Integrating Sustainability in Ethnography & Design

Learn how to put sustainability principles into research practice and make the case for sustainability with stakeholders, clients, and organizations.

INSTRUCTOR: Mike Youngblood (Principal, The Youngblood Group)


SCHEDULE: Tuesday, October 12, 3–6:00 pm US Pacific Time (UTC-7) / Oct 13 in Asia Pacific—convert time zone


In this tutorial you’ll learn how ethnography is uniquely positioned to contribute to the design and innovation of environmentally sustainable futures for products and services. We’ll cover several emerging design perspectives—such as circular design, regenerative design, systems-oriented design, and value-centered design. And we will work collaboratively on concrete ways to put them into practice, as well as make the case for sustainability with stakeholders, clients, and organizations. This tutorial will be valuable for those who are relatively new to sustainability as well as those with deeper experience who are interested in expanding our collective impact toward more planet-friendly industries.

The tutorial will cover:

  • Opportunity costs of doing design research “as usual”
  • Key perspectives and approaches for sustainable design and innovation
  • Baking sustainability perspectives into research
  • Ethnographic/anthropological theories and methods that can support a sustainability perspective in research (including semiotic analysis, object ethnography, garbology, and ethnographic futures)
  • Making the case for sustainability perspectives to stakeholders


  • Complete a short reflection exercise prior to the tutorial (emailed to participants in advance)
  • Bring digital file or printout of mock RFP (emailed to participants in advance)
  • Bring paper and pen or pencil


Mike Youngblood, PhD, is a cultural anthropologist working at the nexus of social science and human-centered design. He has worked with for-profit and not-for-profit clients around the world in a wide range of industries, including financial services, transportation, telecommunications, food and nutrition, education, healthcare, and social services. Mike has taught at the School for International Training, Maryland Institute College of Art, UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, and Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University. He also teaches the EPIC Course Observation in Ethnographic Practice and is also editor of the Sustainability and Ethnography in Business Series on the EPIC blog Perspectives. Mike’s recent books are Cultivating Community: Interest, Identity, and Ambiguity in an Indian Social Mobilization and Rethinking Users: The Design Guide to User Ecosystem Thinking.

How to Register

Tutorials are open to EPIC2021 attendees on a first-come, first-served basis. Buy a ticket during conference registration, or add a ticket to your existing registration: