We are ‘all responsible for our precious planet Earth’ says new RSA medal winner - RSA

We are ‘all responsible for our precious planet Earth’ says new RSA medal winner

Press release

  • Design
  • Social innovation

London, 20 November - Today, Schumacher College and its founder Satish Kumar have been presented with the 2023 RSA Bicentenary Medal in recognition of their outstanding contribution to education and the environment.

For three centuries, the royal society for the arts, manufactures and commerce (RSA) has championed the efforts of people and organisations that help the world make significant leaps forward in education, the environment, and the economy. The Bicentenary Medal was first awarded in 1954 to mark the society’s 200th anniversary.

Previous winners include designer Sir Terence Conran; David Constantine, founder of mobility charity, Motivation UK; and Deanna Van Buren, co-founder of Designing Justice + Designing Spaces. The 2022 winner was the founder of the Biomimicry Institute, biologist Professor Janine Benyus.

Satish Kumar is world-renowned environmental activist known for his two and a half year ‘pilgrimage for peace’ in 1962, when he walked from India to the four capitals of the nuclear world: Moscow, Paris, London, and Washington DC. He founded Schumacher College, in Devon in 1991. The college offers postgraduate and undergraduate programmes as well as short courses. It has outreach programmes in France, China, Colombia, and Brazil.

In 2022, the college became the first higher education provider in England to offer agricultural training exclusively focussed on ecologically centred approaches to food production.

Satish Kumar said: “It is an honour to receive the 2023 RSA Bicentenary Medal. For the past thirty-two years Schumacher College has been promoting the education of head, heart, and hands and ‘nature-centred education.’ Much of our mainstream educational system has been dominated by the needs of the economy. We know now that this is out of date. We must focus more on the needs of the natural world and recognise that we are all responsible for the health and sustainability of our precious planet Earth.”

Andy Haldane, RSA Chief Executive, said: “Satish and the team at Schumacher College have for many years been at the frontier of new learning practices. Their work has shown the way in delivering the truly regenerative cultures, practices, and economies that the 21st century needs. Their approach speaks to the absolute best of the Bicentenary Medal’s traditions and objectives, and I am delighted to welcome them as this year’s winners.”

This year’s Bicentenary Medal ceremony will take place at RSA House in London on Monday 20 November 2023. The event kicks off a year of celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the RSA’s Student Design Awards (SDA) – the world’s longest-running student design competition.

At the event on 20 November, trailblazers from the RSA’s SDA community will be joining Satish Kumar on stage to reflect on the impact that winning an award had on their future career in innovation.

Ben Terrett, CEO of Public Digital and winner of an SDA award in 1997 said: “I can trace a direct line from winning the RSA award to my first graduate job to my 20+-year career helping governments worldwide put good design at the heart of digital services.”

Elena Dieckmann, co-founder of pluumo and winner of an SDA award in 2016 said: “The awards process helped us to anticipate and address future challenges we would face as a start-up. Taking part in the awards and joining the SDA family was a fantastic opportunity and a stepping stone to creating the world’s first fully biodegradable feather waste packaging company.”

This year’s SDA winners include ‘Fishing for power,’ designed by Sagufta Janif from Brunel University, which uses multiple wave-harvesting buoys attached to battery storage units on fishing boats.
Another award winner with an ecological focus is the ‘mycopod’ system designed by a group of students from Loughborough University, which reduces the need for pesticide use in UK farming.

END


Notes to editors

  • The RSA Bicentenary Medal was instituted in 1954 to commemorate the founding of the RSA two hundred years earlier and has been awarded annually to a variety of individuals for their outstanding contributions to the advancement of design in industry and society. Today, the medal is awarded to recognise “individuals and organisations who have made outstanding contributions, through design practice, towards an equitable and regenerative world where people and planet flourish for the long-term.”
  • Medal submissions are made by a diverse group of nominators from across the RSA’s global Fellowship and partner community. Previous winners have included designer Sir Terence Conran; David Constantine, founder of mobility charity, Motivation UK; and Deanna Van Buren, co-founder of Designing Justice + Designing Spaces. The 2022 winner was the founder of the Biomimicry Institute, biologist Professor Janine Benyus. 
Satish Kumar collecting the Bicentenary Medal 2023

About Schumacher College

The college is a progressive college for ecological studies offering a range of undergraduate and master’s programmes, short courses, and residencies. Courses blend diverse practices and disciplines from economics and horticulture to design and crafts to deliver whole-systems and whole-person learning.

Schumacher College was founded in 1991 by Satish Kumar - a long-time peace and environment activist at the forefront of several internationally influential educational and ecological ventures. Its first course, on Gaia theory, was led by James Lovelock. To this day, many courses feature guest teachers who are world-renowned thinkers, activists, and practitioners.

The college has a sustained history as a trailblazer in ecological learning, founded on the need to find new ways of living that put people and the planet first, inspired by the economist E. F. Schumacher, author of Small Is Beautiful. 

The college is internationally renowned for its experiential approach to learning, encouraging students to start with practice-based skills that support biodiversity and nature connection, and to use these experiences to inform whole-systems thinking and action in response to the social and climate challenges of the 21st century.

In 2022, the college launched undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Regenerative Farming to become the first higher education provider in England to offer agricultural training exclusively focussed on ecologically centred approaches to food production.

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