Regenerative Education: The (Re)design of Mission Impact (v0.2) to Connect Higher Education to Wicked Sustainability Problems.

This image captures a feeling that I have been having lately. Namely, while I feel I am walking in the right direction, the path is still very much clouded.

While writing this update, it feels a bit like a bittersweet moment. As I know it will likely be the last post in a few months as I take my summer break and recharge. A recharge, that after this period is heavily needed and I’d argue much deserved. After more than a year of COVID-19, the successful launch, accreditation, and maturation of our research centre Mission Zero as well as the creation of a limited podcast series on Regenerative Education that will launch near the end of August, I am well and truly spent. In this update, you will find an account of the redesign process of the Mission Impact course, which acts as an innovation ecotones to bring this emerging educational practice into being. This exploration includes all of the templates and materials as we will use them for the learners that will be joining us in September (and more will be updated on an ongoing basis). You may feel free to duplicate and adapt them to your use case as we freely and openly share these in the spirit of open science and education (please see the bottom of this post for copyright information). This piece as well as the work that has gone into the (re)design of this course would not have been possible without the creativity, bravery, and passion of student-researchers Marieke Buisman, Ping Huang, Vladimir Genov, Luciana Santerre & Nicolas Landriati. I would also like to highlight my co-coordinator for this course, Gabriela Bustamante, without their support and dedication this would not have been possible. It is a privilege and a pleasure to work with this international team of badasses.

A part of the design team: from left to right Ping Huang (User Experience Design), Luci Santerre (International Communication Management), Nicolas Landriati (Industrial Design Engineering), and Vladimir Genov (International Communication Management). Photo taken on the 17th of May, 2021 in the Mission Zero Lab @The Hague University of Applied Sciences.

This post is structured as follows:

  1. The purpose of this (re)generative work is illuminated.
  2. The process of going from the pilot to this second iteration is described.
  3. The current state and materials for the second iteration are unraveled and shared.
  4. I share my hopes, dreams, and wishes for the second iteration.

As always, this represents working out loud in the spirit of open science and open education. As such, it contains my perspectives, thoughts, doings, and thinkings and should be considered exploratory. It may also contain graphical and other errors. It is my hope that sharing this process, including the (ugly) parts that are normally left behind the scenes, can be of service to other educators, scholars and practitioners.

Purpose

A play on the famous quote by Janine Benyus and one that I frequently use to describe my research and practice. Drawing lovingly made by Laura Stevens & Mari Genova in honour of the visitation of the Mission Zero centre of expertise.

I, and many before and like me, believe that (higher) education can be a driver of societal learning and change. In fact, I believe that (higher) education and my praxis within it brings a moral obligation to be nothing less than that. This potential, that lies within students, in particular, to engage with wicked sustainability challenges and guide these collective learning-based change processes is a key leverage point for the transition towards more regenerative futures. The good news is that this perspective is being brought into practice in more and more places (albeit usually on the fringes of the existing educational systems and institutions) as The (Re)generative Education Podcast will also highlight from August. My purpose with this journey, and this research, is to unravel some of the design criteria for this emerging educational narrative. That sees education as a (re)generative activity for societal change, where learners (re)generate themselves by (re)generating society.

This ties to the concept of (Re)generative learning ecologies (RLEs), which bring together insights from the regenerative paradigm with those of ecologies of learning and sees regenerative futures (as well as leadership) as emergent properties of learning with ecological and systemic change. I.e. of learning-based interventions with and within complex challenges and the relational networks that continually constitutes them. Where wicked sustainability challenges are seen as systemic unsustainable (or degenerative) relational patterns that do not have clear ownership, but that negatively impact life’s ability to thrive, now and/or in the future.

RLEs then are dynamic constellations of unfolding relational patterns that can be connected to (through )interventions to transform or transgress these systemic errors. To allow the opening up of possibility spaces for societal futures. This is a complicated and difficult process that involves challenging a lot of lock-ins, ranging from the deepest systemic levels (e.g. our values, worldviews, perspectives, etc.) all the way to systems such as multinational economics and politics. These deeply held beliefs need to be transformed if meaningful, transformative societal change (such as that which leads to systems that are conducive to life) is to be achieved. RLEs, therefore, act as innovation ecotones, as living systems with places for both creation and destruction, of healing and pain, of storm and calm. The purpose of higher education, or at least of mine, is to connect to and co-create the conditions that are conducive for learners to play with these RLEs, and the emergent properties that they hold to emerge. I believe that engaging with this work asks for meaningful educational change, and focusing part of the higher education experience on the development of regenerative leadership — the ability to guide these collective and societal learning-based processes that transgress current unsustainability towards more sustainable futures by playing within these ecologies of learning.

