We are at a critical moment in human history.
The evidence is now beyond scientific doubt that we are exceeding our planet’s capacity to provide resources and process pollution. The impacts are already being experienced, especially by those living in poverty. They will impact everyone alive today, including you and I. They will drastically impact future generations.
The window for simple, easy actions has closed. To address interconnected and global-scale issues like global warming, biodiversity loss and zoonotic viral spread, it is now going to take a fundamental shift in the way we understand ourselves in relation to the rest of nature. This includes challenging some of the basic cultural assumptions by which we currently live.
We can no longer rely only on science and technology and on environmental management or conservation for solutions. We must actually change who we think we are, to match the biological reality of what we are – animals living in an ecosystem. This is a psychological and cultural task that will require extraordinary leadership.
Fortunately, there are actions we can take to avert – and in many cases reverse – the damage. But nature will not wait – we need to adopt innovative new approaches to leading change quickly and at scale. Natural Change is one of these innovations.
Since 2008, the Natural Change approach has been creating a new type of sustainability leader.
Originally established as a project for WWF-Scotland it has led to massive personal, organisational and social change. It has even directly changed government sustainability policy in the UK.
Having run in various formats in Europe over the last ten years – from Norway to Spain and from Scotland to Hungary – Natural Change is now available for leaders in Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia.
For many past participants Natural Change continues to be life-changing. Even now, over ten years since the first programme, their process of change continues.
This is because Natural Change equips you to transform yourself. It gives you the practical skills, psychological insights and close professional friendships to support a different kind of sustainability leadership.
Natural Change is not your regular leadership programme.
This innovative and powerful approach is different. There are no frameworks or handbooks. There are no gurus. We don’t use PowerPoint presentations. We don’t spend endless hours in conference rooms or on Zoom. There isn’t a handbook. We don’t work on compliance. And we don’t count carbon.
We believe that sustainability leadership is more about who you are, than what you know.
Natural Change shifts the focus of sustainability leadership from seeing nature as a set of resource and pollution problems in need of technical solutions, towards developing strong personal relationships with the rest of nature.
The programme takes place almost entirely outdoors … because that’s where we most easily experience ourselves as part of nature. It builds on this personal experience with powerful insights about the psychology of our relationships with each-other and the rest of nature. Evidence shows that this impacts our sense of identity – which fundamentally shapes the ways we live and lead (Chawla, 2004; Key & Kerr, 2011; Whitmarsh, 2010; Vesely, 2021).
The process is holistic. As you explore your own place in the heart of nature, it provides numerous other benefits.
Extensive research shows that time outside improves your mental wellbeing and physical health, which reduces burn-out and illness – while increasing productivity and work satisfaction (for example see Berman, 2012; Corazon et al, 2018; Li et al, 2009; Park et al, 2010; Triguero-Mas et al, 2017; Tyrväinen et al, 2014; Ulrich et al, 1991).
It increases your ability to solve problems, innovate, communicate and learn (Atchley et al, 2012; Wells, 2000) and it helps you concentrate and focus (Bratman et al, 2015). The evidence even shows that time outdoors tends to make you kinder, happier and more generous too (Piff, 2015; Weinstein et al, 2009).
For many people being outdoors in nature also provides the context for cultural identity and spiritual fulfilment (Ashley, 2007; Patterson, 1998; Stringer & McAvoy, 1995).
The Natural Change process delivers a wide range of benefits to self, society and planet. It is led by expert facilitators who convene inspiring group work, rare opportunities to slow-down and reflect, time to create and innovate, and bristling conversation. It provides an unprecedented opportunity to be part of a unique international community of leaders united in their love of nature and deep-seated commitment to lead change for a sustainable future.
The Natural Change approach to developing sustainability leaders combines profound experiences of nature with deep psychological insight and sharp social change analysis. It brings these powerful elements together in a unique way.
Ecological literacy and systems thinking.
Prolonged time spent outdoors in wild places.
A sense of risk as a metaphor for the enormous potential for loss facing us.
Personal, group and social psychological insights.
Work in personal, cultural and structural realms simultaneously.
The development of a unique and supportive peer-community.
Enough time to dig-deep, to catalyse and support enduring change.
Critical understandings of our industrial growth culture and the often fatal assumptions upon which it is built.
Relationships and processes get more attention than technical knowledge or ‘outputs’.
We hear your story, we do not try to sell you one. We give you the space to find your own way, in your own way.
Natural Change is different from other sustainability leadership programmes in a number of important ways.
Outdoors, not stuck in a room
Most of the programme takes place outdoors. This is because the Natural Change process is based on deepening and exploring our personal sense of connection to the rest of nature. Obviously, this is best done where we can feel closest to nature: outside.
Experiential, not all in your head
Natural Change is not abstract. It works directly with real experiences of real nature – not from models or theories but with actual lived experiences. These form an unshakable bedrock for understanding ourselves, each-other and the rest of nature, which is profoundly empowering.
Love, not fear
Ultimately, most sustainability programmes and initiatives are based on fear about the future. While fear is an important and effective motivator in many cases, it comes with a lot of other psychological baggage which ultimately hinder change. These include negative coping strategies like denial, projection and reaction formation. And debilitating responses like burnout, exhaustion and anxiety.
Natural Change is based on deepening and exploring our love of nature. This compels and inspires us to take action without unintentionally stimulating unhelpful psychological barriers. It also provides frameworks and techniques for self-care and resilience through experiences of nature, which support and empower us to lead tenaciously.
Psychological, not technical
Most sustainability leadership programmes focus on ecological problems and their potential solutions. Natural Change recognises that there is a step before this technical level of engagement.
Understanding our own psychology and how we relate to other-people and the rest of nature is fundamental to leading change, especially in a sustainability context.
Natural Change pays careful attention to our own sense of identity within our broader social and ecological context. This is because our sense of self underpins our own behaviour and our ability to influence that of others – regardless of our technical knowledge.
Counter-cultural, not industrial
Many leadership development programmes lie in the shadow of the culture they are attempting to change. This basically means that they are using the same assumptions, language, metaphors, techniques and narratives to achieve sustainability, that have caused us to live unsustainably in the first place.
Natural Change reveals these hidden elements and offers a counter-cultural perspective. This exposes the limitations to change that are invisibly built-in to the usual ways of doing things.
Process, not content
Natural Change recognises that knowledge alone is not enough to create change. This is a well established fact in psychological and social science research (Orr, 1991). Despite this, most sustainability leadership programmes focus mainly on knowledge: about ecological issues and their potential solutions.
First and foremost, Natural Changes focusses on psychological processes at every level: personal, social and ecological. Once we learn how to better relate to ourselves, each-other and the rest of nature, our ability to gain and apply knowledge is exponentially increased. Knowledge is important, of course – but without careful attention to psychological processes, it is at best limited and at worst counter-productive.
Holistic, not siloed
Based on social psychology research, Natural Change works in three realms of change simultaneous. These are personal, social and structural (Miell, 1996; Stevens, 1995; Wetherall 1996).
Almost without exception, other approaches to sustainability leadership development work in only one, or at best two, of these realms. Natural change connects and works in all of them at the same time. This equips leaders to greatly increases the speed, efficacy and scale of their efforts.