Learning Ecology: an emerging network of learners expanding ecological literacy

In February 2021, thirty-five people who are dedicating their lives, time, insights, passion, and money to conserving natural systems and wildlife were joined by fifteen designers and other innovators involved with organizational change. They were assembled for a “design sprint” on Zoom to explore how design frameworks and methods could help various organizations informally linked by their purpose enhance conservation efforts in a changing world.

Collectively known as the Conservation Institution (CI), their member organizations were formed various times within the last century. While they recognize the world has changed, they still carry mental models and use planning and management methods from the 20th-century. As a result, innovation comes hard, few of their bolder ideas are brought to reality, and value creation opportunities are not seen. These conditions put the CI and its legacy of accomplishments at risk because the percentage of people in the overall population who find relevance in their work is shrinking.

Using the group’s wisdom to create a scan of the natural and human-made assaults on the natural world, they speculated about the emerging competition. About half-way through the sprint, they had an insight about the main competition and adopted the metaphor: “We are not caught in traffic; we are the traffic.”

They realized that their assumptions, values, attitudes, and worldviews were different from those of the population, and in many cases, were different from each other. Their emerging competition is their own inability to respond to today’s world.

This is the story of how, in 12 hours over three days and amid a pandemic, the group framed a new strategic direction: to become a learning ecology that continuously increases its relevance to the fast-changing forces affecting the well-being of people and the planet.

Click Here to read the Design Brief. This design sprint contributes to the Conserving Futures Initiative.