To integrate this into higher educational praxis subsequently asks for space and time, for students to develop this ability in and through practice. A lot of potential lies in linking higher educational courses to so-called regional innovation ecosystems, e.g. in the form of living labs, and by being facilitated, supported, and guided in engaging with RLEs for systemic change, they can bring the leadership that these systems so desperately need in the times of great transition. In this piece, our approach for one of such courses at The Hague University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands to design an educational program from this perspective is shown in detail, including many of the actual materials that we will be used with our students from September onwards.

As you will see, this design necessarily includes multiple forms of learning, which are valued as separate but valuable parts of the whole experience and sometimes forgotten in our current practices. These forms of learning include learning-to-know, learning-to-transform/transgress, learning-to-care, learning-to-do, and learning-to-anticipate. Additionally, we believe that personal transformation occurs in conjunction with systemic change and societal learning. So both of these are scaffolded with guided exercises throughout the course. In general a 80/20 split between working on wicked sustianability problems and engaging with personal transformations is maintained in the course. Where I would like to stress that the beforementioned forms of learning occur in both the personal and transitional.

Finally, I would like to stress that this is a particular course, in a particular place, with a particular culture and context. While some of the lessons can be translated to other locations, places, and times. This will always require careful adaption which construct the educational art.

Process

Previously, I showed how the redesign process of Mission Impact was organized and going. This process roughly consisted of analyzing the data that was generated in the pilot through narrative of t-mapping and subsequently hosting a series of design workshops. Through this, we leveraged one of the key lessons of design-based education fail fast, learn fast. This analysis and redesign roughly occurred between February and May of 2021 (there are still some bits and pieces that need to be finished). In general, we followed a design-driven approach where diverging and converging steps were iteratively performed, with abductive judgment as well as frequent and varied feedback (from fellow educators, students, and non-educational professionals) leading the way. Throughout this piece, you will find images and screenshots of this process, please note that the image quality of these leaves to be desired but you can also take a look at the Miro pages here and here. These also include a lot of our notes and some of the ideas that died along the way (at least for our specific course at this point in time!).

Design workshops

In the workshops, a series of questions was prepared related to components of education like those mentioned above. A conceptual framework that will be published in August about higher education that connects to transition challenges was used as a guide for the formulation of these. Example questions include: What would you like the students to do/be at the end of this experience? How can we connect to region x? And What content (skills, knowledge, abilities) would you consider essential for this type of education? Three similar sessions were held with representatives from the two living lab regions we will be working with (Greenport and Binckhorst both in The Netherlands near The Hague) as well as with a group of students who had just experienced the pilot. Each session, which lasted ninety minutes, was guided by me. Two of the student-researchers captured the discussion in post-its and one live-visualized it. The live visualizations were then shown to the participants at the end to summarize and check if we captured their meaning correctly.

A compilation of results of the different co-design sessions that were hosted in preparation for Mission Impact v0.2. Each session lasted for 90 minutes and included 1 to 6 participants.

Diverging — Ideation

The input of the design sessions, as well as the results of the analysis of the data from the pilot, combined allowed for rapid ideation on the different components (community, content, structure) of the next iteration of this course. This was started by an ideation session as a team on the 15th of February, 2021.

Results of team-based ideation where we focussed on structure, content & community (the main theme’s from the analysis of the data from the pilot). As you will notice our ideation consists of both post-its and sketches throughout this (re)design process.

After this session, ideation was performed in more depth for each of these as well as additional components of course design, some of which are shown here below.

Each step of this ideation was done at multiple levels. Both on the level of what the future students will be doing as learners in this course, and on the level of data generation for my own research into Regenerative Education.

Examples of components of research training emerged both from the data and the judgment of the research team.
Exploration of research approaches and methods that can be integrated both for me as well as training for the students — one of the notes that came back a lot in the reflections of the students was that previously in their studies, they had been asked to ‘do’ research but never really trained how and why to do research.
Early ideas about assessment of the learners in the course. A process perspective has guided us as one of our methodological assumptions from the start and is clearly visible in both this and research-related comments above.

Based on this initial collective exploration each member of the team was asked to outline the course (full twenty weeks) individually and to focus on what they found most important to include, consider, and incorporate in the final design of this second iteration. This resulted in a breadth of insights by focussing on the complementary ingredients of this experience. An example of part of one of these timelines can be seen here:

Individual timeline near the middle of February of one member of the research team on how the course should look like.

Converging — Bringing it together

These individual timelines were then discussed and brought together into a single overview of the entire twenty-week course. Roughly, this can be seen as six sprints of three weeks each, with a dedicated introduction week (to focus on community-building) and two weeks in the middle that is a bit like a break. The initial focus is on placing much (too much) of the education (courses, skills, and abilities needed to engage with the complexity of wicked problems) in the first two sprints. This framework was once again presented to ex-students and provided a rich starting point for discussion and further exploration. At this point, a sketch of the learning journal (later renamed to Expedition Guide see below) was also created. The intention of this guide is to support the individual learners in their regenerative journey and simultaneously serves as a data-gathering tool towards my Ph.D. Note that this sprint structure has been adapted to the four phasic structure described in more detail below (i.e. sprints of 5 weeks).

