Have you ever done a course where you didn’t want the sessions to end as there was so much to share and discuss? Where you design innovative solutions to improve your community and destination? Where you’ve met a diverse group of people – other students and tutors – who have inspired you with their knowledge, insights, experience and passion? And where you were developing professionally and personally thanks to these people, the great content and the innovative methods of learning?
I had been very fortunate to have experienced this recently during the Regenerative Tourism by Design course, run by the experienced tourism professionals and educators at the Tourism CoLab.
I took it up in February 2021, hoping to get a better understanding about the principles of Regenerative Tourism (RT), what it means for me, my community and my destination, and how to find solutions to the already growing issues around RT using Design Thinking. I have learnt much more than I had expected to discover, both from the way it was delivered and from other participants.
Maybe the problem is not really a problem?!
The course, to put it simply, was a 10-week-long journey on how to facilitate regenerative, inclusive and transformational change in tourism using design thinking (an iterative problem-solving process that seeks to challenge assumptions and redefine problems, aiming to identify alternative solutions that might not have been apparent with our initial level of understanding).
Design Thinking is deeply embedded in the local social context and the issues and challenges that stakeholders are experiencing, and it has ‘the potential to unlock innovation’.
The alternative way of thinking and challenging assumptions might make us realise that the problem we thought was a problem is not really a problem. Maybe if we ask the right questions, the problem is actually somewhere else?
Design Thinking meets Regenerative Tourism
According to Dianne Dredge, the course creator and a global leader in tourism education, policy research and tourism by design, ‘design thinking is an approach to problem-solving that places users and the problems they experience at the centre of concern – it incorporates end-users in co-designing potential solutions and actions. Everyone who is part of the challenge should participate in co-designing solutions and be part of the action and change that needs to take place.
The Tourism CoLab is on a mission to introduce intentional design as a new way of working towards the future of sustainable tourism. It is an approach that meets the needs of nature, the community and the economy. During the course, have dived deep into RT, what it is, why it is important, what the problems are and what we need to do to change. At the same time, we got the access to a toolkit of design thinking templates to help us on the journey to solve the problems in our destinations.
Most importantly, the course has created a community of like-minded professionals around a shared vision for regenerative tourism that openly shared ideas, reflections and knowledge as well as challenged each other every week in 2-hr long sessions that always overrun because nobody wanted to leave. I will share their reflections to the course in a separate post.
The course is structured around a gentle rhythm of learning and thinking, reflecting and activating ideas. In design thinking, we create a prototype for testing – an experiment/action to give us a feel of a solution. Divided into three groups, in less than 10 weeks we – a bunch of people from around the world who have never met before – have created three prototypes that we will be testing out soon. Just imagine what could happen in you apply this in your destination, where we are all dealing with similar issues and know each other much better!
So if you are keen to explore Regenerative Tourism in more detail and what it means for you, your destination, your community and your work, and how to create solutions using Design Thinking, sign up now here. The next course starts on 22 June.
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