This project is an attempt to articulate a design standard for the urgent present.

We are calling this era the Polycene to evoke a geological epoch that captures our aspirations for what could be, as we negotiate our way through the polycrisis. In this epoch, stewardship replaces dominion, and mastery is redefined as a balanced coexistence with the natural world. It encourages a multiplicity of approaches, ethical considerations, and community engagements to address the complex challenges ahead.

This draft design manual is an archive of essays, activities, and project outcomes that have emerged from our exploration of the Polycene. There is a table of contents in the pop-out menu, which is accessible by clicking on the blue circle at the top right corner of every page. There are three ways to get started.


There are three ways to get started:

Exploring Concepts

Core Design Principles is a summary of key principles and constraints for working in the polycrisis. We explore these ideas further in three essay series.
  • Foundational Concerns is about the crisis of imagination behind the problems we face.
  • Planetary Perspectives introduces thinking in a planetary way. 
  • Polycene Design Elements offers more depth on the principles, constraints, and tools.

Using Activities

We encourage you to explore and adapt the activities we have used in our facilitation and collaboration work. Individual Activity Formats offers several collections of plug-and-play activities. The Formats Overview describes the larger structures we use for bringing people to collaborate.

Reviewing Outcomes

The participants who collaborated with us in 2023 produced a body of work that reveals the wide scope of insights and interventions necessary for planetary design. We have documented their work under Event Formats and Outcomes, each collection grouped under the events they emerged from.