Natural Change Leadership Programme

A one-year professional development programme for sustainability leaders.


The Natural Change Leadership programme is a unique and proven approach to sustainability leadership development. It is for leaders who want to respond to our urgent ecological situation by bringing about transformational change in their team, organisation or sector.

Natural Change works by aligning our psychological sense of who we are with the biological reality of what we are - an interconnected part of nature. It does this through skillfully facilitated outdoor experiences combined with a deep exploration of our personal and cultural psychology. The process of transformation starts with personal experience and moves outwards to generate organisational and social change - through a different kind of leadership.

The aim of the programme is to build a professional community - across sectors - who are resilient and tenacious in their commitment to leading change. It will crack-open fresh, powerful new forms of leadership based on a deep personal connection to nature. It will nourish this process though profound psychological insights combined with the development of a strong and supportive peer-community.

Natural Change has been developed through over 20 years of international research, development and professional practice. During this time it has directly influenced sustainability practice to national government policy level, as well as through numerous organisational and personal initiatives.

The course provides 12 days of contact time and nine hours of coaching over a one-year period. It demands a considerable commitment of time and resources - commensurate with addressing the unprecedented scale and speed of the ecological challenges of our era.


We are at a critical moment in human history. The evidence is now beyond scientific doubt that we are exceeding our planet's capacity to provide resources and process pollution. The impacts are already being experienced, especially by those living in poverty. They will impact everyone alive today, including you and I. They will drastically impact future generations.

Reformist and managerial responses to these ecological challenges are no-longer enough on their own. The window for simple, easy actions has closed. To address interconnected and global-scale issues like global warming and biodiversity loss, for example, it is now going to take a fundamental shift in the way we understand ourselves in relation to the rest of nature. This includes challenging some of the basic cultural assumptions by which we currently live.

We can no longer rely only on science and technology and on environmental management or conservation for solutions. We must actually change who we think we are to match the biological reality of what we are - animals living in an ecosystem. This is a psycho-social and cultural task that will require extraordinary leadership.

Every individual and organisation has a role to play. Those that contribute and align themselves to ecological systems will survive and those that don’t, will not. This may sound overly dramatic but it is a simple, inevitable ecological truth.

Fortunately, there are actions we can take to avert - and in many cases reverse - the damage. But nature will not wait and our efforts to lead change so far have been too small and too slow. It’s time for a fresh approach to sustainability leadership.


The Natural Change Leadership Programme has been developed through over 20 years of professional practice and research. It first emerged through WWF-Scotland’s ‘Natural Change Project’, which identified people who held positions of influence within Scottish society, offering them life-changing experiences of wild places. It then went on to support the growth of these personal experiences into leadership and action for an ecologically sustainable future.

The project has resulted in some profound organisational and social changes over the last ten years. This includes, for example, embedding learning for sustainability into Scotland’s national school curriculum. An outcome which today directly influences over one million young people every year - and for which Scotland was recognised by UNESCO in 2015 as a global sustainability leader.

The Natural Change Leadership programme is now available in the UK, Europe, New Zealand and Australia.

Is it for me?

Natural Change is for leaders who want to respond to our urgent ecological situation by bringing about transformational change in their team, organisation or sector. But transformative change is only possible if we break through the cultural conditioning that causes us to think and behave as if we are not part of nature. That’s why Natural Change opens the space for a deep emotional and psychological shift. This shift enables you to think, feel and act in tune with nature and to find exceptionally effective ways of leading change for sustainability.

Natural Change maximises the positive effects of extended time in wild places to engage the full range of human capacities. This creates a powerful mix of logic, emotion, instinct and imagination. Natural Change provides an unrivalled opportunity to reflect profoundly and explore how you and your organisation will respond to the defining challenges of our age.

Natural Change is suitable for leaders that are either newly concerned or have a long-standing commitment to sustainability.

It is recommended that you bring around five years of professional leadership experience to the programme. However, each application is considered individually, so please do ask if you’re not sure.


By the end of the course you will:

  • gain powerful insights into personal and social psychology that can be applied to leading change for sustainability;
  • sharpen your sense of purpose and commitment to bringing about transformational change;
  • deepen your love of nature to make leading for sustainability liberating and inspiring;
  • build a personal framework for leading change - based on your own experience and appropriate to your own unique context;
  • explore the relationships between ourselves, the cultures in which we live and the environment upon which we all depend;
  • find ways to communicate more clearly and effectively about sustainability issues;
  • learn how to create psychologically savvy change strategies based on ecological principles;
  • discover how to better engage stakeholders using psychological concepts and techniques;
  • find ways to sustain yourself in challenging times and to transform overwhelm into action;
  • explore ways to cope with personal and collective eco-trauma, climate grief and eco-anxiety;
  • become part of a unique professional peer community to give and receive support and find new opportunities and initiatives;
  • develop strategies for dealing with conflict around ecological issues;
  • investigate how to research and evaluate change initiatives using cutting-edge methods;
  • tap into your creativity to help a more vibrant, beautiful and sustainable world emerge.


