Leadership for Sustainable Thriving (Training Program)

Leadership for Sustainable Thriving: An Experiential Training Program

Dharmalaya InstituteAre you strongly committed to living a fulfilling life of compassion, in harmony with nature and with other living beings? And do you aspire to develop your full potential as a leader or catalyst for creating a more sustainable and compassionate world? If so, the Leadership for Sustainable Thriving program at Dharmalaya Institute is designed for you.

The Leadership for Sustainable Thriving (LST) course is a long-term* residential service-learning program for personal and professional development through real-world experiential education and on-the-job training for people with serious interest in practicing and promoting optimum sustainable living solutions for our own lives and for our planet. The course is offered jointly by the Earthville Network and Dharmalaya Institute (Earthville’s program partner and eco-campus in the Himalayas).

*Note: The minimum time commitment for this course is six months, but the six months need not be continuous. While we recommend staying at least six months without interruption for best results, in the case of participants who have other commitments that make a continuous six-month stay impractical, the course can be completed in two shorter periods (e.g. three months each) with a break in between.


What is Sustainable Thriving?

‘When our lives and our livelihoods are in harmony with nature, everyone wins.’

Sustainable thriving is an ideal state in which all people, all species, and the planet we share not only survive but also flourish harmoniously, and not just for a short period but also over the long term.

From Earthville’s original article defining the concept of sustainable thriving:

‘Sustainable thriving is a model for cultivating shared prosperity while preserving ecological balance and nurturing what philosophy refers to as human flourishing (or Eudaimonia in Greek) in a way that also supports all other life on earth to flourish. Put simply: happy and healthy person, happy and healthy public, and happy and healthy planet.’

Thus, sustainable thriving is a principle for organizing human life (both individual and collective) in a harmonious manner, aspiring toward balance (socially, ecologically, and economically) to nurture a high quality of life for all. (You can read more about Earthville’s model for sustainable thriving here.)

In the LST course, we approach sustainable thriving as a creative quest for win-win relationships between people and the planet in which all life can thrive harmoniously. The field of sustainable thriving is interdisciplinary, spanning the following key areas:

  • How humans live: our dwellings, our food, our energy, our consumption, our waste, etc.
  • How humans earn and spend: our jobs and businesses, our local and global economies, etc.
  • How humans interact with one another: our relationships, our social contracts, our societal institutions, our competition/cooperation for resources, etc.
  • How humans impact other species: the effects of human activity on animal habitat, plant life, etc.
  • How humans impact planetary systems: our ecological footprints, our resource consumption, etc.
  • How humans think, feel, perceive, and behave: how we understand ourselves and our place in the world.

The practice of sustainable thriving is any work that moves us (individually or collectively) toward a world in which humans live healthy and prosperous lives with the least possible harmful impact on ourselves, on one another, and on the planet and its many forms of life. Examples of this work might include the following:

  • Charitable work (e.g. through voluntary service, NGOs, philanthropy, etc.)
  • Sustainable development (as a social and ecological imperative)
  • Ecotourism (of the authentic, culturally immersive, and genuinely sustainable type)
  • Socially responsible business (including CSR)
  • Ecologically sustainable businesses and organizations
  • And many other ways in which we can work toward the flourishing of humans and all life

Overview of the Leadership for Sustainable Thriving Program

Through this immersive service-learning program, participants will have the opportunity to gain practical experience (supported by theoretical understanding) in several interrelated disciplines within the sphere of sustainable thriving. Each of these areas is an important aspect of sustainable living, and each is inseparable from the others when considering sustainability in a real-world context:

  • SHELTER: Ecologically sensitive building, which we explore especially through the lens of the earthen architecture of the Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh in the Indian Himalayas (which shares much in common with earthen building practices around the world).
  • FOOD: Organic gardening and natural (permaculture-style) landscaping — growing food that is better for people and better for the planet, and designing our homes and communities so that the built environment meets the natural environment gracefully.
  • WATER: Conservation, rainwater harvesting, protecting our water sources, water-related public health issues, etc.
  • CONSUMPTION and WASTE: Examining the myriad effects of consumption and the challenges of waste management (including creative reduction/reuse/recycling/upcycling in both rural and urban contexts), plus ecological sanitation, closed-loop systems, etc.
  • ENERGY: Exploring renewable energy sources, energy efficiency, with an emphasis on low-tech and no-tech solutions such as solar cooking, solar passive design, etc.
  • ECONOMICS and RIGHT LIVELIHOOD: Solutions for earning a prosperous living in ways that make us a bigger part of the solution rather than a bigger part of the problem. We explore the concepts of local living economies, socially and environmentally responsible business and green/social entrepreneurship, and vocations that can support sustainable living such as nonprofit and educational work, ecotourism, organic agriculture, eco-architecture, the arts, green technology, etc.

During the program, participants will gain both theoretical and practical knowledge in the areas above. The program takes place primarily at the Dharmalaya Institute in Bir, though it may include excursions to other sites as well.

On the theoretical level, the program explores concepts and solutions applicable anywhere in the world. On the practical level, the primary focus is on solutions of relevance to India and South Asia, and particularly the Himalayan region and other rural areas, but much attention is given to the questions of how to approach solutions in other contexts.