First sketch of the course, based on individual timelines that were inspired by three design workshops and the data from the pilot study.
Initial sketch of the journal template, each column representing an ingredient, assignment or prompt for the journal to scaffold the learning experiences — as we discovered that one of the main improvement points from the pilot was the addition of structure to guide and support learning in the complexity of wicked problems that are central to regenerative learning ecologies.

Zooming in

The major changes that were co-decided on because of the feedback we received on these two sketches were that (A) the course load should be more evenly distributed. Taking the time to get to know the context (B), but also to slow down (C), was important. And that the expedition guidewould need to be both very structured, allow for open engagement (choice and creativity), not be too steering but guiding, and not take too much time (D).

Based on these initial sketches, a series of three design workshops were hosted for the expedition guide starting from a lo-fi prototype to a finished prototype (see below), as well as sessions to identify the main learning hopes for each content based session (i.e. the courses required for the students to engage with their work or to develop their regenerative leadership capacity) were conducted. For both courses, we now have an outline of the content for each workshop or class, a proposed structure in bullet points, and are starting to invite guests and/or decide whether Gabriela or myself will teach that specific session, where we aim for a 50/50 split (excluding guest contributions). Once the guests have been invited/confirmed we will create the remaining materials for the courses. It is important to note here that while we have now set out a ten-week schedule of proposed sessions, the order of these as well as the chosen pedagogy can change based on how it unfolds in practice. The sessions will however be based on t-learning to include the head, heart, and hands as much as possible and like the course itself will always in service to (re)generation.

Process of designing the expedition guide, each board represents a seperate session, some of which were conducted multiple times.
One of the sessions initially was a brainwriting session (left), on the right some of the clusters of creative expressions that could be used for the expedition guidewere identified. These clusters are further described below.

After the design workshops for the expedition guidewere conducted and med-fi prototypes were prepared. We were very lucky to be able to host a physical session at the appropiate social distance of 1.5m using a large piece of brown paper. This was also digitalized into Miro. As can be seen by the overview of the expedition guide below, the final design for this is quite complex.

Overview of the expedition guideoutline including alternating weekly assignments where one week focuses on developing content-related ability (such as data analysis skills or creating artifacts that transgress existing systemic barriers) and one week focuses on personal existential development (such as who am I becoming and why?).

I hope that through this process as well as the materials that have already been made and those that will be created enough structure and support can be provided for the students to fully embrace and thrive in the uncertainty and complexity of taking temporary ownership of wicked sustainability challenges. At the very least, I dare to say that the burden and response-ability that has been given to us for their well-being has been taken seriously. Above all, I hope that this work can empower our learners to co-create more regenerative futures by connecting higher education to social innovation.

Mission Impact V0.2

In the rest of this piece, I will describe, share and show the current state of:

  1. The hybrid learning environment — including the digital solutions that we will use and the how and why these were chosen.
  2. The structure of the course- including the introduction week, courses, outro week, and intended exhibition.
  3. The assessment of the course-including sharing the matrix of competencies and sub-competencies that we will be using (can be found in the expedition guide).
  4. The design scaffolding to support the teams with their transition challenge
  5. The expedition guide-including creative playingstorytelling sessionspersonal practicewildcards, and a link to the template that will be used by our learners.

For each, I will link these to the purpose of this educational research and I will then finish by sharing with your my hopes, dreams, and wishes for this iteration and anticipate the subsequent post in this series.

Hybrid Learning Environment

During the Mission Impact v0.2 course, a hybrid learning environment will be used. This includes physical activities such as workshops with the whole community as well as storytelling sessions and exhibitions that will be open for the broader actors involved in this RLE. To help the students, a dedicated Microsoft Teams space has been prepared that will act as the main communication and collaboration hub. This will also be the place where licensed reading materials will be placed and provides a secure space for data storage and management in accordance with Dutch national guidelines on good research practices. MS Teams was preferred over Slack, Discord and Mighty Networks primarily for: (1) pragmatism — it is already licensed by our institution, (2) our students have been using Teams since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and (3) it has the strongest support for both collaborating, online events and content storage/creation. The other technologies could do some of these roles better (i.e. Slack and Discord are arguably easier for communication purposes only) but fail in others (their ability to store data is limited and their creation tools within the same environment are as well). While some of these limitations could be worked around, for example by including Zoom, Google Docs, Dropbox, and such, these would add unnecessarily complex technological layers. For now, MS Teams works as a good middle ground for our purposes, which is a combination of centralized and decentralized hybrid learning. The main limitation with Teams has been that it is not always as responsive with external guests as Zoom, Slack and Discord can be. But this seems to be improving.

