Our vision is a closely aligned global network of social and environmental leaders who work at their highest capacity to create a sustainable world for all.
Our mission is to inspire, train and support sustainability champions in an approach that integrates vision, systems thinking, reflection and climate solutions.
“The future can’t be predicted, but it can be envisioned and brought lovingly into being. … We can’t impose our will upon a system. We can listen to what the system tells us, and discover how its properties and our values can work together to bring forth something much better than could ever be produced by our will alone. We can’t control systems or figure them out. But we can dance with them.”
– Donella Meadows, Dancing with Systems
Who We Are
Sustainability Leaders Network (SLN) is a multi-sector collaboration of professionals who draw on a core set of shared leadership practices — systems thinking, organizational learning, visioning and reflection — to build capacity and accelerate the spread and adoption of inspiring solutions for social, climate and environmental challenges. Our global Fellows Network of sustainability champions actively and strategically address pressing environmental and social challenges locally, regionally and globally. Their expertise ranges from agriculture to social justice, from energy efficiency to oceans, from reforestation to carbon sequestration, from carbon offsets to climate solutions, and much more.
Donella Meadows Leadership Fellows
A primary motivation for our work and leadership practice is the late Donella (Dana) Meadows who challenged us through her example and writing to contribute our full selves to the quest for a sustainable world. After Donella’s untimely death in 2001, Edie Farwell co-founded the Donella Meadows Leadership Fellows Program at the then Sustainability Institute, (now Academy for Systems Change), to further Donella’s legacy of tackling intractable sustainability, climate, social and economic challenges from a systems thinking approach. The Fellows Program taught transformative leadership skills for sustainability professionals in non-governmental organizations, business, military, tribes, philanthropy, and government. Each Fellow participated in a two-year cohort between 2002-2010 through monthly conference calls and by attending a series of four multi-day workshops at the Cobb Hill Cohousing ecovillage Donella co-created, where they learned and practiced the skills of systems thinking, reflective conversation, climate science, vision, personal mastery, peer coaching and creative expression. Fellows share tightly woven collegial and personal relationships with one another; draw on one another for professional coaching and collaboration on projects; and have the passion and capacity to serve as life-long leaders to address ever-changing sustainability challenges. Fellows continue to convene in global, regional and virtual gatherings to deepen their individual and collective impacts as sustainability leaders, and to bring along the youth they mentor.
I call the transformed world toward which we can move “sustainable,” by which I mean a great deal more than a world that merely sustains itself unchanged. I mean a world that evolves, as life on earth has evolved for three billion years, toward ever-greater diversity, elegance, beauty, self-awareness, interrelationship, and spiritual realization.
— Donella Meadows
Deliberately diverse and closely-knit, our Donella Meadows Fellows Network consists of 80+ Fellows, colleagues and key partners from 16 countries around the world and 22+ states in the USA. They work across sectors and issues areas, bringing as much representation of the full system as possible. The network represents an array of fields, including renewable energy, climate, water, sustainable agriculture and land management, forestry, marine ecology, poverty eradication, social entrepreneurship, corporate social responsibility, media for social change, philanthropy, indigenous rights, youth, and gender equity. By design, 80% of the Fellows are women.
Edie Farwell, Founder and Director
Edie’s vision for the Sustainability Leaders Network (SLN), founded in 2010, is that each individual has the opportunity to unfurl their innate talents and passions, and to contribute these gifts in service of global sustainability. Previously, she promoted this message of leadership for sustainability by serving as founding director of the Donella Meadows Leadership Fellows Program where she co-designed the curriculum’s focus on systems thinking, reflective conversation, the discipline of vision, and creative expression, and served as a leadership coach for each of the four cohorts of the Fellows Program. Through SLN she continues to work with alumni Fellows and key partners to further their impact as strategic sustainability and climate solutions thought leaders, instigators, and actors. As well, recently Edie was Senior Program Director of Climate Solutions at Confluence Philanthropy. She now focuses on coaching sustainability leaders for climate solutions, sustainability strategy and personal wellness.
Early in her career Edie served as executive director of the Association for Progressive Communications where she helped build the early adoption of information and communication technology by a network of global civil society organizations. This included managing international communications teams at United Nations world conferences: the Earth Summit in Brazil; the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna; and the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. Edie has an MA in Cultural and Social Anthropology from the California Institute of Integral Studies and a BA in Anthropology and Environmental Studies from Dartmouth College. She raised her two sons at the Cobb Hill Cohousing experiment in sustainable living that Donella Meadows co-founded in Hartland, Vermont. She now lives with her family in Norwich, Vermont.
At Sustainability Leaders Network, we draw inspiration, teachings and strategy from numerous practitioners, scholars and experts who employ a whole systems approach towards sustainability. Those we have most drawn from include Donella Meadows, Joanna Macy, Buckminster Fuller, Peter Senge, John Sterman, Janine Benyus, Paul Hawken, Aldo Leopold, Robert and Judith Gass, and many others.
Buckminster Fuller Institute, located in San Francisco, serves as our fiscal sponsor, and is a strategic partner in promoting systems thinking and network building among sustainability practitioners to address contemporary challenges. Buckminster Fuller and Donella Meadows were two of the world’s leading systems thinkers who devoted their careers to designing a more sustainable future. Their example, designs, strategies and writings continue to inspire us.