thinkers and practitioners in design, Gaia theory, complexity, climate science, systems thinking, new economics and social change.
  • Short courses led by internationally recognised thinkers and researchers.
  • Short practical placements with a range of partner organisations operating at the leading edge of social innovation.
  • An immersive, integrative and transformational teaching and learning approach rooted in the principles established by Schumacher College and Dartington Hall, and engaged in a living and working community on and around the Dartington Estate in Devon.

Where you will go?

Ecological Design Thinking can be applied to a wide range of contexts, from the personal to the societal. This program aims to create a new generation of designers, entrepreneurs, policy-makers, educators, researchers, consultants and activists. Graduates will have the skills and knowledge to work for sustainable change in the public and private sectors as well as in civil society, or to set up their own projects or organisations that will contribute to the transformation of society.

Last updated Oct 2019

About the School

Register for our ONLINE OPEN DAY. You will be able to chat live with faculty and staff, watch videos about Schumacher College, the Dartington campus and learn more about each programme. Learn more and ... Read More

Register for our ONLINE OPEN DAY. You will be able to chat live with faculty and staff, watch videos about Schumacher College, the Dartington campus and learn more about each programme. Learn more and register here: People from all over the world, of all ages and backgrounds, have been informed, inspired and encouraged to act, by our transformative courses for sustainable living. Schumacher College has an enviable reputation for cutting-edge learning. Our work is to inspire, challenge and question ourselves as co-inhabitants of the world, to ask the questions we all struggle to find answers to and to find sound knowledge, intuition and wonder in our search for solutions. Read less