Sustainability Provocateur, Designer, Sociologist, Experimental Educator and Social Change Maker





Sustainability provocateur and cultural protagonist Dr. Leyla Acaroglu challenges people to think differently about how the world works. As an award winning designer, UNEP Champion of the Earth, sociologist, and entrepreneur, she developed the Disruptive Design Method and designs cerebrally activating experiences, gamified toolkits, and unique educational experiences that help people make the status quo obsolete. Her mainstage TED talk on sustainability has been viewed over a million times, and she leads presentations around the world on activating positive social change through creative interventions and systems thinking.  Leyla is the founder of Disrupt Design, the UnSchool and the CO Project Farm in Portugal.


Design disruptor, creative boundary pusher, and cultural provocateur, Dr. Leyla Acaroglu (A-jar-a-loo) embodies the innovation that instigates positive environmental and social change. A designer, social scientist, and sustainability expert, she is internationally recognized as a leader in tools for the circular economy and the use of disruptive design across sustainability and educational initiatives. Leyla was awarded 2016 Champion of the Earth by the United Nations Environment Programme, and her 2013 mainstage TED talk that has collected over one million views is one of the most watched TED talks on sustainability.

In 2014, Leyla completed her PhD at RMIT in change-centric disruptive design and started developing the Disruptive Design Method, which is the backbone of her unique approach to design-led systems change. She has won a host of awards for her work, was named one of Melbourne’s 100 Most Influential People, and has been forging positive change through creative practice in multiple ways for over a decade. Her systems-based thinking coupled with her highly-skilled communication techniques is featured in several publications, including the New York Times.

Leyla is the founder of two design agencies, Disrupt Design in New York and Melbourne-based Eco Innovators, as well as the UnSchool, her uniquely rebellious experimental knowledge lab that is all about disrupting the mainstream way that knowledge is gained and shared. It runs innovative pop-up programs around the world, won a CORE77 Design Education Initiative Award and recently she took on an abandoned farm in Portugal to regenerate and restore as  bran spa and living learning laboratory for UnSchool programs. The CO Project Farm is a bold example of sustainable design and social entrepreneurship. Leyla’s expertise at the helm, each of these initiatives serve as multidisciplinary approaches to pioneering social and environmental change through design.

As a designer, her works such as Circular Classroom, Design Play Cards, Game Changer Game, Secret Life of Things, Designercise, and the Gender Equity Toolkit are at the forefront of activated experience design. She has authored several handbooks for change makers and continues to agitate for new ways of solving complex social problems through beautifully designed interventions. Leyla’s creative work is highly acclaimed, having been featured in a permanent exhibition in the Leonardo di Vinci museum in Milan and earning commissions from the National Gallery of Victoria.

She is an internationally respected keynote speaker and trusted expert, having led thousands of hours of workshops, lectures, activations, and educational experiences around the world. Leyla was a visiting scholar at NYU and an Innovator in Residence at the Center for Social Innovation NYC. She was also an invited Artist in Residence with Autodesk and managed the development of ‘Greenfly,' one of the first online life cycle assessment tools for designers. Leyla is regularly invited to provide her professional opinions on radio and TV, having been a regular judge on the ABC TV show The New Inventors, along with a host of international programs.

The designer is one of those unique individuals who uses systems-based thinking to disrupt mainstream ways of thinking. And even though the process for the person at the receiving end of her methods might initially be uncomfortable and unwelcome, we all need someone like Acaroglu to ‘shake things up a bit’ to enable a fresh perspective.
— Geraldine Faulkner, Recycling & Waste World Magazine

Leyla Acaroglu expert on sustainability and the circular economy

"As the preeminent thought leader in her field, Leyla Acaroglu, has been championing systemic life cycle sustainability as key to a sustainable future."

- Lieu Thi Pham, Australian Design Review



Leyla travels the world advocating and activating positive social and environmental change by design. To request Leyla to attend your event, work with your team, or book a speaking engagement, please send a request here >  

Leyla acaroglu sustainability key note speaker

“Acaroglu doesn’t think socially responsible design should be driven by a moral imperative. Instead, sustainability is most powerful when thought of as ‘a parameter’ that fuels innovation”

- Madeleine Hinchy, Powerhouse Museum


People like Leyla Acaroglu are so important to driving this change. Leyla is a 2016 UN Environment Champion of the Earth for science and innovation. Leyla inspires and helps people to equip themselves with agency, tools, and knowledge they need to shape the world and transform our lifestyles.
— Erik Solheim, Former Executive Director UNEP

Areas of expertise 

Leyla’s most notable areas of expertise include: Sustainability, Systems Thinking, Cognitive Activation Design, Disruptive Design Method, Circular Economy, Creative Intervention Design, Life Cycle Thinking, Social Innovation, Change Methodology, and Experiential Education.

Leyla being awarded Champion of the Earth with Ibrahim Thiaw, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General (left), and UNEP Executive Director, Erik Solheim (right)

Leyla being awarded Champion of the Earth with Ibrahim Thiaw, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General (left), and UNEP Executive Director, Erik Solheim (right)

Leyla Acaroglu keynote speaker of systems thinking, sustainability and deisgn

"Creative Force Leyla Acaroglu uses innovative design and systems thinking to create positive change"

– TED.com

Making the planet’s problems your life’s work takes gumption, which Acaroglu has in spades. It could be argued that it’s a playful spirit and exultant attitude that keep her going—no doubt, they help. But her desire to own her actions as a single agent with limited resources is key to her drive, too.
— Kiley Jacques, US Green Business Council