Who We Are
The Sustainability Institute (SI) was established in Lynedoch Ecovillage in 1999 to provide a space for people to explore an approach to creating a more equitable society.
At the core of the SI’s work has been finding ways of living that sustain rather than destroy the eco-system within which all society is embedded. Our focus on children led to the founding of the Creche, now called the Lynedoch Children's House, and AfterCare programmes. Our partnership with the School of Public Leadership at the University of Stellenbosch built up our Masters and PhD programmes in Sustainable Development.
Our learning programmes start in the Lynedoch Children's House, are extending through our partnership with SPARK Schools in Lynedoch, are practically oriented in our Learning for Sustainability FET College and promote both research and practice through our University of Stellenbosch degrees. Our research and practice maintain a strong focus on sustainable African futures, through our student and faculty research and our growing research consulting programme.Today, the SI is an international living and learning centre providing learning experiences in ecology, community, and spirit.
We are looking to build our understanding and learning in core areas we recognise as critical in supporting the transition to equitable, just and thriving futures.
Our focus on flourishing food systems, social innovation, optimal resource flows and transformative learning from birth, supported by meaningful partnerships, will continue through embedded and relevant research, teaching and practice.
A sense of place
Held by nature, the SI’s location near Spier and within the Lynedoch EcoVillage creates space for contextual learning. A village, made up of the simple everyday life of infants, school children, university students, and a working community, form the textured patterns in which the flows of learning are held. Sixty million-year-old mountains set the backdrop to our indigenous gardens, giant ficus trees, organic vegetables, and farm.
Transformation through learning
Possibilities happen through the openness of individuals to what’s different - to ‘the other’. This is supported and encouraged through seeing ourselves as co-inhabitants of the world, questioning deeply what it means to be human and seeking solutions through wonder, mystery, intuition and solid knowledge. Active involvement means that learners move from passive recipients of knowledge to deeply engaging with intellectual, spiritual, activity and heart possibilities to find answers to complex solutions.
Renewing creativity comes through a dialogical approach to learning. Radical upheavals (from the Latin ‘radix’ meaning ‘roots’) are not always comfortable, nor comforting. Co-creating a learning path, forging futures that engage the present and past often means deep listening, re-learning, opening vulnerability and being guided by ways of knowing that are not always explicit, nor obvious. Participation, conversation, art, time for silence, being in nature are some of the keys to the resurgence of creativity core to our ways of learning.
Learning from nature
Nature-based learning is learning from within nature, where we are nature. Connections with all that is other-than-human create opportunities for poetry, metaphor, ways of being and knowing that are beyond words. Ecological intelligence is a gift. Like foresight intelligence, our ability to be in the moment and learn from all life with humility and humour offers a connectedness that is both clear and enriching.
Imagining just futures
In our post-colonial and post-apartheid explorations means questioning continuously the traps of modern consumerism, isolation, dis-connect and destructive competition. We ‘reach for what is reaching for us’ in the quest for change in ourselves and the worlds we create. Becoming indigenous in the 21st century is honouring and acknowledging fully our African heritages with all their complexities, and interrogating without fear the possibilities of different and more just futures.
Healing and bodywork
In a world of senses, cellular memories and connections form a strand in learning that is often overlooked. All courses at the SI start with morning breathing, reading and a circle that reminds us we are whole. Working in the garden, cooking and cleaning are ways of making real the sustainability pathways being explored. Connecting heads, hearts and hands is a familiar pattern that integrates rather than separates. Yoga, massage, touch, and feeling form part of many courses.
Connecting through food, art, and culture
This is how we create conversations in soil, soul, and society - Whether through cooking creating dishes from different cultures together at the SI or through an African-wide Food (R(evolution) photo exhibition, these are diverse ways of connecting that are local and grounded. The laughter, joy, and mystery that abound from these experiences create untold connections and new stories.
Core to our learning, research and practice is the drive to unlock value-based, entrepreneurial mindsets in individuals, organisations, and communities that speak to both opportunity and responsibility.