In addition to MS Teams as a central hub for collaboration and storage, both Notion and Miro will be used. The program Notion will be used to host the expedition guide (a personalized learning journal) that helps to scaffold and capture the individual learning journeys of the participants. While a dedicated Miro template has been created for each team to start to explore their transition challenges. The Notion template can be found further below. The purposive choice was made to split these two focus points into separate technological platforms as the students who participated in our design workshops indicated that it was more comfortable for them to work in two different environments as it helps them make a clearer distinction between individual and collective work. The main advantage of Notion over Miro for the expedition guide is its inherently more structured nature, which by design acts as educational scaffolding. As far as I know, a digital solution that can replace all of these different tasks and that allows gated access for broader community members does not exist (yet).

In addition to the digital solutions, there will also be physical sessions at both the team level (hosted by the teams in the regions they are working with) and collectively, which can be hosted in the university but also in the surrounding regions (including regions not in focus for this iteration for the course). For example, the first day kicks off with a digital session in the late morning before meeting physically in a nearby nature reserve a few hours later.

Structure

The learners will tackle a wicked problem in teams of 4–5 from different backgrounds (disciplines and nationalities), purposive effort will be given to make these teams as diverse as possible. Outside of the introduction week and the final week, most weeks will consist of two to three days for the teams to collectively work on their wicked challenge, one day of workshops, classes, and/or other community sessions, and one day of working individually through their expedition guide.

Intro week

One of the major findings of the pilot was that while a sense of community and belonging did develop, even during the digital reality of covid-19. The power and speed with which this could have been achieved could be vastly improved by focusing on community-building initiatives. I still consider this my biggest failure as an learning experience designer by far. As someone who has Asperger’s, the need that more neurotypical people have to connect beyond only content-based collaborative learning largely goes beyond me. But I have learned the vital importance of facilitating and nurturing the growth of a sense of community, belonging, and inclusion as a paramount criteria to engage with this meaningful work. To ensure that the course can act as an educational safe space (in the sense of a learning environment where people can feel comfortable being vulnerable and voice their opinions, even when they know these may lead to conflict). As such, the entire first week will focus on getting to know the others in the course, learning about the contexts, and creating that sense of belonging that will hopefully allow them to engage in this (re)generative work in more collaborative fashions in the rest of the course. The specific activities for this week are not set in stone yet but suggestions have included a nature hike, surfing, axe throwing, and historical fencing.

Next to activities that will purely be focussed on building community, there will also be excursions to the regions we are working with. There may be one or two content-based workshops and the students are introduced to and get their expedition guides.

Phases

Visual representation of the structure of the Mission Impact course, including assessment moments and a quadruple diamond (often used to represent the diverging and converging parts of the design process). Sketch by Bas van den Berg, Digitalized by Nicolas Landriati.

We will continue to work with phases of five weeks, using the framework of the systemic design guide (4Ds) to roughly structure each phase. These phases are Discover, Define, Develop and Deliver respectively. Each phase begins with a collaborative kick-off with representatives of the regions we are working with and ends in a number of personal and collective deliverables. While participation in the deliverables is a knock-out requirement for assessment, the formal assessment happens based on a deliverable letter where each individual makes their case for passing the sub-competencies for each phase. For a more detailled look into the assessment structure, please see the dedicated section below. Roughly speaking the main focus of each phase (which in reality will have overlap and consist of many iterations) is:

  1. Discover — to map and unravel the wicked problem in its complexity and zoom in on possible places for interventions.
  2. Define — Design and early empirical data gathering to engage and further define the parts of the challenge where the team of students thinks they can create the largest momentum for societal change.
  3. Develop — Additional data gathering and early prototyping of possible interventions. (we adapted this to Create for our purposes)
  4. Deliver — Bringing everything together and preparing an exhibition. (we adapted this to catalyze for our purposes).
Overview of the four different phases as well as tools, templates, models that are prepared in the Miro template for the learners. As you may be able to see, these are mostly given/pre-selected for the discovery phase before opening up for students’ own experimentation, creativity, and practical play.

