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About Us

The Design Climate program was developed and launched in 2023 following the success of the Design Health program. Design Climate is a joint program between The Nicholas School of the Environment and The Pratt School of Engineering that teaches Design Thinking principles, systems-level thinking, and sustainability fundamentals.

What’s Design Climate about?

Design Climate Program Overview
Through Design Climate, students get the opportunity to build and lead their own environmentally focused business. Climate venture opportunities have been identified by Co-Designers (industry professionals or Duke faculty members), and student teams of graduate students and high-level undergraduates are guided through the design thinking process to develop new ventures. Design thinking is a methodology that focuses on deeply understanding the identified problem(s) before developing appropriate solutions. During Design Climate, students learn business skills such as business model development, project management, product management , market and competitive analyses, along with entrepreneurship. Students also learn climate fundamentals such as environmental assessment, life cycle perspective, environmental justice frameworks, and stakeholder management and engagement approaches.

The goal for Design Climate is to create future leaders who can create triple bottom line businesses that generate positive environmental, societal, and financial return. While Design Climate focuses on startup development, the entrepreneurial skills developed are valuable trainings for leaders in any future career. Students are evaluated on their immersion into the design thinking process independent of their solution viability as a startup.

Design Climate I: Discover (Fall)
The fall semester focuses on developing a business model for a triple bottom line startup idea. To develop the business model, students will be given a climate challenge prompt from a Co-Designer (industry professional or a Duke faculty member) will work through the first three phases of the design thinking process: stakeholder empathizing, opportunity definition, and solution ideation. Students will also develop a simple “prototype” to validate with potential customers . The semester culminates with a mini pitch of the startup business idea and preliminary proof-of-concept prototype that will be further vetted in Design Climate II. Why take Design Climate I: It’s a fun opportunity to immerse yourself in a climate challenge and come up with an innovative business to address it!

Design Climate II: Develop (Spring)
The spring semester focuses on getting customer feedback on the triple bottom line startup idea. Students will continue to use the design thinking framework to prototype, test, and iterate on their ideas as well as build out their business model with financial projections . By the end of the semester, students will have validated their business idea , and the semester will culminate in a more detailed pitch to members of the local entrepreneurship community. Why take Design Climate II: See if your startup idea really makes sense and learn more about financial planning and operations for real-world businesses!

Design Climate Prerequisites and Registration
No prior climate tech or entrepreneurship experience is needed. Just a willingness to learn, listen, and be creative! If accepted, you will be notified via email and sent a permission number to register for the course.

Student Eligibility
Design Climate is open to graduate students and upper-level undergraduates. For undergraduate NSOE Environmental Science and Policy students, Design Climate I and II will count for the Capstone and Focus Area course requirements.

Time Commitment
In class, there will regularly be time devoted to group work. Outside of class, the expected time commitment is between 6-10 hours per week consisting of a mix of group and individual work.

Design Climate I: Discover (Fall 2024) meets Fridays from 10:05am – 1:00pm in the Wilkinson Building. Sections: ENG 545, ENVIRON 545, and I&E 545. Ideally, the Design Climate II (Spring 2025) will be the same time.