Preparation 1 x One-to-one online coaching session (one hour)
Workshop ONE 1-day workshop in an urban centre.
Residential ONE 5-days (6-nights).
Online learning & Coaching Guided reading
4 x one-to-one, online coaching sessions (one hour each)
Residential TWO 5-days (6-nights).
Coaching 4 x One-to-one, online coaching sessions (one hour each)
Workshop TWO 1-day workshop in an urban centre.
Coaching OPTIONAL: Ongoing coaching support.
Consultancy OPTIONAL: Support with a professional project

Total contact time: 12 days over 12 months (1+5+5+1)
Total coaching time: 9 hours over 12 months

Course Leader

David Key is a consultant, group facilitator, teacher and coach specialising in ecopsychology - the psychology of the our human relationships with the rest of nature.

Dave has a background in outdoor education, ecology and psychology. His special interest is in the ways experiences of nature can be powerfully transformative. His professional practice is mainly through the design and delivery of outdoor-based programmes for sustainability leadership and the design and facilitation of therapeutic outdoor experiences. He has also taught and researched extensively in the academic sector and is an internationally published author.

Over the last 20 years Dave has worked with clients such as the World Wide Fund for Nature, The Australian Conservation Foundation, the Scottish Government and the European Union, as well as with numerous academic institutions and private individuals seeking professional development.

He holds a Masters of Science (with distinction) in Human Ecology, is a Fellow of the Centre for Human Ecology, a Visiting Research Fellow at the Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University and an Honorary Research Fellow at Exeter University. He also holds a New Zealand Certificate in Adult Teaching (1&2). He is a National Governing Body qualified outdoor leader in both the United Kingdom(MTUK & BCU) and New Zealand (NZOIA).

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The programme can be offered in various locations in New Zealand and Australia.


Subject to location and final specification.

Includes: 50 hours (APPROX) of residential contact time on a maximum 1:12 basis, 12 nights accommodation, residential catering and group equipment. Nine hours online contact time on a 1:1 basis, access to an extensive library of readings, reading guide, private online forum and alumni network.

Excludes: Travel to/from residential venue, personal travel and possessions insurance, personal outdoor clothing and equipment.


The course is currently available on a bespoke basis for groups of up to 12 people. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss the options.


In learning that the wilderness can be such a powerful source of intense natural healing, I have a new and profound respect for the earth and our complex relationship with it. I now know that this is a new beginning.

Louise Macdonald OBE

The course cleared a lot of clutter from my head and allowed me to focus and determine the deeper underlying questions of my life and of my connection to Nature. Since then, I have pursued a deeper relationship and conversation with the natural world that has constantly informed my life.

Charlie Németh
Teacher, Hungary

Dave helped me realise that I am strong enough to make change in my life that will benefit me and others. The confidence is now in me to say what I think and not say what I think others want me to say.

Marc Forrester
YouthLink Scotland

In this beautiful peaceful setting, where you can literally hear the leaves fall, it is easy to have ‘thinking time’ and how important it is too; I can hardly believe what has come up for me today.

John Daffurn
Scottish College for Educational Leadership

Dave is an inspirational, calm and creative facilitator allowing all participants to feel comfortable and able to connect with the wonders of nature.

Jim Riach,
Keep Scotland Beautiful

[The course] has given me permission to silence the white noise. It has helped me to sift out what matters. It’s pretty subtle. It’s liberating.

Emily Peel Yates
Halcrow Group

I was greatly impressed by the depth of Dave’s expertise, insights and empathic connection to the landscape as he led our group of wild lawyers through the wilderness of the Knoydart Peninsula in Scotland.

Cormac Cullinan
Cullinan & Associates

Dave is an exceptional practitioner, teacher and thinker. We worked together for three years; if the right project came along, I’d have no hesitation in asking Dave to work with me.

Osbert Lancaster
Natural Change Limited

The course has brought me a deeper awareness and ability to listen. This in turn has enabled me to understand the broader impacts of the business and provided me with the skills to find different responses and action, rather than merely repeating past actions.

Richard Profit

The course experience was truly incredible, and I was taken by surprise at the level of intensity and personal response to what I thought would be a challenging week, but not to the degree that occurred.

Brenna Nyznik
Mercy Corp

It feels like I’m in the process of enlarging my heart. And it’s kind of painful, but also joyous and also really crucial.