Courses

One of the major feedback points of the pilot was that there was little overarching connection between the lectures, workshops, sessions and that many did not contribute that much to their practical work. In response, we carefully examined the skills, abilities, and (content) knowledge that should be focused on which resulted in the development of two-course lines. To do this, a selection of topics that we wanted to include in each of these learning lines was made first. We also noticed that while some students did have research training, this often consisted only of theoretical lectures and not the actual chance to perform research or to practice different approaches to engaging with research. As could be seen above, the courses were then placed together to identify ways that the workshops, sessions, or lectures from each course in the same week could be combined (where is the overlap) and this resulted in prepared outlines for each session that we want to host over the first 10 weeks of the course. The decision on what specific order these will be included, and who will be responsible for which of these (and for which we ask external guests) will be discussed a week in advance so that we can remain adaptive and agile. As unfolding in practice may make the proposed order less logical than when it would’ve been designed in this present time. For more information about the course content see the post below and the Miro page linked at the beginning of this post. We are also open for volunteers who are particularly triggered by a specific session and would like to host it, for example as practice for materials they are developing.

Redesigning Mission Impact. This work presented here includes… | by Bas van den Berg | RLE — Regenerative Learning Ecologies | Mar, 2021 | Medium

An example of a few weeks of one of these course lines, this one focussing on research skills.

These sessions will be based on T-learning (transformative, transgressive, transdisciplinary, transboundary), which results in each session including engagement at the heart, hands, and head levels. Any materials that will be prepared for these sessions will be shared on a rolling basis as we enact them. The students will also be asked to prepare through engagement with carefully curated materials before each session which is integrated into their expedition guides, the main reading for the coursework of this minor includes Daniel Wahl’s Designing Regenerative Cultures and Helen Kara’s Creative Research Methods — A Practical Guide as the former serves as a great introductory text for students who are passionate about sustainability but may not be introduced to regeneration yet and the latter is one of the best (creative) methodological books out there. I particularly like the inclusion of indigenous research and a strong focus on ethics in creative research practices in the book. We believe that with the combination of both, as well as the assignments that have been formulated to practice and engage with these concepts, the students will be able to develop their regenerative leadership and guide other stakeholders through this collective healing and learning process to live into more regenerative futures. At a personal note, I am very excited to include elements of game-based learning and research, where elements of gaming (both tabletop and digital) can be used also as creative ways of conducting research into more regenerative futures into these workshops. As I believe that education is at its best when it is ‘practical play’ and what elicits more playing than games.

Examples of how the different courses can be combined, for each week overlap (alignment) between C.A.R.D. and Leadership for Regeneration, were identified, as well as guiding questions that could lead the session and specific content to include for each session.
A bit more in-depth look for one specific week.

Both courses end in week 10 (halfway through the course), at which point, our intention is to either ask the students to co-create further learning materials if it is necessary by co-hosting a collective session to map out abilities and knowledge that we as a community believe is necessary and subsequently assigning teams to weeks and topics so that they can prepare a public workshop about that topic. Alternatively, we could simply increase the time available for the expedition guide and or working on the wicked challenge.

Outro week

In the final week, we will co-host a public exhibition that showcases all of the work of the different teams. This exhibition will also include the final storytelling event, where the students share their experiences with each other and those who would like to hear them . This will be on the Wednesday of the week (20). The final deadline for the remaining deliverables (see next paragraph) will be the Thursday evening after. And we will finish with some type of community event on the last Friday. The specific event and time of this are not yet decided, and also depends on the suggestions of the learners, but it could be as simple as just having a nice dinner together. Some of the learners will subsequently do their graduation research with our centre of expertise as well and start working on the Mission Zero certificate, but that is a story for another time. The main goal of this last week is to catalyze, to bring everything that they have learned together into an engaging and meaningful event that can trigger others to reflect, to learn, and hopefully to act into more regenerative futures. But it is also about death, about the end of the course, and the finishing of our time together. A wise friend recently told me that things can only thrive if we are willing to let some others die. I know this moment will feel bittersweet (but mostly sweet!) and it will definitely be a highlight of this iteration of the course.

Assessment

The course is housed within the Industrial Design Engineering program which uses a competency-based assessment approach where each student throughout their studies, with the exception of graduating students, has an individual assessment every fifth week. In these assessments, the students use their work over that time period to argue for the advancement of five sub-competencies in each of these sessions (although less or more is possible). These sessions typically last 45 minutes of which about half is for the student to share, present, and make their case before a discussion starts. Within The Netherlands, the competencies and sub-competencies are agreed upon at a national level for each direction of study, with some room for individualization from institution to institution. It is within this framework that we operate in Mission Impact. There are a few major advantages to using this as the basis for the assessment structure.

  • It allows for student-led decision-making on the order of their development (which sub-competencies they prefer).
  • It allows for the student to decide and argue how they achieved these and prepare materials for this (a lot of agency).
  • It creates a relatively high sense of security because each session is assessed by two teachers.

