Insights from India

Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Red Earth Kabini is an unpretentious eco-resort located on the backwaters of the Kabini dam near the famed Nagarhole tiger reserve in southwest India. This beautiful example of sustainable tourism is where the Amani Institute held their 4-day BioEmpathy immersion course for the 22 Fellows making up the first India-based cohort of their Social Innovation Management program. Amani, like MCAD’s MA in Sustainable Design program, believes that innovation is not worth pursuing if it is not aligned with nature and human nature. This is as true for social innovation as it is for sustainable design.

Denise DeLuca, Director of MCAD’s MA in Sustainable Design Program, was invited to teach the course, guiding the Fellows through a series of activities and experiences to help them reconnect with — and learn to learn from — nature, apply the concepts and tools of biomimicry to social innovation, and kick start their journeys to become effective change makers.  

In addition to gaining new insights and tools for innovation, students came away with a profound new understanding of their relationship to nature. One Fellow, Arjun Sashidhar, who felt particularly disconnected from nature before the course, shared his emerging insights in a form of a letter to him from Nature, poetically capturing the essence one of the first activities we did called “I am here”. 

(Arjun has graciously allowed me to share his letter here. Thank you Arjun!)

Nature’s letter to me.  
Thursday, March 8, 2018
By Arjun Sashidhar

Dear Arjun,

I am here (with you).
You are here (with me).
We are here (together).

It was nice to meet you after such a long time.

Arjun, I have so much to share with our world. I look to you to represent me and carry my message to hearts and spirits that I’m unable to reach. You have the mind, body, heart and spirit to create and personify the goodness that you see in me.

All the life forms I’ve created on this planet are symbols of the magnificence that I see in you. What you call ‘Nature’s beauty’ is nothing but your own beauty that I got inspired by and ‘Bio-mimicked’!

Arjun, I look to you for strength, inspiration, wisdom, love, support, comfort, advice, solace, safety and solutions to my daily struggles. You give form to my function.

Use your difficulties as the stage to demonstrate ENDURANCE. Use your life experiences as ingredients that go into the making of YOUR TRUTH and WISDOM.  Use your joy and laughter to energize and heal the world around you.

I’m so happy we met again and connected so deeply. Let this be the start of a loving, lasting and healing friendship.

When we understand each other better, we can support each other better.

My dear Arjun,

The truth that both of us are seeking lies hidden deep within our souls. We need each other’s light to discover it.

I am here.
You are here.
We are here.

Your loving friend,



Social innovation and sustainable design can be viewed as two sides of the same coin, two approaches to the same big challenges that we face.  If you want to learn more about the parallel paths of social innovation and sustainable design, watch this interview of Denise DeLuca on YourStory from their headquarters in Bangaluru, India, and read the follow-up article here.

If you want to learn more about MCAD’s MA in Sustainable Design, click here!


Denise DeLuca / Former Director

Denise DeLuca is the Director of MCAD’s Sustainable Design program. She was co-founder of BCI: Biomimicry Creative for Innovation, a network of creative professional change agents driving ecological thinking for radical transformation. Denise is author of the book Re-Aligning with Nature: Ecological Thinking for Radical Transformation, which was illustrated by MASD alum Stephanie Koehler. She also teaches with the Amani Institute.

Denise’s previous roles include Education Director for the International Living Future Institute, Project Manager for Swedish Biomimetics 3000, and Outreach Director for The Biomimicry Institute. Denise is a licensed civil engineer (PE) and holds a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering with a focus on modeling landscape-scale surface and groundwater interactions.  In addition, Denise is a Biomimicry Fellow and a member of the Advisory Council of The Biomimicry InstituteBoard Member of the International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP), on the editorial board of the Journal of Bionic Engineering, and an Expert with Katerva. Denise is based in Oregon.

contact:  [email protected]