Teaching Design for Sustainability for Socioeconomic Ecosystems—Three Case Studies

Conference paper
Part of the Smart Innovation, Systems and Technologies book series (SIST, volume 135)


This paper presents our teaching method and insights gained through conducting a course on system design for sustainability for undergraduate, postgraduate, and doctoral students with an intervention focus on socioeconomic ecosystems (SEEs): A context where the economic activities of the community are deeply ingrained in the sociocultural ways of living is a multi-stakeholder ecosystem, and the economic activities are distributed in nature. The key issue tackled in the teaching strategy is: How to understand and explore sustainable socio-ethical orientating of a SEE in the Indian context? The objectives of the course are: introduce design for sustainability (DfS) in a global context and SEE in Indian context; investigate sustainability in a scenario which is abundant with years of tested methods of living in harmony with nature and themselves; identify new challenges entering the system and its impact on sustainability; and ideate socioculturally apt sustainable PSS. Our key finding, sustainability, as a concept, is complex for students at all levels, and they find difficulty in conceptualizing systems where sustainability is in economic advantage of the stakeholders. We observe an overall improvement in systems thinking, interdisciplinary approach, and anticipatory competence of students. The paper concludes with recommendations and strategies for enriching and restructuring a DfS course.


Design for sustainability pedagogy Socioeconomic ecosystems Multi-stakeholder ecosystems Sustainable Socio-ethical orientation Higher education for sustainable development 



We sincerely thank the people of Bordowa and Sualkuchi, all co-instructors, and our LeNS team.


  1. 1.
    Fletcher, K., Dewberry, E.: Demi: a case study in design for sustainability. Int. J. Sustain. High. Educ. 3(1), 38–47 (2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ceschin, F., Gaziulusoy, I.: Evolution of design for sustainability: from product design to design for system innovations and transitions. Des. Stud. 47, 118–163 (2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Vezzoli, C., Ceschin, F., Diehl, J.C.: Sustainable product-service system design applied to distributed renewable energy fostering the goal of sustainable energy for all. J. Clean. Prod. 97, 134–136 (2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Lozano, R., et al.: Connecting Competences and pedagogical approaches for sustainable development in higher education: a literature review and framework proposal. Sustainability 9(10) (2017)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Rieckmann, M.: Future-oriented higher education: Which key competencies should be fostered through university teaching and learning? Futures 44(2), 127–135 (2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Vezzoli, C., et al.: Product-Service System Design for Sustainability. Greenleaf Publishing, London (2014)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
  8. 8.
    Religious Philosophy of Śankaradeva: A glimpse—Bordowa Than. Visited 22 May 2018
  9. 9.
    Majumdar, P., Banerjee, S.: Challenges to Sustainable Growth of the Micro-scale Kuhila Craft Industry of India. Springer Singapore, Singapore (2017)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Phukan, R.: Muga silk industry of Assam in historical perspectives. Global J. Hum. Soc. Sci. Res. 12(9-D) (2012)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Saikia, J.N.: A Study of the Muga Silk reelers in the World’s Biggest Muga Weaving Cluster-Sualkuchi. Asian J. Res. Bus. Econ. Manage. 1(3), 257–266 (2011)Google Scholar
  12. 12.

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of DesignIIT GuwahatiGuwahatiIndia

Personalised recommendations