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Schumacher College is one of the most unique and effective educational institutions in the land, in large part because the content of it's programmes are relevant, current and inspiring, and also because every single person who works at the College, be they teaching staff, kitchen wonders or office staff, totally understand what the College is trying to achieve, why it's important, and what difference their contribution can make. Every person is there to make a difference, and whether it's the musings of Director Satish Kumar that inspire, or the wonderful energy that Wayne Schroeder serves with the meals that he and his team of particpant-chefs create, the evidence abounds that an integrated approach to education has much to offer the mind and body.

As part of their series of short courses, I had the pleasure of teaching at the College recently with Michael Pawlyn (Exploration), Professor Julian Vincent (Bath Uni) and Graham Dodd (Arup) on a week-long biomimicry programme; participants from around 10 countries provided a valuable extra dimension. Elements of the programme that stood out were:

Seawater Greenhouse project - Michael Pawlyn's elegant descrition of this impressive collaboration with Charlie Paton was an inspiration - and provided clear evidence that not all of the technologies that are needed to make a difference to sustainability and climate change need complex man-made technology. The original inspiration for the project comes in part from the humble Namibian Fog Basking Dune Beetle  which collects droplets of water from the air.

Strength and structure - Julian Vincent provided clear and powerful examples of the way that the strength of shells such as the abalone is created by simple yet effective use of combination structures of mineral and organic matter, as described in this article on treehugger . Julian showed how hierarchy (of materials) in nature is used to create strength; it struck me how hierarchy in organisations seems to create weakness - perhaps because the connections between the layers are improperly formed, relying purely on 'structural' rather than 'organic' bonds.

TRIZ - Julian Vincent also took students through this deceptively simple yet powerful problem solving framework. First developed in Russia, it has the capability to help people concentrate on the real issues rather than the symptoms

Biomimicry in organisations was my main focus, along with a session on 'levers for change'. In particular, I have been interested in the way that workplaces so rarely echo the proven dynamics of healthy relationships that have developed in nature ove the last 3.4bn years. Focus on 'partnership' seems to squeeze out opportunity for relationship, managers and leaders forget to 'build from the ground up' and 'shop local' and miss out on opportunities to engage the hearts and minds of their employees using the same principles that are used to create healthy ecosystems.

In January, I am likely to be working with Michael Pawlyn and Julian Vincent to deliver a biomimcry workshop for a leading architect practice in Copenhagen, and in June, will be back at Schumacher College with Dayna Baumeister and Michael P; for information on this programme, please contact the college directly.

Peter Head, Director of Sustainability at Arup, said of Schumacher College:My experience at Schumacher College was really challenging and inspiring. It helped me become more deeply rooted in my commitment to developing sustainable cities. I recommend professionals spend time at Schumacher College as I know it is a place where future leaders are developed .




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