Frequently Asked Questions
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.
The Natural Change approach to developing sustainability leaders combines profound experiences of nature with deep psychological insight and sharp social change analysis.
It brings together a number of powerful elements in a unique way. These include,
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.
Working 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.
Giving relationships and processes more attention than technical knowledge or outputs.
Hearing your story and not trying to sell you one. We give you the space to find your own way – in your own way.
This course is not a test of endurance! We are committed to creating an experience accessible to a wide range of abilities. We lead the programme to meet the needs of everyone in the group, while also recognising than a little bit of a challenge can be a helpful thing. Everything we do is offered as an invitation. You will never have to do anything you don’t want to.
As a guideline, you will need to be able to carry a day pack containing your personal equipment (waterproofs, spare clothes, lunch, flask, etc.) for periods of up to four hours at a time, in a natural environment, often without formed paths.
If you are unsure about your ability to take part for any reason, please contact us to discuss your needs.
120 hours over six months. Beyond the residential elements, the time commitment is limited to the one-day urban workshop and three, one-hour online coaching sessions. There is also an assignment to be completed between the two residentials. This is based on desk-research and the preparation of a short presentation (max 10 minutes), which will be made to the group at the second residential.
The residentials are six-days and seven-nights each. This is a considerable investment in time. However, given the scale, speed and implications of the issues the course explores, it is proportionate. For example, how much time is worth investing in our own medium-term survival?
Yes. And no! There is an assignment to be completed between the two residentials. This is based on desk-research and the preparation of a short presentation (max 10 minutes), which will be made to the group at the second residential.
Extensive reading materials will be made available during the course. There is absolutely no obligation or need to read anything at all, but you may wish to.
We will be outside everyday whatever the weather, so it’s essential to be properly prepared.
We have extensive stores and can provide basic personal outdoor clothing. However, it’s always more comfortable to bring your own.
A personal clothing and equipment list will be sent once your application has been processed. Items that we cannot provide are highlighted.
All group equipment used during residential elements is provided.
Simple, comfortable, practical. Accommodation is at the Hillary Outdoors Leadership Centre in Tongariro. A peaceful setting with some of the most stunning views in the country.
You will have your own private room, with shared shower and toilet facilities. There is a fabulous lounge with an open fire and dining area.
Indoor sessions take place either in the lounge in front of the fire, or in the conference room.
Catering is provided in the dining area. There is a kitchen where a range of hot drinks and snacks are always available.
There is an excellent drying room and laundry.
Home cooked with love. Catering is provided in the dining area. There are three home-cooked meals each day. On some days there is a packed lunch. There is also a kitchen where a range of hot drinks and snacks are always available.
The catering team can accommodate any special dietary requirements, providing they have received prior notice. Please do make sure we know your needs in good time.
Please see the Hillary Outdoors Covid-19 Policy here:
A Certificate of Continuing Professional Development for 120 hours of study-time will be issued at the end of the course.
We can offer further one-to-one coaching after the programme at additional cost.
Participants often ask for consultancy support with a project or initiative once they get back to work. This can be provided for a wide range of projects, from cultural-change work to support with technical sustainability management.
You know how it is. After a training event or course everyone is filled with a whole-hearted good intention to keep in touch. But then you get back to everyday life and that intention gets buried under all the other things that call on your time.
However, we have found that many Natural Change groups do stay in touch. In some cases, on a weekly basis – even ten years after the course has ended. Quite remarkable. That’s because Natural Change is a completely different kind of experience, based on a powerful shared experience which often really bonds the group.
To help things along, we also work hard to weave and enable the connections. In the UK and Europe this network is now well developed. We will be developing a similar alumni network in Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia as the programme here beds in.
Yes. Statistically, the drive to the course is more dangerous than the course itself!
Read more about the comprehensive safety management system at Hillary Outdoors: