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and The Global Sustainability Fellows Program
New York November, 2012
229 East 85th Street P.O. Box 1571, New York, NY 10028 Tel: 212 767 9936, www.sustainabilitylabs.org
THE SUSTAINABILITY LABORATORY The Sustainability Laboratory (www.sustainabilitylabs.org) is a 501(c)(3) research, development, and educational organization. It was established in 2008 by Dr. Michael Ben-Eli, in order to develop and demonstrate breakthrough approaches to sustainability practices, expanding prospects and producing positive, life-affirming impacts on people and ecosystems in all parts of the world. The Lab is being developed as a network of advanced research centers from around the world, each with a focus on a major eco-zone, with an integrating core based in New York. Functionally, the work of the Lab will focus on four interrelated areas. These include policy support, strategy, and project development; technology development; financing for sustainability; and education. Why the Laboratory? The concept of Sustainability can be best understood as a particular kind of dynamic equilibrium in the circular process of interaction between a population and the carrying capacity of its environment. It is this kind of equilibrium which has been greatly disturbed by current patterns of human activity with the result that all key components of the biosphere are showing signs of alarming stress. Regaining balance at a new level and establishing the concept of sustainability as the organizing principle in a new world order has now become an urgent necessity -- a major challenge of our time. The Sustainability Laboratory was established in order to advance a timely and peaceful transformation to an enduring sustainable state. To this end, it will facilitate the integration of world-wide talent in order to develop advanced designs for enhancing the well-being of the planet as a whole with all of its inhabitants. The idea of a “laboratory” carries the connotation of sound science, effective technology and, most important, of breaking new ground -- of going beyond concepts and practices which are familiar today. The Lab is being developed to foster creative exploration with untested, innovative approaches, driven by a rigorous, holistic conceptual framework and highlighting cross-sector and cross-discipline integration. The Lab’s Signature Approach To guide its activities the lab has developed its own unique conceptual framework. Inspired by the work of innovative thinkers such as Buckminster Fuller, Russell Ackoff, and Stafford Beer this framework integrates and is expressed through a number of key elements: A rigorous definition of sustainability and a derived set of five core sustainability principles which provide an essential road map to developing model sustainability practices. A perspective on evolution and a theory of change which together, provide a potent blueprint for addressing complexity and managing significant change processes. 2
A whole system approach and a system oriented design strategy, which provide a comprehensive methodology for addressing significant global issues, guiding project planning and facilitating development processes.
Using this framework and integrating its elements, the Lab’s initiatives will focus on identifying key sustainability-related issues and developing a portfolio of cutting edge, show-case model approaches and scalable demonstration projects, applicable to local, regional, or planetary concerns. The same underlying conceptual framework provides the foundations for the Lab’s educational programs. The Lab’s Current Status The Lab’s driving core consists of the principal founder, Dr. Michael Ben-Eli; a three person interim board; a twenty person international advisory council; rotating young interns; and a launch-team comprising a number of senior level experienced individuals who are assisting in developing various aspects of the Lab on a voluntary basis. Current Lab activities include: A flagship project -- Project Wadi Attir. A ground breaking initiative that is focused on developing a model for a sustainable, community-based, agricultural enterprise adapted to an arid environment, with a group of Bedouins in the Negev desert in Israel. This $7 million demonstration project is being developed in collaboration with the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and other local and international partners. A Sustainability Prize and a yearly seminar program at EARTH University in Costa Rica. This program is now well into its fourth year. Three of these prizes have already been awarded to graduating students for their final projects in the university’s entrepreneurial program. The first eco-zone related node in the Lab’s network of activities -- the Dryland Sustainability Initiative -- has been recently established in collaboration with the Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The purpose is “to advance research, experimentation and field testing of means, methods, practices and technologies for achieving sustainability in dryland regions.” A similar joint initiative has been launched with EARTH University in Costa Rica. The purpose is to expand current activities of the Lab at the University in a new R&D center with focus on sustainability issues in the humid and dry tropics. Preliminary discussions are being held with other potential sites, notably in Bhutan (alpine zone) and with the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, at Stony Brook University in the US (coastal zones and oceans). A dynamic program of seminars and lectures has been undertaken in locations around the world. A web site has been established and videos and papers produced to jump-start the educational agenda of the Lab. A Sustainability Entrepreneurs™ seminar was delivered at the Esalen Institute in California. It is now being developed into an on-going program of yearly workshops intended for active change agents -- young professionals from around the world. These 3
workshops are conceived to encourage the emergence of a new breed of Sustainability Entrepreneurs, men and women who wish to incorporate sustainability principles in their socially conscious businesses or philanthropic ventures. Work has begun on design and curriculum development for the Lab’s “Global Sustainability Fellows” program. This new, international, Master’s level educational initiative will be conducted in collaboration with a group of select educational institutions from around the world. The program is being designed to prepare future generations of leaders in government, business and civil society to effectively tackle the world-wide sustainability challenge.
