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Exploring ecoliteracy, learning and radical change

Ecoliteracy course at Schumacher College which provides participants with a comprehensive overview of the key concepts within sustainability including systems theory, complexity theory, economics and ecological design
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About this project

Date started:
October 2009
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Contemporary debates on sustainability increasingly recognise the importance of education, suggesting that greater participatory involvement of stakeholders in discourses leads to greater empowerment and increases knowledge generation for key groups within education economics, environmentalism and social activism.

There is an urgent and unprecedented task in enabling learning around the many complex issues involved in sustainability.

Making inroads into these complex issues without support can be a daunting task, consequently finding a suitable course to establish a good theoretical and practical understanding of the issues is vital for any educators who wish to incorporate sustainability into their teaching and practice.

A centre of learning for sustainability

Now celebrating 20 years, internationally renowned Schumacher College continues to host its highly successful Ecoliteracy course, which provides participants with a comprehensive overview of the key concepts within sustainability including systems theory, complexity theory, economics and ecological design. The course empowers participants to view all aspects of their work and private lives from a sustainability perspective, and to understand how those ideas can be applied to their actions at work, at home and in the community at large.

“I can think of no more important mission than helping students acquire the knowledge, skills, and values to participate effectively in creating sustainable communities.”

(Fritjof Capra)

Course facilitator Emily Ryan notes that the course gives a broad sweep of key subjects, allowing participants to discover and focus their own interests.


The popular two-week course runs in March 2011 and again in October 2011 and provides participants with all teaching, accommodation, meals, and field trips. For those new to the college this course is also an exciting and valuable introduction to the central themes of Schumacher College and to its other courses in areas such as new economics, business, design and science.

Details of the course can be found at or contact +44 (0)1803 865 934.


The need for adult learning on sustainability that combined theory and practice in a way that addressed a whole world view.

Outcomes so far:

The course has run three times and keeps developing as the context does...

Further information:

Learning as a community

Teaching on the course is very much about community learning. Participants, teachers and staff work together to combine and learn from their diverse experiences and knowledge, in this way individual and group learning provides a powerful platform for deep and holistic engagement with transformative learning for sustainability.

“Professionally, the teachings inspired me to find ways of incorporating experiences of nature and the wild into my work with youth and small enterprises.”

(Jess Schulschenk - Programme Coordinator, Sustainability Institute, South Africa)

Experiential learning

Throughout the course Emily Ryan leads the group through a dynamic process where practical work, contemplation and the development of community are all important parts of the learning experience. As a facilitator specialising in the design of unique learning environments in the fields of transformational education and sustainability Emily notes that one of the course’s key strengths is that participants gain access to a variety of Schumacher’s on-site projects and the associated experts who run them. This helps to render abstract concepts more meaningful and engaging.

Inspiration and transformation at the heart of learning


Caroline Harlow, a Brain Injury Case Manager from Exeter, attended the course last year and found the teaching and content of the course inspirational: ‘Emily was the most charismatic, funny and inspirational facilitator, and has a great sense of ‘joie de vivre’. Like many past participants Caroline says that the course has led to a change in the way that she lives her life. ‘I used to be tied up with wealth and growth, but through Schumacher I have changed the way I interact with myself, the people around me and the planet I live on.’

An international panel of experts

A unique strength of this course is in the calibre of the course teachers who have the knowledge and experience to answer difficult questions and guide course participants to answers that invariably lead to exciting and transformative practices.

What is systems theory and how does it apply to my life/work?
Dr Fritjof Capra, physicist, systems thinker and founding director of the Centre for Ecoliteracy in Berkeley, has lectured extensively on the importance of sustainability education and provides insights into the theoretical underpinnings of systems thinking.


How does changing the way I interact with the wider environment make a difference?
Dr. Stephan Harding, ecologist and author, has worked alongside many of the world's leading experts on ecological thought and action, including Jonathon Porritt, Brian Goodwin and James Lovelock. His contribution to the course focuses on the importance of understanding the ecological mechanisms which surround all our futures.


How does creativity and innovation, which is so integral to education, feature in sustainability?
Anne Miller is an authority on creativity and innovation, having spent 20 years developing and inventing innovative products for the world’s leading companies. In 2000 she founded The Creativity Partnership, providing consulting and training for some of the world’s most successful organisations. She is also author of ‘How to get your ideas adopted (and change the world)’.


It seems like such a complex issue, how can we achieve a sustainable future?
Satish Kumar, world renowned environmental campaigner, co-founder of Schumacher College and editor of Resurgence magazine, ensures participants also take away with them a greater sense of the importance that hope and inspiration play in developing new and innovative work/life practices.


‘Schumacher always gives that wonderful feeling of hope and I think that’s so refreshing.’ (Caroline Harlow, Brain Injury Case Manager, Exeter)


Primary point of contact: 
Mark Wallace at...
Web point of contact: 
Mark Wallace at...

Is this a Transition group project or other?

Not a Transition project
Last updated: Tuesday, 27 November 2012


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