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Otago Polytechnic researchers to speak at TEDx

Media release – Otago Polytechnic

For immediate release, Thursday 4 April

Otago Polytechnic researchers to speak at TEDx

Otago Polytechnic’s Centre for Sustainable Practice Director, Steve Henry and Sustainable Practice Advisor and Research Manager, Ella Lawton have been invited to be the speakers at the TEDx Conference this Friday, 5 April in Queenstown.

TEDx is a local, self-organised programme that brings people together to share their experience with the help of videos and live speakers. The themes of the event are ‘Love and Integrity in Business’, ‘Rhythm as the Pulse of Life’ and the future of tertiary education.

“I am speaking about the university of the future in a talk called ‘A thousand year old industry on the cusp of profound change’,” Steve says. “I believe tertiary institutions of the future will be significantly different from today’s set up with the learner taking ownership of the curriculum.

Steve has spent the last 30 years motivating those who are willing to learn. He now heads up the Centre for Sustainable Practice (CSP) at Otago Polytechnic, which offers qualifications in Sustainable Practice.

“I’ve found the greatest success happens when people learn through experience of real projects. The CSP does exactly this; curriculum is not prescribed, rather the participants’ chosen projects are the curriculum and real outcomes are a requirement of their success.

“Knowledge alone cannot transform, it takes reflection and experience through action. This requires being prepared to look at the current normal and deciding if it will serve in the future. The key to transformational learning lies in the courage the learner has to remove the barriers to reflect deeply on what is believed and why.”

Ella Lawton will also be speaking at the event, discussing how and why ‘Localisation is a multiplier’. “We need to reduce our use of resources whilst increasing local, social and economic wellbeing. We can do this by increasing the local production of essential products which can be consumed locally. Land could be used more efficiently which would provide for alternative and more effective opportunities. It would also reduce our need to rely on imports,” says Ella. “I truly believe this is progressive.”

Her talk stems from her three-year research project, the New Zealand Footprint Project. “This model is essential in reducing our individual and collective New Zealand ecological footprint. For example, we can use our backyard and parks to grow food which in turn will help reduce the use of commercial land, transport, packaging, and the need for retail outlets. This creates better social networks and opens up commercial growing land for other opportunities.”

Ella has spent much of her career looking at how natural, social and governance systems function and interact in order to identify those areas that can efficiently trigger a positive change in the community.

TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) was founded in 1984 and is a global set of conferences owned by the private non-profit Sapling Foundation, formed to disseminate "ideas worth spreading." Previously, TED speakers have included Bill Gates, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sir Richard Branson, and former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

For more information about the TEDx Conference, visit

Steve Henry and Ella Lawton
Photographer: Isabella Harrex


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