THE LAB’S GLOBAL SUSTAINABILITY FELLOWS PROGRAM Over the last four years the Lab has been engaged in extensive educational effort including keynote speeches and lectures delivered by Dr. Ben-Eli to general audiences, as well as lectures and seminars conducted in numerous universities around the world. Based on this body of work the Lab launched the development of a Master’s level program -- the Global Sustainability Fellows program -- integrating a rigorous theoretical orientation with experience based learning and international and cross-discipline exposure. The underlying intention in developing the Lab’s Global Sustainability Fellows program is to fill a persistent educational gap by delivering an intensive, graduate level learning experience that will offer a more rigorous approach to the issues of sustainability than is commonly available. The program’s central goal is to better prepare future generations of leaders in all sectors, including government, business and civil society, for tackling the challenges of a worldwide transition to an enduring, sustainable state by acquiring the essential set of core competencies that are required for the task. The program will be conducted in collaboration with a group of select research and educational institutions from around the world representing different disciplines: Architecture and Urban Planning; Engineering; Business and Management; Law; Art; Design; Health; and more. Each institution will conduct its own Master’s level academic program and grant its own Master’s degree, but students from participating institutions, who wish to acquire an additional set of essential "sustainability competencies," will sign up for the program and spend time, during their respective two-year graduate programs, with the Lab. The program will combine theoretical work with involvement in actual projects and will allow students to experience different parts of the world as well as to develop and practice team-work in professionally mixed groups. During their respective Master’s degree programs, students will spend two intensive periods -- possibly summer sessions -- with the Lab. The first year’s session will be devoted to an intensive immersion in key theoretical concepts that transcend each of the specialized disciplines, and it will involve various group assignments that will foster multidisciplinary collaboration. The second period will involve practical work on actual projects, or, work as interns with selected organizations and relevant initiatives. Participating students will receive their particular Master’s degree, in their chosen field of specialization from their home institutions and, upon graduation, will also earn a certificate from the Lab. The latter should become a sought-after and well-respected “brand” within a short time. 4
It is intended that Lab sessions would be conducted on a rotational basis, each year on the campus of a different participating school. Conceptually, the general scheme of the program is depicted by Diagram 1, below. The diagram outlines the three interrelated, main program components: a discipline-specific Master’s program at a participating institution; a sustainability curriculum developed and delivered by the Lab; and experience based learning opportunities as internships with selected projects and organizations, facilitated by the Lab.
Diagram 1: The Global Sustainability Fellows Program -- General Scheme 5
The core sustainability curriculum will comprise a number of key elements depicted by Diagram 2, below. As depicted by the diagram, essential modules of the program will be clustered in four main groups. One will cover theoretical materials including elements of general system theory, system thinking and systems modeling; a perspective on evolution, change and complexity; a definition of sustainability, the five core sustainability principles and their operational implications; and elements of the design approach to synthesizing effective sustainability strategies.
Diagram 2: Elements of the Core Sustainability Curriculum
The second cluster will offer a comprehensive, evolutionary perspective covering current knowledge concerning the history of the cosmos, the history of the biosphere, and the history of humanity. These materials will be delivered in a way that will put emphasis on underlying interrelationships, interdependencies and continuities at the same time highlighting key evolutionary milestones in the organization of energy and matter, living systems and society. The third cluster will involve “out of the box” experiences designed to stimulate creativity, appreciation of change processes, enhancement of leadership qualities and the connection of outer experience with integrity and inner development. The fourth cluster, in turn, will involve group assignments where key sustainability related topics will be researched, synthesized and presented by interdisciplinary student teams to their peers and colleagues.
Participating Institutions In order to create the necessary institutional base for developing the Global Sustainability Fellows program, a select number of academic institutions were invited to join. The current 6
group of institutions who expressed interest in participating (more will be invited to join in the future), include: The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering of the Technion, in Haifa, Israel. The Rhode Island School of Design, in Providence, Rhode Island, USA. The Mortenson Center in Engineering for Developing Communities, of the University of Colorado at Boulder, USA. The Science Faculty of the University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia. The Management Institute of the St. Gallen University, St. Gallen, Switzerland. The Munich Competence Center Ethiks, at the Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich, Germany. The Payson Center for International Development, at the Law School of Tulane University, in New Orleans, USA.