Of course, being a minor, we should offer competencies and sub-competencies that deepen and or broaden the learning (i.e. that go beyond their own program) so a set of them had to be developed for the course. In addition to the above, due to both pragmatic considerations (low number of students and thus teaching hours) as well as experience with some of the disadvantages of the assessment approach a variation of this process outlined above has been designed. The major difference being that the students sent an accompanying letter to argue their achievement for each sub-competency in the course, which is also prepared in a set-out order, instead of engaging in 45-minute individual assessments. This does reduce the agency a little bit comparatively, as a set course for their development is prepared but the learners will still be allowed to prove the attainment of these based on their own doings, works, and materials. We hope to strike a balance through this also for the students coming from other programs that use more traditional assessment with intended learning goals and such. The purpose of this design, therefore, is to find this balance between design and non-design students and to set the boundaries of learning within the scope of the course. One way the room for agency is left in is by the inclusion of the wildcard competency (for 8 ECTS worth 224 hours of education) which are self-selected sub-competencies in service of life.

Phases

As the program builds on four phases, each of five weeks, the learning happens throughout those phases. However, formal assessment moments are required (due to the structure described above). In the course, each fifth week the students will be asked to deliver both team-based materials as well as their individual expedition guide with an accompanying argumentation letter. In this letter, they will argue (linking to their expedition guide as well as the team-based assignments) how, what and why they achieved the sub-competencies set for each phase. Here is an overview of the deliverables for each phase with an indication of whether these are group-based (g) or individual (i). In the fifth week of each phase, the deadlines for the presentation and storytelling sessions are both on Wednesdays and the remainder on Fridays. Please note that the deliverables correspond with different sub-competencies and act as ‘proof’ of attainment in combination with the letter. For the final phase the deadline is on the Thursday instead of Friday to ensure it is possible to host a final community activity that is a little bit stressful than an exhibition.

  • Phase 1 — Scoping report (with design brief)(g)(1), presentation (g)(2), expedition guide (i)(3), storytelling session (4), and assessment letter (5).
  • Phase 2 — design report (g) (6), presentation (g), expedition guide (i), storytelling session (i), and assessment letter (i).
  • Phase 3 — design report (g), presentation (g), expedition guide (i), storytelling session (i), and assessment letter (i).
  • Phase 4 — design report (g), exhibition presentation (g) (7), regenerative artefacts (g) (8), expedition guide (i), storytelling session (i), and assessment letter (i).

1. This consists of a systemic and transition mapping of the wicked problem that the team is taking temporary ownership of as well as an overview of a possible vision, relevant stakeholders across time (and the future) and initial ways to tackle the challenge.

2. A brief (30 minutes) presentation about the above and how it was formulated as a process, includes a Q&A of 15 minutes.

3. Individual learning journal with assignments and reflective writings, see below.

4. Individual performance of the regenerative leadership in becoming over the last five weeks, each participant has three minutes to share their story.

5. Individual letter that uses the remaining materials as argumentation for the attainment of the sub-competencies for that phase.

6. A team-based document that describes the creative research through design process of the problem and solution up-to-that point. This includes the methods chosen, how these were used and why these were used in this specific way.

7. A show and participation in the Mission Impact exhibition at the end of the course, this will be a public exhibition where stakeholders from the regions as well as anyone else who is interested will be invited to.

8. A piece that is representative and captures a desirable regenerative future for the wicked problem the team is tackling, the form of this is open to emergence from the process.

Competencies

There are four major competencies that we will be working on in the Mission Impact v0.2, these consist of different sub-competencies that we believe together play a nurturing role in the emergence of regenerative leadership. The sub-competencies are spread out over the different phases, ranging from 4–6 sub-competencies to be attained every phase. The main competencies for this course are:

  1. Creative Action Researcher through Design: incorporates the necessary design and research skills to engage with transition challenges.
  2. Regenerative Futuring: incorporates the knowledge(s), skills, methods, and tools required to engage with futures studies from a regenerative paradigm.
  3. Personal Sustain- and Response-abilities: incorporates the personal dimension of the above.
  4. Wildcards: sub-competencies that are co-decided by the learners as they engage in the learning and support their regenerative leadership.

An example of the sub-competencies for one of these (3) can be seen below:

3.1 Show resourcefulness, flexibility, B.R.A.V.O* and willingness to make decisions in fuzzy complex contexts.

3.2 Show openness and ability to self-transcend in complex learning processes in a living complex system.

3.3 The learner is able to co-create artifacts that critically engage with their own sustainability transformations which can be understood by others and allow others to constructively engage with (re)generative learning.

3.4 Reflect on your role in multidisciplinary teams that are in service of life by tackling wicked sustainability problems.

*Balance, Reflexivity, Action Confidence, Vulnerability, Openness.

For each of the sub-competencies, the learners can decide which of the deliverables they want to use as proof for arguing for their learning towards this regenerative leadership. And for each, there are tips and cues for the attainment of this learning. In the past, I have been quite critical of assessment (particularly of complex qualitative phenomena) in learning processes, while also accepting that their may be value in structuring learning experiences through strategic use of assessments. I hope to have struck a balance by using deliverable letters where each learner builds their case (and shares their interpretation) for the sub-competencies. This in combination with the processual focus of the expedition guide more generally, I hope a balance has been struck between formal assessment and offering support that does not feel too much like a straightjacket.

