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Climate Action Plan case study: MA Global Collaborative Design Practice

Top down view of students gathered around a table looking at items
  • Written byDr. Niki Wallace, Course Leader: MA Global Collaborative Design
Top down view of students gathered around a table looking at items
MA Material Futures work in progress presentation in The Street at Central Saint Martins | Photograph: John Sturrock

Facilitating climate action through collaborative design practice

MA Global Collaborative Design Practice is a 2-year Masters course at Camberwell College of Arts focusing on taking action on global challenges. It is led in partnership with the Kyoto Institute of Technology and offers a dual award. The course prepares students for effective collaborations. It equips them with the skills to address complex problems. Taught through modes of design practice and research, the course aims to facilitate climate action through design.

In the first year, students learn principles and practices that enable collaboration, alongside skills to engage with complex and systemic problems. They practice articulating interdependent aspects of complex global challenges, telling stories about how problems such as climate change, poverty and inequality are experienced in different places. Students then access tools and techniques for mapping problems to help them visualise and communicate interdependence and complexity. The aim is to identify leverage points for action and collaboratively prototype interventions for their chosen problem.

In the second year, students can expand on a project from first year, or develop a new project for the focus of their final year. Students select the problem they wish to explore and then develop their own brief. The brief they create will continue to evolve, as they understand more about the problem. Wherever possible, students continue collaborating with course peers. They are also encouraged to form partnerships with people who have lived experience and working knowledge of the problem.

The course had its first cohort of students in 2021. One student group focused on the problem of climate migration. They explored the sense of loss that comes from the experience. They have since proposed the development of a research institute, to work at the intersection of infrastructure resilience, psychological research and speculative design. The student group will continue to develop this idea in their second year, with a view to incubating it further through UAL’s Challenge Lab.