design course posterDesign is a core concept that permeates all of Gaia U. It is our assertion that everything in our lives is a result of some level of design, whether it is done consciously or unconsciously. Understanding the need to cultivate conscious, thoughtful designers competent in assisting the emergence of an ecosocial, regenerative society, we train our associates to embed design thinking, tools and practices into all of their project work.

Drawing from the experiences of the many people who have worked to become permaculture designers since the 1970's, we note that a profound shift of consciousness arises that commonly involves a number of phases.

In the first phase, a person discovers that they have a much broader ability to comprehend complex systems than they thought. Through seeking to understand systems at the pattern level and applying concepts from systems thinking, the thinker avoids getting mired in detail and progresses rapidly as a competent generalist. That is, they tend towards holistic thinking and action. This is an essential contradiction to more conventional dynamic of increased specialization leading to isolation, fragmentation, and an inability to create coherent actions in complex situations.

In the second phase, the evolving ecosocial designer might work closely with nature and be in touch with bacteria, mycelium, soils, plants, animals and other beings as they consider how to repair whole ecosystems. Or they might focus on the social aspects of our ecosystems connecting with others  in the design of the "invisible structures" of our culture.  For most people, this engenders a significant healing, over time, of the alienation and separation of humans from each other and the rest of life so typical of our current dominant cultures.

In the third phase, the designer realizes that much of what we think of as immutable, 'given', inevitable, 'the way it is', etc. about human cultures are, in fact, the results of a design process. Human societies are the way they are because some people, mostly the people with power and privilege, have designed society-wide responses to changing circumstances according to their view of how society should be.

permaculture design mapThe inspiration the mature ecosocial designer draws from the last understanding is at least two-fold:

1. If human society is designed, then it is inherently possible to redesign it according to different principles – ones that support social justice and the regeneration of ecological systems

2. Anyone of us is able to recover the intelligences and breadth of thinking necessary to be an active participant in that redesign process, and it is not inevitably the sole province of a few. From this perspective, permaculture or ecosocial design can be described as a social liberation process.

Gaia University is a worknet of people who have at least glimpsed the empowerment that comes from understanding and reconnecting with nature and each other. We are focused on claiming our power to design our lives, livelihoods, and communities to serve both planet and people.