Sustainable Development Leadership Course

Samsø Energy Academy launches its Sustainable Development Leadership Course

Samsø Energy Academy is offering Denmark’s most genuine course for leaders who want to work with sustainable transition in their companies and the local community. It’s genuine because the residents of Samsø and the Energy Academy have made their island 100% self-reliant on renewable energy, and now want to educate others in creating physical and psychological changes rooted in reality. Our ambition is that the course will lead to a diploma degree of unprecedented relevance and stature.

Background – the long haul
Ever since 1997, when the Island of Samsø won the Danish government’s competition to become Denmark’s Renewable Energy Island, its inhabitants took ownership of their situation and focused on working towards an outcome that for many was vague and unsubstantiated. Back then, the consequences of climate change were something that most people hadn’t experienced, and which only a few people were acting on based on the predictions. Yet today, were in the middle of these consequences, such as temperatures rising at an alarming rate, drought, downpours, and a drastic decline in biodiversity. And all the while these changes have been creeping up on us, the people of Samsø have been working behind the scenes, and as the only place in Denmark have reaped tangible experience in a comprehensive transition to renewable energy. This has required research on a high and totally new level, and while the rest of the world is confused about where and how to do things, Samsø is a reference point, a physical place both locally and globally, where guidance based on real-life experience can be found.

For many years, Samsø Energy Academy aspired to create a leadership course for those who want to learn how to take the steps necessary towards implementing sustainable development, and now that dream has become reality. One of the cornerstones of the Energy Academy’s DNA has been communicating our experiences based on two decades’ worth of work with climate change, community power, and mobilizing the local community. We hold workshops around the world, are guest lecturers, and are partners in a joint Nordic pilot education in sustainability that’s supported by the Nordic Council of Ministers. We also have published both in print and digitally our Pioneer Guide – a guide for pioneer communities. Another step in our development was the launch in September 2018 of our own module-based leadership course, which also marked the start of what most consider a new genuineness in terms of educating and informing about the consequences of climate change.

What is the course about?
“Denmark is famous for its solid quality of educational culture, based on democracy and the idea of equal access to education. Yet the content is primarily academic, and even though those of us within climate change and the environment depend on research, research on its own is not enough. There’s a need for continuing education of adults who want to gain skills regarding the complex demands which the consequences of climate change place on society, and in this regard it’s not enough with just theory. We need to create an alternative where participants meet people of flesh and blood from the local community who on the practical level made things happen,” says Malene Lundén. She is responsible for communications at Samsø Energy Academy, and has developed the course based on her own groundbreaking methods of communications and presentation.

Both the course content and the method of learning is significantly different than other places in the Danish educational landscape. The course encompasses subjects such as evolutionary leadership, Body & Mind, sound and meditation, voice training, future design, and community power, where not just the brain but the mind and body are used as tools to acquire skills. The course takes three days, and upon completion participants receive a diploma as well as access to a lifelong community in a global network of resourceful pioneers, and which will grow year by year as more courses are held.

Who can participate in a such a course
The opportunity for people to upgrade their skills in handling and initiating sustainable transition has a broad appeal which will engage a broad spectrum of people, and get politicians, residents of rural communities, course providers, municipal employees, NGO’s, and private enterprise to travel to Samsø. The first course to be offered targets in particular mid-level managers at NGO’s, and in the public and private sectors. When mid-level managers go back to work after the course, they’ll be able with their new skills to plug the holes in their respective local communities in terms of information that increases citizen knowledge about climate change. In addition, they will ensure that we as a community can keep the momentum going, because current developments and technologies are moving fast within the environmental realm. All these torchbearers will thus become pioneers who, like other pioneers before them, will contribute with something totally new and unprecedented compared to their old reality.

Meet the course instructors: 

Søren Hermansen: 

Why is it important to find out about Community Power in this course? 

“There are many reasons. The most important is that we have to speed up sustainable transition. Otherwise we won’t achieve current climate goals. If this is going to happen, we have to be involved in many more areas. It’s not enough that countries meet at the United Nations, or countries define their goals. Community Power needs to involve the general public so as many transition projects as possible can take place around the world. 

“The course takes a look at the processes involved in transition. How to involve members of the community? How to present a sustainability plan? Which narratives/stories can be used in community implementation where local citizens are invited to participate? 

