Designing for Environmental Sustainability and Social Impact

Develop entrepreneurial solutions that promote environmental conservation and address problems of poverty


    Course Details

    • Price: FREE
    • Start Date: March 3, 2020
    • Time: 3 hours/week
    • Duration: 6 weeks
    • Sponsor: MAVA Foundation

    What You’ll Learn:

    • Explore opportunities for collaboration between social entrepreneurs and conservation organizations to promote environmental sustainability and social impact
    • Discover mindsets and methodologies for tackling environmental challenges, including systems thinking, circular design, behavior change, and natural capital
    • Understand how to design products and services that contribute to a circular economy, and how to change behavior to conserve biodiversity
    • Make the case for investing in environmental conservation with lessons from the natural capital movement


    This course was designed for social innovators who want to develop entrepreneurial solutions for environmental conservation and poverty reduction. The course will explore challenges like deforestation, overfishing, waste management, and agriculture, where the environment and livelihoods are sometimes at odds. 

    This is a hands-on, project-based course that consists of weekly readings, videos, and workshops. In the first week of the course, you will select an environmental challenge to research. In each workshop, you will apply the concepts you learned in the reading to propose solutions to the environmental challenge.

    The course features insights from Mark Tercek, CEO of The Nature ConservancyVien Truong, CEO of Green for All; and Michael Kobori, Vice President of Sustainability for Levi Strauss & Co. It also shares case studies from social entrepreneurs and conservation organizations around the world. 

    Format and Timing:

    • Team-Based Course: We strongly encourage (but do not require) that you take the course with a team of 2-8 people. We recommend working with friends or colleagues in person.
    • Platform: NovoEd (+Acumen developed the course. We host the course on the NovoEd platform.)
    • Timing: This course will be open for 6 weeks. You can work through the materials at your own pace while the course is open. There are suggested weekly deadlines to help you stay on track. The only firm deadline is the final day of the course.
    • 5 reading guides
    • 5 workshop guides to structure your own project
    • 12 videos featuring Mark Tercek of the Nature Conservancy, Michael Kobori of Levi Strauss and Co, Vien Truong of Green for All
    Module 1: The Relationship Between Poverty and the Environment
    • Reading: Understanding the Challenges of Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss
    • Reading: The Relationship Between Poverty and the Environment
    • Reading: Collaborating to Tackle Environmental Challenges
    • Reading: What You Will Learn in This Course
    • Video: Meet the Experts
    • Video: How are Poverty and the Environment Connected?
    • Workshop Activity: Choose a Conservation Challenge to Explore in the Course
    Module 2: Systems Thinking
    • Reading: A Mindset for Solving Complex Problems
    • Reading: What is Systems Thinking?
    • Case Study: Transforming a Fishing Community In Mexico through Systems Thinking
    • Reading: Identify the Enablers and Inhibitors in Your System
    • Reading: Identify Upstream Causes and Downstream Effects
    • Reading: Build Feedback Loops
    • Example: Vicious and Virtuous Circles in Amazonian Ecuador
    • Reading: Find Leverage Points
    • Example: Finding a Leverage Point for Endangered Lions
    • Workshop Activity: Build a Feedback Loop and Find a Leverage Point
    Module 3: Circular Economy
    • Reading: Limitations of the Linear Economy
    • Reading: What is the Circular Economy?
    • Reading: A Circular Flow of Resources
    • Example: Finding New Life for Temple Flowers
    • Reading: Circular Design Strategies in Social Enterprises
    • Example: Plastic Waste and Packaging for Recyclability
    • Example: Managing Electronic Waste in Developing Countries
    • Example: Circularity in Agriculture
    • Example: How Cotton Waste is Powering Rural Pakistan
    • Videos: Life Cycle Assessment at Levi Strauss & Co.
    • Workshop Activity: Find a Circular Design Opportunity
    Module 4: Behavior Change for Environmental Conservation
    • Reading: Introduction to Behavioral Economics
    • Reading: The Challenge of Changing Behavior When Tackling Environmental Issues
    • Reading: Mapping the User Journey and Identifying Points of Friction
    • Reading: Strategies for Behavior Change
    • Example: When Incentives Don’t Go as Planned: Fishing in the Republic of Kiribati
    • Case Study: Facilitating Behavior Change in Complex Waste Management Systems in India
    • Example: Collecting Data and Building Pride in Mozambique’s Fisheries
    • Example: The Four As of Adoption: Changing Behavior in Agriculture
    • Videos: Changing Mindsets About Environmental Conservation
    • Workshop Activity: Apply a Behavior Change Strategy
    Module 5: Natural Capital and Making the Business Case for Environmental Conservation
    • Reading: Understanding the Value of Nature
    • Example: The Natural Capital Project and Coastal Development in Belize
    • Reading: A Greener Economy For All
    • Reading: Making the Business Case for Environmental Conservation
    • Example: Accelerating and Investing in Restoration Enterprises
    • Video: Unexpected Partnerships: The Nature Conservancy, Greenpeace and McDonald's
    • Video: Making the Business Case at Levi Strauss & Co.
    • Workshop Activity: Build a Summary Deck
    The course already started. Can I still enroll?
    You can enroll up to 2 weeks after the start date of the course.
    When will the next course be offered?
    We offer our courses a few times a year. Sign up for our emails to be notified of the next time the course will be offered.
    Do I get a certificate for this course?
    You will earn a Statement of Accomplishment if you complete 5 of 6 assignments, including the final assignment, by the last day of the course.
    How do teams work?
    We recommend you find friends or colleagues for your team that you can meet with in person each week. Each team member should register for the course individually. You’ll then be able to form your team on the NovoEd platform once the course begins.
    Do I have to complete the course with a team?
    While we believe taking the course with a team will give you the best experience and chance of completing the course, it is possible to complete the course individually if you wish.
    What should I expect from the assignments?
    You will create a Life Map, develop your own personal story, integrate it into a larger presentation, and record your presentation for feedback from your classmates. You should allocate at least one hour a week to complete each assignment.

    Supported By

    MAVA Foundation is a family-led, Swiss-based philanthropic foundation with an exclusive focus on the conservation of biodiversity. Since 1994, MAVA has played a transformational role in driving forward innovative conservation across the Mediterranean, West Africa, the Alps and beyond through its sustainable economy programme. Supporting passionate leaders and entrepreneurs working across sectors to address environmental and social challenges together is a key component of MAVA vision for sustainability.