The School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, at Stony Brook University, New York, USA. The Institute of Human Nutrition, Columbia University, New York, USA. The Medical School for International Health, MSIH, BGU in collaboration with Columbia University Medical Center, New York, USA. The Institute for Sustainable Design, Cooper Union, New York, USA. EARTH University, Limon, Costa Rica.
The Global Sustainability Fellows Program – Design Workshop and Next Steps During the weekend of October 19-21, 2012, a design workshop was held in New York City, that laid the basis for developing the program. The workshop was hosted by the Institute of Sustainable Design of The Copper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. Fourteen individuals representing eleven of the twelve participating institution attended, along with the Lab’s core launch team. The workshop, a first collaborative step in developing the GSF program, addressed issues of program curriculum and content; institutional and academic logistics; financing; and supporting technology. A number of questions related to these topics still remain to be resolved. For immediate follow up and major next steps, the following conclusions were reached: A pilot session will be developed to be ready for delivery during the summer of 2013. The pilot session will most likely take place at EARTH University in Costa Rica. A number of workshop participants will join the Lab’s launch team in a nucleus task force that will go on to develop the pilot session. This group will develop content, 7
address issues of program logistics and academic requirements, develop a financing strategy, and arrange for a suitable technology platform. In parallel, a business plan for the program will be developed which will address issues of setting up an administrative mechanism and all other relevant longer term questions. Participants in the design workshop will constitute a standing Advisory Group for the program. Some members may also deliver particular teaching modules and program’s sessions.
The Global Sustainability Fellows Program: Design Workshop Participants Program Launch Team: Michael Ben-Eli, Ph.D, Founder and Director, The Sustainability Laboratory, New York, NY, USA. Prof. Peter Dean, MFA, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island, USA. Lee Frankel-Goldwater, MA, Environmental Conservation Education, New York, NY, USA. Lisa Huber Worth, Ph.D, Academic Director, Conflict Transformation, The Graduate Institute, Bethany, Connecticut, USA. Bruce Schearer, Ph.D, Nature conservancy, New York, NY, USA.
Richard Zimmerman, MA, Senior VP and Relationship Manager, HSBC Private Bank, New York, NY, USA. Participants
Prof. Irene Alvarado, EARTH University, Limon, Costa Rica.
Prof. Bernard Amadei, Director, Mortenson Center in Engineering for Developing Communities, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, USA.
Prof. Markus Berger, Department of Interior Design, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island, USA. Prof. Kevin Bone, Director, Cooper Union Institute for Sustainable Design, Cooper Union, New York, NY, USA. Prof. Richard Deckelbaum, MD, Director, The Institute of Human Nutrition, Columbia University, and the Medical School for International Health MSIH, BGU in Collaboration with Columbia University Medical Center. New York, NY, USA.
Steven Forbes, Adjunct Professor, Community Development, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA.
Tom Moroz, Director, Knowledge Management Initiative, The Open Society Institute, New York, NY, USA. Prof. Lynne Quittell, MD, Associate director, The Medical School for International Health, MSIH, BGU in collaboration with Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY, USA.
Prof. Markus Schwaninger, Institute of Management, University of St. Gallen, St. Gallen, Switzerland.
Prof. Braj Kishore Singh, EARTH University, Limon, Costa Rica. Prof. Dauphine Sloan, Payson Center for International Development, Tulane University, New Orleans, USA. Gabriela Sperl, Ph.D, Advisory Board member, Munich Research Center for Ethics, the Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich, Germany. Prof. Lawrence Swanson, Associate Dean and Director, Waste Reduction and Management Institute, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York, USA. Prof. Mark Talesnik, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Coordinator, Engineers Without Borders, Technion Chapter, The Technion, Israel’s Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel. Kady Wiengart, Asssistant Director, Payson Center for International Development, Tulane University, New Orleans, USA.
Prof. William Wise, Associate Dean and Director, Living Marine Resources Institute, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York, USA.
Some of the workshop participants in front of the Grand Staircase at Cooper Union. Front row, left to right: Lisa Worth Huber, Michael Ben-Eli, Richard Zimmerman, Peter Dean. Second row: Steve Forbes, B.K. Singh, Lynne Quittel, Gabriela Sperl, Dauphine Sloan, Kevin Bone. Third row: Lee Frankel-Goldwater, Kady Weingart, Markus Berger, Richard Deckelbaum, Markus Schwaninger, Lawrence Swanson, Tom Moroz, William Wise.
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