“Last but not least, we take a look at the personal side of things. Who are you? Where are you? The sense of place, of the meaning of the place. There are a real lot of goals in the world which are not rooted in a place or have ownership, yet which are top-down items on the political agenda, and which much too often don’t connect with ordinary people.” 

Søren Hermansen, the CEO of Samsø Energy Academy, will teach about Community Power. His work with Samsø’s sustainable transition is particularly focused on the power of the island’s community and local ownership. 

Pernille Elvirose: 

Why is the power of sound relevant to learn about? 

“One of biggest, strangest riddles in society is the way things can be changed through non-verbal actions, and that’s why it’s so important to use Body & Mind as the starting point. I’m fascinated by it, and it has caused me to build up my entire world as an Art of Presence trainer and teach about our bodies. Sound is one of the many skills that we don’t think about in relation to creating results and being present. Let’s think holistically and integrate all the potential we have in us and among us, including sound.” 

Pernille Elvirose is based in Copenhagen, is a yoga teacher, an Art of Presence trainer, and will be teaching Body & Mind at the course. 

Martin Dyrman: 

What made you become a part of the course’s team of external instructors at Samsø Energy Academy?  

“When someone like me who works with future design and people’s abilities to influence tomorrow through conscious processes, then it’s understandable to feel drawn to the results of Samsø Energy Academy. The island has succeeded in becoming 100% self-sufficient in renewable energy, because the island’s residents imagined what they wanted, and then worked in a focused way toward that. It’s one of the things that I dream about for myself: to create a reality where people learn to decode the signs of the time, and act on them to create the world that they want. 

“When I tell people that I work with future design, they think that it’s about predicting things. You can’t do that. Yet on the other hand you can teach people to observe signals of change that tell you in which direction things are going. We’re already creating the world around us, so why just make do with the present?” 

Martin Dyrman is a Chaos Pilot, futurist, future designer at the consulting firm Bespoke, and will be teaching Design of the Future at the course.

Joan Birk: 

What do our voices have to do with sustainability? 

“Your voice is more important than you think when it comes to leadership. Yet in a time when we constantly have to drown out each other in order to be heard, we’ve forgotten what it means to listen with our hearts, to use our natural free voices so we can better express ourselves and be authentic. It’s about contact to our natural frankness – and through that, sustainability; about using the resources that we have in the best possible way. 

My “Open Heart Voice Work” invites us all to inquire, be present, and listen without performing and the expectation of ‘sounding good.’ We practice getting in touch with our intuition using simple methods that go behind known mental and emotional barriers which play out in our everyday ways of expressing ourselves. We allow the force of our natural voices to unfold, deep-seated and free, via meditative work with the body and voice, pulse, relaxation, and silence.” 

Joan Birk lives and works in the town of Ballen on Samsø, and is the founder of the “Open Heart Voice Work” method, which will be used at the course. 

Malene Lundén: 

In your view, what is the best definition of “empowerment”? 

“I’m still looking, because I think that the Danish expression bemyndigelse (authorization) sounds much too technical and impersonal – as something that you receive passively from the outside. Empowerment is an overall process where individuals, groups or local communities take power over their own situation and get involved in the processes of change in the local community. Yet the will to change has to come from somewhere, and that will always be with the individual, the torchbearer who changes herself to become a pioneer that influences others. 

“That’s why during the course I zoom in on personal leadership and look how participants can identify their own inner force. It’s about the choices we have and make. And if you choose to go from being a torchbearer to a pioneer within environment and climate change, it should be a conscious choice, otherwise you burn out. At the course, we do exercises so the participants can find their inner power, the fuel they need to keep on going. And we try to find each other’s ‘why’: Why are we doing this? For our career? To put food on the table? To save the world? 

“We live in a time without points of reference, and if you can’t handle a moment of chaos, it becomes very difficult to work in the long run. This kind of leadership is full of dualities which you can’t be scared of, but need to use constructively. It’s about knowing your own limitations and opportunities so you don’t take on more than you can chew. That’s my definition.” 

Malene Lundén is responsible for communications at Samsø Energy Academy. She designed the leadership course, drawing on the different worlds of natural sciences, sociology, psychology and art for her methods. At the course, Malene teaches Empowerment as well as the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals. and 



Frontrunners such as Samsø Energy Academy show that we’ve already gotten off to a good start, and that things don’t just remain as long-term plans.

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