"The course has helped me explore a wide range of sustainable development issues, both theoretically and practically. Through this course, I have learned a lot about teamwork, time management, creativity and art."" Any Sulistyowati, Indonesia
At the heart of all of Gaia Education’s courses lies the 4-D Framework for integrative whole systems design. It transcends and includes the conventional three dimensional model of sustainability aiming to integrate social, ecological and economic concerns in the creation of sustainable solutions, by taking a more holistic approach that also addresses the critical importance of worldview and value systems change as the main drivers of behaviour change and cultural transformation.
’Design for Sustainability’ draws from the experience and expertise of a network of some of the most successful ecovillages, community projects and sustainable design practitioners and educators across the Earth.
The curriculum content of the GEDS has recently been substantially reviewed and rewritten by Gaia Education’s ‘Head of Innovation and Design’, Dr. Daniel Christian Wahl, who is also the author of the acclaimed new book Designing Regenerative Cultures. The material not only reflects the best lessons and practices from communities and transition initiatives around the world, it also offers an up-to-date perspective of regenerative design for cities, bioregions, eco-social enterprises, and regional economic development.
Below you can find a brief summary of what you will learn in each of the four Dimensions and the Design Studio.
The aim is to give you a better understanding of the true meaning of social equity, inclusivity and justice as well as the need for widespread participation and collaborative action in a collectively envisioned and implemented transition towards resilient, nourishing and thriving social systems. In your journey through the social dimension of design for sustainability you will rediscover the importance of community cohesion and collaborative rather than competitive advantage, and reconnect with the beauty, compassionate nature, and innate power of human beings to co-design the changes they wish to see in their communities and bioregions.
In the Social Dimension we will address the following questions:
- What will be the vision that will help our projects be coherent and inspiring?
- How will decisions be made and conflicts resolved?
- How will we walk that delicate line between being an individual and growing our personal empowerment, while being part of a collective endeavour?
- How will we be able to celebrate our diversity in a just and inclusive manner, when we are challenged by our differences?
- What will we do to reconnect with the creative source in the Web of Life and bring a sense of beauty and artistic craftsmanship to everything we do?
- How will our group, organisation, project or community reach out to other local and bioregional communities, to build bridges, and facilitate learning from each other and more effective collaboration towards shared goals?
For more detail on the content and structure of the Social Dimension continue here.
Ecological designers ensure that life-supporting natural functions are not only preserved but regenerated whenever possible. They work with Nature rather than against her. They understand that sustainable settlement design is the creation of predominantly self-reliant, self-maintaining, self-regenerating ‘living systems’ that can support thriving community life for all their inhabitants. They know that ecological concerns are fundamental to the design and development of ecovillages and sustainable intentional communities while recognising that such initiatives need to collaborate regionally and globally to improve the whole system for all of humanity and the wider community of life.
In the Ecological Dimension you will address the following questions:
- Why is the current impact of humanity on the planet’s life support system degenerative, and how can we change this?
- How can we co-create elegant solutions carefully adapted to the bio-cultural uniqueness of place?
- What is the wide range of water collection, management and ecological treatment technologies that can support us in the design of watershed stewardship systems?
- How can we use the best of permaculture, regenerative agriculture, agroforestry and ecosystems regeneration to co-create thriving regional food systems?
- Which renewable energy generation, energy efficiency and transport technologies can help us to create zero-carbon energy solutions while increasing community resilience and strengthening regional economies?
- What range of ecological construction methods are appropriate for which kind of local conditions and how can they support regenerative development at the local and regional scale?
For more detail on the content and structure of the Ecological Dimension continue here.
Our current economic system is no longer sustainable, yet few are aware of the alternatives? Our aim is to give you a better understanding of those alternatives and the true meaning of economy and wealth. Participants will learn about existing systems and tools that are useful, and explore how to redesign those that have proven dysfunctional based on already tested alternatives.
In the Economic Dimension you will address the following questions:
- What are the root causes and design faults of our current dysfunctional economic and monetary systems?
- How can we take local, regional and global action to shift the global economy towards sustainability and regeneration?
- What kind of complementary currency systems, community banks and local investment vehicles can help us to strengthen local and regional economies in global collaboration?
- Why is Growth Domestic Product an insufficient measure of wealth and wellbeing and what alternative indicators already exists?
- What methods and models are currently emerging in the field new economics and the sharing economy to support collaborative consumption and peer-to-peer collaboration?
- How can we learn from successful experiments to revitalise local economies and promote social innovation and entrepreneurship?
- What legal and financial considerations are important for the creation of successful regenerative enterprises and sustainable business models?
For more detail on the content and structure of the Economic Dimension continue here.
Worldview invites you to become more conscious about how your own worldview and value system affects your perceived needs and how it informs the way you might propose and design solution in any given situation. By identifying a series of valid perspectives, worldviews and value systems and putting them into context with each other, rather than seeing them as mutually exclusive or contradictory, we are taking the important first step to being able to facilitate the complex multi-stakeholder dialogues upon which the local, regional and global transition to sustainability and regenerative cultures will depend.
After completing the Worldview Dimension, students will be able to:
- Summarise the main characteristics of the dominant worldview and explain how its spread was closely linked to the development of Western science with its focus on the quantifiable, measurable, and predictable;
- Explain how over last century, first physics, then chaos and complexity theory, and more recently earth systems science and biology have revealed a fundamentally unpredictable complex reality in which we participate and intervene perpetually;
- Name a series of practices that have been used by effective change agents to reconnect with the natural world and gain strength and insight from activities like meditation, council, vision fasts and/or solo-time in nature;
- Structure a multi-stakeholder engagement process in a way that integrates multiple perspectives into a shared whole systems understanding of any collaborative project they work with;
- Design for whole systems health using health as an integrative framework that helps us to foster systemic wellbeing and resilience at local, regional, and global scale.
For more detail on the content and structure of the Worldview continue here.
The objective of the Design Studio is to practice the application of Gaia Education’s Design For Sustainability principles and develop skills in collaborating with an international design team in applying what you have learned to real world case studies. The case study serves as an integrative exercise where participants explore the relationships between personal, social, ecological, and economic sustainability. Design teams will be created around a number of case studies, that will be decided before the beginning of each Design Studio. These may – but do not necessarily need to be – drawn from initiatives that students are currently involved in.
For more information on the Design Studio continue here, or take a look at the design projects created in previous years.
The 10-month course has begun - you can still sign-up now and finish and get certified next year
"It will change the way I teach Permaculture from now on. I would recommend this course to anyone who seriously wants to learn in-depth what it means to live sustainably."Barb Hazenvald, Permaculture Teacher, Canada
A final word on the importance of integrative whole systems design:
While your personal preferences and professional background may make you feel more drawn to certain dimensions of the curriculum than others, we would like to invite you to consider the importance of integrative whole systems design very carefully. So many of the problems we are facing today stem from our compartmentalised approach to identifying and solving problems in isolation. In an interconnected and constantly changing world most problems and most solutions are always somehow hitched to each other.
Finding wise responses and truly transformative innovations to get us from the mess we are in towards a thriving future for all will require us to not just change our practices, but equally importantly the way we think and the worldview and value systems we base our design decisions on. The GEDS curriculum has been carefully crafted to help you become a specialised generalist - able to facilitate multi-stakeholder conversations and help diverse teams create integrated whole systems design solutions. For this intention to be successful, we would invite you to take the whole course first, even if you later choose to practice or teach predominantly in one of the four dimensions.
The value and significance of each dimension will be amplified and strengthened by a deeper understanding of the value and significance of all the other dimensions. To shift from a cultural narrative of separation and competition to a cultural narrative of interbeing, we need more people to be able to articulate the importance of seeing the whole picture and working as integrative whole systems designers. Please join this course. Your community and the community of life needs your help in creating a thriving future for all!
The 10-month course has begun - you can still sign-up now and finish and get certified next year