Last week a small group of community college administrators and faculty, along with architects and other design professionals, gathered in Ojai to envision the future of community colleges in California. The event was hosted by the Biomimicry Institute, in collaboration with InterfaceFlor. Lindsay James, an InterfaceFlor employee and current participant in our Biomimicry Professional program, kicked off the event with an introduction to biomimicry and the adaptive cycle and asked participants to think about what opportunities might arise from the current budget “crisis,” or “release” in ecological terms. What might renewal within the system look like moving forward?

From presenter Mike Morrison, founder of Toyota University, we learned that defining a clear purpose – and having ALL staff aligned with that purpose, whether executives or janitors – can make all the difference in succeeding in that purpose and being a successful organization, whether a school, a nonprofit, a business, or a prison. Alan Colyer, principal at Gensler, used a beautiful hand-drawn illustration to walk us through existing challenges and opportunities in the community college system and led us through an initial discussion around the future of community colleges. One of the challenges in California is that the State limits the amount of funding available to community colleges, but also limits their ability to raise tuition. Opportunities for community colleges include the fact that they are more nimble than 4-year colleges and often do have strong relationships and support within their communities.

On the final morning of the event, participants worked in teams to begin envisioning how the community college system can adapt to changing educational needs, existing limitations, and a changing economy. Participants will reconvene one year from now to share their progress, and we look forward to seeing the results.

Community colleges represent a rich opportunity to bring biomimicry to a large student population that in many cases is being groomed to support and serve the local economy. What better way to take a systems perspective and be locally attuned and responsive? In any case, we’re seeing growing interest in biomimicry from community colleges across the country, from Ohio to California, and New Mexico to North Carolina. And we’re looking forward to supporting the development of biomimicry courses and certificates at those colleges, and to continuing the conversation around this topic with faculty and administrators everywhere.

In fact, let’s continue the conversation now. Are you interested in bringing biomimicry into community colleges? Please share your story and ideas in the comments section.

Illustration by Alan Colyer



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