Courses Overview >> Taught Postgraduate Programmes >> Ecological Design Thinking

Ecological Design Thinking


MA, PG Dip, PG Cert

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We believe in a future where the things that we design no longer need to be detrimental to the wellbeing of our planet. 
We believe in a future that pioneers ecological possibilities that readdress social, environmental and economic imbalance. 
We believe in a future that encourages creativity to explore integrated solutions that are beneficial to all-of-life.

What is ecological design thinking?

Ecological Design Thinking is an approach used to address complex problems facing societies across the world.   Using the principles of design, students will learn the skills to find solutions which respect all life and the environment they inhabit.   

It is used in a wide range of fields from education, business leadership and activism to politics, architecture and agriculture. This is the only course of its kind in the UK.

What ideas will you be exploring?

‘How should humans relate to nature?’
How to design systems that are not human-centred, but ecosystem centred.
‘How can we design objects, services and systems that aren’t just sustainable, but actually regenerate the environment?’
How do address complex, ‘wicked’ problems such as climate change?’
‘How can we get people from urban areas to connect with nature?
‘What economic models are best for both people and planet?’

How is our approach different?

• We are a project-based and practical discipline
• We provide opportunities for working experience with external partners
• We favour an interdisciplinary approach – students are encouraged to work with those on other courses such as Economics for Transition and Holistic Science.
• Students get the opportunity to carry out fieldwork on live projects in the UK and overseas. 
• An embodied learning approach is favoured and students are encouraged to get involved in growing, processing, cooking and recycling of food, as well as pottery or woodworking exercises.

What skills will you learn?

• How to apply dynamic systems thinking and complexity theory to address a variety of design scenarios.
• How to develop personal and group enquiry practices that engage a variety of stakeholders.
• How to consider the inter-dependent relationship between individual society and nature when designing.
• How to develop design, communication, facilitation skills using a range of tools to use in project delivery.
• How to apply principles from ecology and Gaia theory and consider how they inform a variety of ecological worldviews.
• How to critically assess the cause of systemic crises and how to address them, how to advance the transition to a low carbon future
• Understand the philosophies and practices of permaculture and biomimetic design.
• Learn established participatory techniques to understand the feelings, experiences and emotions of others.
• Visual techniques to develop the process of prototyping.

Schumacher College welcomes students from all over the world offering a diverse mix of cultural experience and age that allows for rich peer-to-peer learning. We encourage applications from community practitioners and activists as well as planners, educators, architects, politicians and policy makers.

You do not necessarily need a first degree in design to apply for this course. You only need to be enthusiastic, resilient and committed.

Visiting Teachers

For our 2018/2019 we are hoping to have contributions from:
Ezio Manzini   designer, engineer, architect, educator and author of, Design, When Everybody Designs
John Thackara  Writer, innovator and author of,How to Thrive in the Next Economy
Hilary Cotton  innovator, social entrepreneur and author of the forthcoming, Radical Help: How We Can Remake the Relationships Between Us & Revolutionise the Welfare State
Fritjof Capra  scientist, educator and activist and author of, The Systems View of Life, A Unifying Vision

Our Teachers

Prof. Roberto Fraquelli, Coordinator, MA Ecological Design Thinking

Roberto is our Ecological Design Thinking convener at Schumacher College. He is interested in Holistic Design and the dilemma many designers face between the pressures of economic growth and an empathy with all living systems. His current research focuses on four interrelated themes: ecological design thinking, deep empathic design, systems design thinking and contemplative inquiry. With over 20 years of professional practice, mostly working with IDEO Global Design company, Roberto has designed products, environments and experiences for clients across Europe, America, India and the Far East. He holds a number of international design awards and patents - and his work has been featured in Domus, Business Week, Design Week, The Observer, and NewDesign magazine. Roberto studied Industrial Design at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London.

Dr. Mona NasseriMona Nasseri Ecological Design & Sustainability Masters, Senior Lecturer, MA Ecological Design Thinking

Mona has a Doctorate and Master’s degree in Design from the University of Dundee and BA in Crafts from the Tehran Art University.  She was a member of the Craft team in Duncan of Jordonstone and also the Centre for the Study of Natural Design where she first met Professor Seaton Baxter. This was the beginning of a long collaboration with Seaton, first as a PhD student and later as a research assistant, which brought her to Schumacher College. Mona’s research focuses on pattern of transformation in humans as bio-sociocultural beings. She has a particular interest in the role of perception and embodied knowledge in such transformation. Her PhD explored the interface of self, craft and sustainability.

Ruth Potts, Senior Lecturer, MA Ecological Design ThinkingRuth Potts Sustainability Masters

Ruth co-ordinated the development of the MA in Ecological Design Thinking at Schumacher College and is part of the teaching team. She is a co-founder of Bread, Print & Roses, a collective engaged in seditious pamphleteering, radical walking, anarchist baking and transformative education. Previously, Ruth was campaign organiser for the Great Transition at the New Economics Foundation (NEF) where she co-developed a new model of campaign designed to kick-start the decade-long transition to a new economy and society. She is the co-author of The New Materialism, and a co-author of NEF's Clone Town Britain report. Ruth helped to organise the Green New Deal Group in 2007 and managed the launch of their first report, A Green New Deal. The concept was subsequently taken up by UNEP, and influenced policy around the globe.

Ruth is a trustee of the Pioneer Health Foundation, a charity which grew out of an early holistic model of health that would later influence the World Health Organisation. She brought together and co-hosts eco-feminist collective: the Hoydens, co-created and curated a series of events about the joy and intelligence of craft at the School of Life: Practitioner’s Parlour, and more recently helped to devise a series of poetry events celebrating unusual spaces and liminal places: ‘Somewhere in Particular.’

School of Architecture, Design and Environment, Plymouth UniversitySchumacher College work in partnership with Plymouth University.

The MA Ecological Design Thinking programme is approved and awarded by the University of Plymouth. Students who successfully complete the programme will receive a University of Plymouth postgraduate degree certificate and become an alumni of both institutions.

Associated Institutions

The Transition Network Transition Network
The Transition Network supports an international movement to inspire, encourage, connect, support and train communities and organisations to rebuild resilience and reduce CO2 emissions.

Tuition Fees Bursary All students are eligible to apply for the Tuition Fees Bursary. There is no set limit to the amount, however amounts greater than £2,000 will only be offered in exceptional circumstances.

You can submit a bursary application with your Masters application. It will be will be considered if you are offered a place on your chosen Masters programme. Please visit the Bursaries and Scholarship page for further information and how to apply.  

Learn more about The David Orr Schoalrship for Ecological Design Thinking

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Last updated 09/02/2018