Deborah Richardson-Web
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Dave has worked with me and my team for the past few years on team dynamics, programme design, and personal coaching. He is an extraordinary trainer, though that word is a dis-service here, his wealth of experience in the broad fields of outdoor education and facilitated wild experiences is un-paralleled. His attention to detail, subject knowledge, and impeccable research means all learning experiences with him are enlightening, thought provoking, and deeply practical.

Dan Ryan
Eden Project

Hold your nose and dive in at the deep end – [the course] will take you to places you haven’t imagined, good and bad, and will be truly formative as an investment of your time and energy.

Gill Troup
University of the West of Scotland

A newness has been thrown into the now, that will affect almost everything from this point. I find that a little bit exciting. We may be in uncharted water but that doesn’t mean we’re going down. Who knows where we could go…

Sarah Munro
Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art

[The course] played a subtle but powerful part in deepening my commitment to a life of working for positive change. It opened windows in my thinking, and reinvigorated trust in working with intuition and metaphor that have since shaped my working path.

Tom Deacon
Field Studies Council

Approaching the beach from the cliff top I had a feeling something profound was going to take place. And when I met Dave it started happening. In just 36 hours I had the best reset I could have imagined and 36-months later I am still enjoying its effects. If you’re reading this and wondering if it’s right for you, just get in touch with Dave and see where life takes you. It helped me and I loved it.

Steve Malkin
Planet First

Dave’s ecopsychology course was the beginning of my journey with this incredible work.

I learned a lot about myself, and this has ultimately meant I can work with other people with a much deeper understanding of change processes. I loved that the course was self governed – for me this meant I could go on my own exploration, and pull on the threads that interested me.

Dave is very attentive and flexible toward personal needs, it is less ‘teacher-student’ focused and more colloborative and supportive, which I I feel is exactly what is needed in this world.

I would do the course again and again.

Janine Finlay
Fin Films Ltd UK & The Good Nature Project

I gained a massive amount of insight both personally and professionally. I was profoundly moved by the process. I came away refreshed and inspired.

Peter Wooding
Venture Scotland

Dave co-created our Natural Change process for engaging with the natural world. He has run this exercise for us twice with a diverse group of people over an extended period. The results have been inspiring and Dave has been great to work with.

Richard Dixon
World Wide Fund for Nature

Dave is an outstanding facilitator with a fantastically engaging and inclusive style, great humour, insightful with deep rapport building abilities.

Gavin McLellan
Christian Aid

I have worked with Dave since 2014, firstly through the online Ecopsychology course and more recently by engaging with him as my coach. He has a richness of knowledge, wisdom and experience that I feel so lucky to be able to access – and my only wish is I had found him sooner.

His grounded, open and, I think, quite modest style heartens me greatly in a world where humility often seems scarce. I leave every session with Dave feeling energised, inspired, renewed and hopeful on this emergent journey of mine. To anyone who wants to understand what it really means to climb down from our human superiority and truly inhabit the world as nature intended – and lead others in doing so – I can’t recommend Dave enough.

Sandra Cunningham
Walking Coach

Pleased that I decided to do this ecopsychology course with David, as I got a lot out of the experience. I appreciated the open and flexible style of our sessions, and enjoyed the diversity of our valuable discussions.

David made me feel seen, heard, and supported throughout the journey. He is a true wealth of knowledge – and customized the course to meet my personal interests, by providing plenty of useful study resources.
A considerate, generous, and passionate teacher and coach – I am thankful to have had the opportunity to collaborate with David!

Danielle Levy

The course has acted as a catalyst for all kinds of ideas and actions, both personal, professional and as a group. I think the phrase might be “watch this space”!

Louise Macdonald OBE

Dave is a very gifted facilitator who is able to connect people from all walks of life and to create a safe environment in which learning, practice and storytelling can happen for everyone. I came away from this course feeling enriched and with a new sense of direction for my own life and work path.

Karen Liebenguth
Greenspace Life Coaching

Dave’s deft touch can be found as traces of invisible thread through many of Eden Project’s experiential learning programmes. He is a gentle and artful consultant that will help you make the most of the resources you have to hand; be it people, places, kit, knowledge, or time. He is equally capable of directing you, unblocking your problems, or simply guiding you towards the right solution for your programme needs.

Dan Ryan
Eden Project

Don´t hesitate. Just do it! You will feel great, brave and you won´t be disappointed – I promise you.

Margret Mennenga

Dave co-taught (with Mary-Jayne Rust) a 3-week course on Ecopsychology at Schumacher College. The course was well planned and thought through, and the group gave very positive feedback of what they learned and how the process was facilitated. Dave is extremely organised and a good planner, as well as being a committed and inspiring teacher.

Inga Page
Schumacher College

I am literally in a different physical and psychological space as a result of my involvement and have also established some very good (in the real sense) new friends, some of whom I see regularly and the rest I know are there should I need them.

Gill Troup
University of the West of Scotland