Disrupt Design

Leyla Acaroglu awarded 2016 Champion of the Earth by the UNEP

Disrupt Design
Leyla accepting her award 

Leyla accepting her award 

2 Dec, 2016 – Australian designer and innovator Leyla Acaroglu has been announced as one of the winners of the United Nations’ highest environmental accolade for her science-based yet creative work on bringing about change for sustainability.


UN Environment is giving its Champions of the Earth award to Acaroglu in the Science and Innovation category in recognition of her innovative, award-winning designs and projects that instigate positive environmental and social change.

A designer and social scientist from Melbourne, Australia, Acaroglu’s achievements include her UnSchool of Disruptive Design and its unique training modules, produced and led by her company Disrupt Design, and her ongoing efforts to transform the basis of human thinking, systems and design in support of a sustainable future.

Head of UN Environment Erik Solheim said, “Acaroglu inspires and helps people to equip themselves with the personal agency and relevant tools, deep self-awareness and knowledge they need to participate, shape the world and make a real difference in it.

“She has framed the impact of design on the way we live and the choices we have, in a way that is relatable, understandable and possible to act on. This gets to the root of sustainability: having the knowledge, skills and awareness needed to transform our lifestyles and make interventions that challenge the status quo.”

Acaroglu rallies an actively engaged creative community in New York and around the world to curate experiences that evoke positive change for us all. She has developed toolkits that help designers and creative practitioners engage with problem solving for sustainability and social change. She developed the Disruptive Design Method to transfer systems and sustainability sciences across disciplines so that people can engage with substance-based problem solving for complex local and global issues.

Leyla with the other 6 Laureates and the Executive Director of the UNEP 

Leyla with the other 6 Laureates and the Executive Director of the UNEP 

Acaroglu said: “Design is a fundamental and profoundly influential practice, but it struck me just how little awareness there is of the incredibly influential force that the designed world has on us all — the majority of the world is scripted. The things we design, design us, and we can use design to create positive change so the future works better for all of us.”

Often referred to as ‘The Doctor of Change’, she explores counterintuitive ideas about what sustainability is and how we can use them to create innovative design solutions.

About Champions of the Earth

The annual Champions of the Earth prize is awarded to outstanding leaders from government, civil society and the private sector whose actions have had a positive impact on the environment.

Since being founded twelve years ago, the awards have recognized 78 laureates - ranging from leaders of nations to grassroots activists - in the categories of policy, science, business and civil society.

Acaroglu joins Jose Sarukhan Kermez, Mexican research biologist (Life-time Achievement); Afroz Shah, Indian environmental organizer (Action and Inspiration); Rwandan President, Paul Kagame (Policy Leadership); Moroccan Sustainable Energy Agency, Masen (Entrepreneurial Vision); and a posthumous Action and Inspiration award for Berta Cáceres, Honduran rights campaigner killed in March 2016.

The awards will be given out as part of a high-level reception hosted by the Government of Mexico at the 13th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Cancun, December 2, 2016.