Educational Objectives

The main purpose of the LST course is to provide education and training to empower participants to become more informed, sensitive, and effective agents of positive change, particularly within the sphere of sustainability as understood holistically. This includes the following key objectives:

  • Understanding sustainable thriving and responsible global citizenship: We explore optimum solutions for sustainability, including quality sustainable living (on the personal scale) and quality sustainable development (on the community and societal scale). Of course, to understand solutions we also need to understand the problems they’re intended to address, and that requires detailed exploration of what is unsustainable. As these understandings increase, and as we transform our own lives toward the idea of sustainable thriving, we are better positioned to understand our best possible roles as responsible global citizens working for positive change and a more sustainable world.
  • Understanding humans: To become more effective as leaders, we must deepen our understanding of humanity, starting with ourselves, which then allows us to understand others with greater insight and empathy. Understanding humans also means understanding sustainable thriving on the human level, or what we refer to as ‘inner sustainability’, which is interdependent with the ‘outer sustainability’ of the natural environment.
  • Understanding leadership for change: To become more effective as leaders of change, we need to deepen our understanding of what leadership really means and how it works in the best cases, and likewise to make an intimate study of how change actually happens — on every level from the individual to the societal. This includes not only ‘leadership skills‘ but also, even more importantly, leadership qualities and sensitivities.
  • Gaining experience applying these ideas, skills, and sensitivities in a real-world context: For these explorations to move beyond the theoretical and gain practical value, we need to put them into practice in the real world. In the LST course this is done primarily in the context of the Dharmalaya Institute itself (though we also provide support for participants who have leadership roles in other projects or activities). Every participant in the LST program will enjoy opportunities to challenge themselves and grow — both as humans and as leaders — by taking on various leadership roles within the Dharmalaya community, and learning from those experiences.
  • Reflecting and refining: One of the most essential ingredients in this recipe for personal and professional development is frequent reflection, including both evaluating our own experiences and receiving the gift of feedback from others. This is done in a safe, supportive, and nonjudgmental environment that seeks to recognize the best potential in everyone and help it manifest more effectively.

The better we understand the problems we face with holistic perspective, the better equipped we are to consider whole solutions that can address the whole person and the whole problem in ways that could be genuinely sustainable, on both the planetary level and the human level.

In short, we seek to support participants to understand the world that is and to create the world that ought to be.

Educational Philosophy

Dharmalaya Institute’s educational philosophy draws on both the contemplative wisdom traditions of India and the Himalayas and the principles of Earthville Education. Our approach is holistic and highly experiential. It is very personalized yet strongly community-oriented. It seeks to make a well-examined exploration of traditional wisdom and infuse that with our best modern creativity.

We endeavor to awaken deeper curiosity and wonder in all our participants, nurturing the joy of learning and the drive to make the best of every opportunity for learning, personal growth, professional development, and service to the greater good — often all at once. Rather than spoon-feeding information to our participants, we focus on creating a supportive environment for discovery so that motivated learners can make connections for themselves (which helps facilitates deeper understanding and insight with more sticking power).

Faculty Supervision

The LST course is supervised by Mark Moore, founder of the Earthville Network and cofounder of Dharmalaya Institute, with the support of the Dharmalaya faculty and Earthville’s extended community. Mr. Moore is an experiential educator, social entrepreneur, and artist with over 20 years of experience founding and leading social and ecological programs in India, the US, and worldwide. Other educators, trainers, and facilitators may also contribute their knowledge and skills to the program from time to time.

Who Should Apply?

The LST program is especially well suited for those who wish to become more effective as agents of change toward a more sustainable and compassionate society through the exercise of altruistic leadership, e.g. as social/ecological entrepreneurs, managers, educators, trainers, NGO managers or members, activists, organizers, artists, writers, producers, or simply concerned global citizens aspiring to make a difference first by example and then through supporting or influencing others in positive ways.

Enrollment is very limited, so participants will be selected through an application process to help us identify the applicants who might benefit most from the program while also making positive contributions to the learning environment at Dharmalaya Institute. Application for the LST course is open to lifelong learners at any stage in adult life, including professionals, students, and enthusiasts of all backgrounds who have a passion for sustainability and meet the qualification criteria outlined in the ‘Requirements and prerequisites’ section below.

Requirements & Prerequisites

The LST course is open to qualifying people of all backgrounds who wish to deepen their practical and theoretical understanding of sustainable thriving by making a serious commitment to a rigorous program of hands-on work and experiential learning in a real-world environment.

Applicants for LST must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • Language: Participants must be able to understand and speak conversational English comfortably and with reasonable fluency, due to the international nature of the program and the importance of the theoretical and philosophical elements we will be exploring. Conversational Hindi is also helpful for practical purposes at the Institute (but not required).
  • Time: Participants must be able to commit to a minimum of six months doing full-time work and study in the program to qualify for acceptance. Those seeking certification must successfully complete at least nine months and satisfy the LST Level 1 requirements, and likewise at least 18 months for Level 2 and 27 months for Level 3.Six months is the absolute minimum commitment for the program (no exceptions), and longer commitments are preferred.
  • Age: Applicants must be at least 18 years of age. There is no maximum age limit.
  • Training: Applicants for the LST program who live in India must have completed at least one of Dharmalaya Institute’s workshops related to sustainability (or an equivalent program) before formal acceptance into the LST program (see program schedule on the bottom half of Dharmalaya’s homepage). For qualified applicants living outside India, other accommodations can be made on a case-by-case basis.

How It Works: Structure & Format of the LST Program

The LST program at Dharmalaya Institute consists of both brief, intensive training workshops followed by extended practice periods. Both are necessary and equally important. The intensive training workshops provide both theoretical depth and focused practical training. The purpose of the extended practice periods is to provide the opportunity to deepen one’s understanding and refine one’s skills through work in a real-world environment, which is typically at Dharmalaya Institute itself.

The intensive trainings happen during workshops that are usually 12 to 21 days in duration. All LST participants must complete at least four of these training workshops in order to satisfy the requirements of the program: one either before the start of their program or at the start of it; and the other three at any point during the remainder of their program. (In certain cases, with advance permission, some participants may be able to start their program at the same time as they begin their first workshop.)

For further details and application information, see the LST program page on the Dharmalaya website.