An example of the assessment matrix v1.4.1. screenshot taken on 17th of May, 2021.

Miro Template

To facilitate and guide the learning and engaging with the complex challenge of wicked problems, a template is being prepared in Miro for the teams to use. This template is particularly focused on the first phase where the students will explore, unravel and unpack some of the complexity of the problems the region they are working with. This consists of a number of existing tools, approaches and methods, such as those used in transition design, as well as links to documents that have a variety of methods that can be combined into workshops and data generation and gathering tools. The rest of the template is empty for the student teams to fill out and work on as they move forward with engaging with their work. This template is still a work-in-progress and will be shared later.

Expedition Guide

The purpose of this guide is to scaffold the process of learning while navigating the uncertainty that comes with the complexity of engaging with wicked problems. To do this, it is designed as a combination of ability development (such as research skills) and a guide to help with meaning-making based on their own lived experiences. This guide has been designed and prepared through a series of co-design workshops but always in relation to the broader course and subsequently in the speculative relational networks for future students. The template has been constructed in such a way that engaging with it for one day a week helps the student in their becoming regenerative leaders and is also linked to the assessment structure. I.e. by engaging with the expedition guide they are working towards a number of the (sub) competencies that have been identified and form the basis for this course (after the wicked sustainability problems). Please note that this is only the first prototype, which is likely to change as the course unfolds and definitely will be updated afterward. These guides also serve an additional goal, acting as a data-gathering tool to hopefully capture phenomenological data of each individual engaging with this work. Thereby acting as data for the interpretative phenomenological analysis mentioned before. Some of the key elements of this guide are discussed further below and a link to an empty copy can be found here.

Creative Play

A key part of Regenerative Education is the inclusion of multiple forms of learning, including more relational-emotional forms of learning such as learning-to-feel and learning-to-care. In addition, a strong emphasis is placed on learning by reflecting on experiences during and after the educational context. To guide and facilitate this, a part of the expedition guide consists of creative play sessions (roughly every 14th day or twice per month for a total of seven throughout the course) which help with the overall goal of nurturing the inner dimension of regenerative leadership and also act as data or input for the storytelling sessions that are part of this course.

In each creative play activity, the learner will engage with two questions (an existential question — such as ‘who am I becoming in the two weeks?’ as well as an observational question such as ‘what were the most meaningful relationships these last two weeks for my development?’. These existential questions have been formulated with the design team and increase in complexity over the course. The student then translates this into a creative expression based on their experiences, talents, and joys to engage in creative playing. For the existential questions, three options have been prepared that go from ‘easy’ to ‘hard’. In addition, five questions that are more observational in nature have also been formulated. The individual can choose which order to go through these five but will not be allowed to choose previously chosen questions again until all others options have been chosen at least once (as part of the rules of the game). Through a series of workshops and tests of earlier prototypes of this approach six main categories of creative outputs have been identified:

  • Performance
  • Visuals
  • 3D-Sculpturing
  • 2D-Analog
  • Writing
  • Audio

Results of the final session for the co-design of the creative play sessions, the first six sessions have different combinations of options to choose from, the final session consists of a wildcard — open to anything the learner prefers.

For each creative play session, the learner can choose one from a subset of three of these, which rotate from session to session, to introduce a wide variety of creative activities and stimulate the stepping-out-the-comfort zone for the individual learners. The skills developed through this can subsequently be used for the team-based working on the wicked sustainability challenge. Finally, the process that led to the creative output for that session is described briefly (350–500 words) by the learners, both fortheir own remembering as well as data to explore how they are developing their regenerative leadership capacity.

An example of a creative play session, designed to help as a structure for the learner to engage with their experience in a playful way.

Storytelling Sessions

The power of stories, particularly of restorying as colleague Prof Kees Klomp at Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences calls it, to transform and transgress unsustainable systems is key to this course. This power cuts across systemic levels. From the stories we hold true in our inner dimensions to the stories we believe about the way we organize, design, and perform the different organizations, networks, and relational patterns that perpetuate unsustainability. From this perspective, the ability to not just become a better storyteller, but the ability to tell a better story is paramount to becoming a regenerative leader as the act of doing this also transforms the (expanded relational) self. We aim to nurture this ability through a combination of workshops that focus on storytelling and storymaking through design but also through the inclusion of dedicated storytelling sessions as one of the ways we close each phase. In these sessions, the learners will have three minutes to perform the most meaningful part of their experience of the course as a story up-to-that-point. The first of these sessions also includes where they came from and the last session also focusing on where they are going. These stories, the crafting of which is scaffolded in the expedition guide (see below), subsequently act as powerful engagement for personal transformation and data to unravel how to navigate uncertainty.

