Following its 2011/12 edition, the Gaia Education Design for Sustainability (GEDS) course has become an important reference in the field of sustainability. Offered by Gaia Education in partnership with the Open University of Catalonia (UOC), the course is based on the four key dimensions of sustainability proposed by Gaia Education – the social, ecological, economic and worldview dimensions – as an integral and holistic approach to sustainable design.
The 2011/12 course reached 46 English students from across the five continents, 12 of whom completed selective dimensions and 34 the full course. 16 students completed the two semesters of the new Spanish postgraduate course, a first step towards the future Masters which Gaia Education and UOC will be offering.
Entering its 5th year, the response to the course has been very positive and, despite the online nature of the course, students experienced the emergence of an extraordinary community of learning. For months they share information, concepts and their experiences across continents, cultures and countries, contributing to a depth of participation and knowledge-share which carries the warmth of what each person knows and brings from their communities to the world.
learning good sustainability practices
“The GEDS 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 team work, time management, creativity and art. The activities for students are very well designed and helped me reflect on my daily sustainability practice and create new plans for a better strategy. It sharpened my way of thinking from various different perspectives as well as providing a lot of creative ideas to work on afterwards.” – Any Sulistyowati, Indonesia
A pitfall of most online and distance learning courses is that students become isolated. GEDS overcomes this through the main activity performed by students through the year: a collaborative design of a real project. The activity is carried out in small working groups of 3-4 people who nominate and select the project from their own communities. The group work encourages the use of different techniques and skills for collaborative work learnt during the social dimension of the course.
As a result, and besides learning to design and the satisfaction that their designs hold a strong potential of being implemented, students acquire a new competence with higher added value: the ability to carry out collaborative work with people from varying cultures and backgrounds.
Although most of the design projects presented in the last year were intended to create intentional communities or ecovillages, the number of projects with bioregional or entrepreneurial scope increased with respect to previous years. As with the intentional community and ecovillage projects, bioregional and entrepreneurial projects also follow the 4 dimensions of sustainability in guiding their designs, ensuring an integrated & holistic approach to sustainability.
Bioregional projects involve the (re)design of a neighbourhood, village or town and are mostly brought by people belonging to ‘transition’ initiatives. Project examples include Romont Together, presented by Maria Meiland and intended to be applied to the little town of Romont in Switzerland, and Sant Boi Transició, presented by Vanessa Sancho, to be applied to Sant Boi, a neighbourhood of Barcelona (Spain).
On the other hand, the entrepreneurial or organizational projects involved the creation of a sort of social enterprise aimed to offer different types of goods or services. These included eco-centres, such as The Demonstration Center for Sustainability, a case study brought by Nina Puntar from Slovenia, and eco-farms, an example of which is EsBiosferA, a project presented by Gemma Velasco (Spain) and based on self-sufficiency, agroecology and the production of local and organic food to empower the surrounding community.
“It will change the way I teach Permaculture from now on. This course has given me a new focus and a new angle to perceive what is an old topic for me. I would recommend this course to anyone who seriously wants to learn in-depth what it means to live sustainably. The teachers were great, all of them! Thank you!!!” – Barb Hazenvald, a Permaculture Teacher from Canada.
booming market of green jobs awaits
The GEDS course is aimed at all kinds of people interested in the management or design of sustainable projects, communities and organizations. It is particularly suitable for people who work and need a flexible schedule to follow their studies. It is highly recommended for those who want to enter the booming market of green jobs in both the public and private sectors. If this is your case, come and learn how to design with experts from the best research and development centres for carbon-constrained life-styles!
The Sustainability Institute at Lynedoch Ecovillage outside Stellenbosch hosted South Africa’s first Ecovillage Design Education programme, certified by Gaia Education, in March & April this year. Drawing participants from across South Africa’s diverse spectrum of socio-economic, racial and spiritual landscapes, the one month programme is set to be followed by more programmes in South Africa. Read more about the Lynedoch EDE here.