Signage at Hulme Community Garden

As the old adage says, ‘you have to see it to be it’,

which makes demonstration centres crucial to support behaviour change. Explore how to support behaviour change, share innovation and good practice in sustainable living and design good place-based learning experiences.

How can we be a good Demonstration example?

You can be a good demonstration example by practising and showing what you are promoting and educating people about really well. That might be low energy and healthy green buildings, regenerative food growing, ethical enterprise and community based decision making, or permaculture design and permaculture practices - or hopefully all of these things!

You can use the LAND Centre and iACT Criteria to think through all the features or practices you want to demonstrate - that is their purpose - including what you have now and what you want to add or improve in the future. So this obviously includes demonstrating what good design means, what a good learning and activity programme is, what a good visitor and volunteer programme is, and demonstrating what a well run centre looks like. It also means thinking through the various holistic dimensions of your centre, whether you are using the Holmgren Flower, the GEN Ecovillages framework or another tool to consider demonstration across a holistic range of areas, which might include:

  1. food growing, habitat and landscape management; 
  2. buildings, energy systems and infrastructure; 
  3. decision-making systems, governance and legal structures; 
  4. physical and spiritual health & wellbeing;
  5. education and culture.

Make what you are demonstrating engaging and relevant to your visitors, learners and volunteers, and to the needs of the local area and bioregion. If you can create some demonstration features that are particularly unusual, creative or engaging, alongside very practical and relevant demonstration features, this will help people to remember your project and often help to market the centre.

The iACT and LAND Centre Handbook PDF aims to help you understand and work through all the various aspects of being a great demonstration centre, with a learning and activity programme that relates to, enhances and helps to spread what you are demonstrating. That’s supported by all the other tools, resources, videos and case studies in these iACT webpages (with many more on the way), which all together we hope provides you with a great deal of inspiration, information and helpful guidance about how to do what you are doing really well, and how to add to, enhance and enrich that over time.

It is often really valuable to visit other projects to get ideas about what you can do for different demonstration features or activities, and to learn what works well, as well as learning what can be difficult or have more implications in terms of maintenance or specialist skills.

So take your time to design, plan and implement those demonstration features that suit your project’s purpose, vision and aims. Work your way through a realistic timetable for delivering those features that are most practical and easy to manifest, alongside those that will make the biggest difference for your centre in the long-term. It’s probably best not to try to do it all at once!

sharing tomatoes

The Value of Demonstration

Demonstration centres that also offer learning activities and programmes have a unique and critical role to play in our journeys toward a regeneratively sustainable and resilient future. There are three dimensions to that role:

Firstly, as physical demonstrations of sustainable and regenerative practices they provide visitors and learners with opportunities for experiential learning which embeds learning more deeply, and which cannot be provided by other forms of learning;

“Our Masters programme is very rigorous, with very highly qualified lecturers. But then we get students to do something very practical like building a rammed earth wall or a timber frame building… and when they come in, typically they have a twinkle in their eye that you can’t get from the theory. It is that unique blend that makes it exciting for people. Touching, smelling, being in something you are studying works on different levels of a human being.” Paul Allen, The Centre for Alternative Technology, Machynlleth, Wales

Secondly, as place-based hubs, they make the broad themes of sustainability and regeneration relevant to their particular local and regional context, in terms of people, culture, climate and landscape;

Thirdly, they provide a focus for activity, community engagement and networking, bringing together a broad ecology of people in varied roles from practitioners to educators to learners, and they have a catalytic role in people’s individual and collective learning journeys.

Through these three features demonstration centres with learning and activity programmes help to activate community transformation.

Selection & Use of Demonstration & Learning Environments

For venues and learning and demonstration centres that are helping to expand or deepen climate action and socio-ecological transition outcomes, some key competency areas that trainers and educators will need are:

  • The ability to select and use environments that enhance learning in general, and individual and collective action-learning in particular
  • The ability to create and develop enhanced learning environments
  • The ability to provide a supportive ecology of transformative learning experiences, that have a symbiotic relationship with the demonstration elements and related learning environments, for example through a range of complementary action-learning programmes, volunteering activities, or mentoring / tutor support programmes that relate to what is being demonstrated - for example a great selection of practicals on a permaculture course fulfils this function, alongside a design project, and the theory of permaculture design ethics, principles and tools; volunteering or apprenticeship programmes for green building or regenerative horticulture projects will fulfil the same function, alongside learning any relevant theory or technical information. 

The trainers will be expected to start with an intermediate level of competencies in these areas, and aim to develop those competencies to an advanced, expert or multiplier level in order to have the greatest impact on learners, and the communities they are working with. 

Environments that enhance learning

Stephen Sterling’s paper  Transformative learning and sustainability: Sketching the conceptual ground refers to some of the key considerations for venues, particularly in terms of how their environment, culture and working practices need to reflect the values and subject matter (i.e. sustainability, carbon reduction, regeneration and resilience) of the learning programmes they are promoting and hosting. 

One very important point is that standard institutional learning environments (i.e. schools, colleges, universities) tend to do absolutely nothing to demonstrate sustainability in practice, and can therefore be seen as being environments that actually inhibit genuine learning in these areas, because the learner gets embedded only in the theory, without seeing how absolutely essential it is that this is manifested in practice (this is one of the major problems in our culture when it comes to sustainability and sustainable development).


Learning & Demonstration Competencies

Case Studies

Inspiring examples of permaculture places


Regenerative Knowledge Commons

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iACT and Land Centres Handbook

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'iACT iwas co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme. Proj. ref.: 2020-1-UK01-KA204-079285. The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.