A part of the storytelling sessions, each session is slightly different to introduce the learner to different ways of crafting a story based on their experience.

Personal Practice

A number of the activities in the expedition guide are open for engaging with the act of creating artifacts that can be used or are representative of some of the futures that they have been researching up-to-that point. These artifacts are low-fidelity prototypes that are more intended to perpetuate creative practice and play throughout the course. And highlight the importance of stepping back from the major challenge before continuing to make an impact. In other words, the importance of slowing down in learning and research. The format, media and such for this session are completely open for the learner to decide on, the only real limitation is the timeframe (roughly eight hours).

Wildcards

An important part of this course is space for genuine exploration and development of (innate) talents that can be used constructively to contribute towards a more regenerative future. As such, eight out of thirty ECTS (representative of a total of 224 hours of work over the semester) are blocked for the wildcard sub-competency. The learners will be invited to pick a skill, knowledge, ability, or competence themselves that they would like to nurture for their own future as regenerative leaders. This is an activity that will start in the introduction week. This also includes the way they want to showcase the work towards achieving these set-out learning goal. The only limitation for these is that they need to be in service of their unfolding leadership, and thus in service of life. I am very curious and excited to see what choices and why these will be made in regards to the wildcards as it invites a degree of agency over their own learning direction which the future students are probably not used to, and may even be challenged by.

Hopes, Dreams, and Wishes

Above all else, I am super excited to get started again. I believe we made massive strides in the overall quality and design of this course. What I hope above all else is that the choices that we have made are conducive to a learning environment that allows for and stimulates the emergence of regenerative leadership. In particular, I’d like to explore more how the learners experience the transgressive nature of developing this form of leadership in relational networks of enacting systemic societal change. At the moment I am considering exploring this primarily through autoethnography and design-based research (for the design qualities) and interpretative phenomenological analysis of the expedition guides for the latter question.

This interests me for multiple reasons, not the least of which is that I believe that if we can unravel the relational patterns and design qualities of RLEs that nurture these experiences are paramount for developing the next generation of leaders who can help guide all of us towards more regenerative ways of being. And paint a way forward for higher education to re-imagine, re-think and re-design their purpose in wicked sustianability problems.

My hope with this work in general, and this piece in particular, is that others freely take up the open invitation to (re)design their educational practice to be more (re)generative. To connect to and co-create sustainable futures by taking temporary ownership of wicked challenges and using these as rich spaces for t-learning and (re)shaping our world(s). It is an awesome response-ability afterall :).

There are many questions and doubts that I still have, as the path towards (re)generative education is new this is probably normal. A big question (my favourite kind!) is that I am also still not entirely sure if engaging with Mission Impact, and thus with wicked challenges in urban contexts should be a team-based activity or if it would be more transformative if each learner temporarily took leadership of a wicked challenge themselves and is part of the broader community of learning within the course to develop, share, and co-learn as they engage with these challenges.

The (Re)generative Education Canvas

One of the future chapters of my dissertation focuses on developing a design guide that other educators and educational designers can use to prepare programs and journeys within their own (formal) higher educational context. For this, I am taking inspiration from both the data that is being co-created with the podcast as well as the variety of design canvasses that are quite popular in business studies (the most famous of which is arguably the Business Model Canvas by Alexander Osterwalder). At the same time, realizing the valid criticism that has been presented (including by myself) towards these models for being too static and not relational enough. So in addition to the data, this template will also be informed by literature on (re)generative learning ecologies and my own autoethnographic data that is genereated by working on this form of education. Some early sketches for this can be found below. The further development of this tool will take a few months/years and will likely only be a part of the entire guide as this could only be used for initial brainstorming and design steps.

Initial sketches for The (Re)generative Education Canvas. In the v0.2 canvas, the following categories are included but subject to change: 1. The Wicked Problem that you want to tackle with education. 2. The key stakeholders & gatekeepers related to that wicked problems. 3. Community engagement & connection. 4. Learning Intentions and Purposes. 5. Educational and learning Materials. 6. Supportive Structures for navigating uncertainty. 7. Educational Technology and other Infrastructure. 8. Mapping (Re)generative Education.

You can expect a deeper dive into the first version of this canvas and how I am planning on validating/working on that further in the next update as well.

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I happily and warmly invite all of you to join me in the quest for a regenerative education. Some of the lessons, templates, and materials presented in this piece may be used as stepping stones towards that goal. And I warmly invite you to use them as you see fit according to the creative commons guidelines with due attribution.

As always if you wanna have a chat or collaborate feel free to reach out through LinkedIn.  Warm greetings, Bas.