Professor Stuart B. Hill

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Shared – dare I call it – WISDOM
(these were compiled in 2005, based largely on my university and international development experience over the past 60+ years, as possible ‘testing questions’ for all theory & practice

• Ask of all theory & practice – what is it in the service of? – before supporting or copying it

• Work mostly with ‘small meaningful achievable initiatives' vs. ‘Olympic-scale projects' (most of these are abandoned or fail, & have numerous negative side-effects)

• Don’t get stuck in endless ‘measuring studies’ (‘monitoring our extinction’) – these are often designed to postpone change that is perceived as threatening to existing power structures

• To achieve sustainable progressive change, focus (at least first) on enabling the ‘benign’ agendas of others vs. trying to impose on them your own ‘benign’ agendas

• Focus on enabling the potential of people, society & nature to express itself – so that wellbeing, social justice & sustainability can emerge (in integrated, synergistic ways)

• Collaborate across difference to achieve broadly shared goals – don’t end up isolated, alone in a ‘sandbox’

• Don’t let ‘end point’/goal differences prevent possibilities of early stage collaboration

• Outcomes are only as good & sustainable as the people creating & implementing them – so start with the people; & remember that we are a relational/social species!

• Use the media – let me repeat – use the media! – such ‘political’ communication is key to change

• Work with business & the public/community; government will always follow, but rarely lead!

• Celebrate publicly at every opportunity – to enable the good stuff to be ‘contagious’

• Keep working on & implementing – especially with others – your (shared) benign visions

• Most of what is remains unknown – which is what wise people are able to work with; so devote most effort to developing your wisdom vs. your cleverness, which is just concerned with the very limited pool of what is known (Einstein was clear about this!)

• Always be humble & provisional in your knowing, & always open to new experiences & insights

• Take small meaningful risks to enable progress, transformational learning & development

• Devote most effort to the design & management of systems that can enable wellbeing, social justice & sustainability, & that are problem-proof vs. maintaining unsustainable, problem-generating systems, & devoting time to ‘problem-solving’, control, & input management

• Work sensitively with time & space, especially from the position of the ‘others’ (ask: who, what, which, where, when, how, why, if & if not?)

• Act from your core/essential self – empowered, aware, visionary, principled, passionate, loving, spontaneous, fully in the present (contextual) – vs. your patterned, fearful, compensatory, compromising, de-contextual selves

• See no ‘enemies’ – recognise such ‘triggers’ as indicators of woundedness, maldesign & mismanagement – everyone is always doing the best they can, given their potential, past experience & the present context – these are the three areas to work with

• Be paradoxical: ask for help & get on with the job (don’t postpone); give when you want to receive; give love when you might need it, or when you might feel hate

• Learn from everyone & everything, & seek mentors & collaborators at every opportunity

stuart hill

Professor Stuart B. Hill
is Foundation Chair of Social Ecology
at the
University of Western Sydney

School of Education (includes previous School of Social Ecology & Lifelong Learning)
University of Western Sydney (Kingswood Campus),
Phone: 61(0)2-4736-0799; Fax: 61(0)2-4736-0400; email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Co-Editor: Journal of Organic Systems

Co-Creator: Australian Society for Sustainable Business

Professor Stuart B. Hill is Foundation Chair of Social Ecology at the University of Western Sydney. At UWS he teaches units on Qualitative Research Methodology, Social Ecology Research, Transformative Learning, Leadership and Change, and Sustainability, Leadership and Change.

His PhD was one of the first whole ecosystem studies that examined community and energy relationships (1969); and it was the earliest such study conducted by a single researcher. For this he received the awards for Best PhD Thesis and Best PhD Student. In 1977 he received a Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal for his community and social transformation work.

In 1972, in Canada, he produced a report for the New Brunswick Government on Energy and Agriculture that detailed many of the resource, environment and climate issues that are at last being recognized today. Since then he has produced many more cutting edge reports, and has been an advisor to several ministers.

Prior to 1996 he was at McGill University, in Montreal, where he was responsible for the zoology degree, and where in 1974 he established Ecological Agriculture Projects, Canada’s leading resource centre for sustainable agriculture (

His last PhD student at McGill was Ann Dale, who was on leave from the Privy Council Office, and who had played a major role in the establishment of the first ‘National Round Table for the Economy and the Environment’. Her thesis, which has been published as a book (At the Edge: Sustainable Development in the 21st Century, UBC Pr, 2001) examines what is needed for governments to deal responsibly with sustainability.

Hill has published over 350 papers and reports. His latest books are Ecological Pioneers: A Social History of Australian Ecological Thought and Action (with Dr Martin Mulligan; Cambridge UP, 2001) and Learning for Sustainable Living: Psychology of Ecological Transformation (with Dr Werner Sattmann-Frese; Lulu, 2008).

More recently he has contributed groundbreaking chapters to five books: Enabling redesign for deep industrial ecology and personal values transformation, in Industrial Ecology and Spaces of Innovation (2006); Redesign as deep industrial ecology: lessons from ecological agriculture and social ecology, in Industrial Ecology: A Question of Design? (2006); Social ecology as a framework for understanding and working with social capital and sustainability within rural communities, in A Dynamic Balance: Social Capital and Sustainable Community Development (2005); Learning Ecology: A New Approach to Learning and Transforming Ecological Consciousness: Experiences from Social Ecology in Australia, in Learning Toward An Ecological Consciousness: Selected Transformative Practices (2004); and Autonomy, mutualistic relationships, sense of place, and conscious caring: a hopeful view of the present and future, in Changing Places: Re-imagining Australia (2003).

In Canada he was a member of over 30 regional, national and international boards and committees. He is currently on the editorial board of five international refereed journals, and until 2004 he represented professional environmental educators on the NSW Council on Environmental Education.

Stuart has worked in agricultural and development projects in the West Indies, French West Africa, Indonesia, The Philippines, China, the Seychelles, the UK, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. His work in the Seychelles to make a whole coralline island completely self sufficient in food and energy is particularly significant.

His background in chemical engineering, ecology, soil biology, entomology, agriculture, psychotherapy, education, policy development and international development, and his experience of working with transformative change, has enabled him to be an effective facilitator in complex situations that demand collaboration across difference and a long-term co-evolutionary approach to situation improvement. These skills were used extensively in his recent role as Provocateur for the Victorian Government (for DPI & DSE: 2004-5).

Recent Keynotes at National Conferences include the following:
Hill, S.B. 2006. Engaging Us: Ecological Thinking as a Basis for Community Change. Keynote to Enviro 06 Conf. & Exhibn.: Building Sustainable Cities [Melbourne; 11 May]

Hill, S.B. 2006. Taking Appropriate Next Steps to Progressive Change: Building on the Past and Risking Deep Transformation Towards More Sustainable Communities.  Keynote to APEN ‘06 Int. Conf.: Practice change for sustainable communities: exploring footprints, pathways and possibilities [Beechworth, VIC; 6-8 March]
[web; 18 pp:]