Carra Santos

Sustainable Futures Thinking for visionary Leaders, educators and advisors

Carra Santos at Maker Carousel, 100% Design London, 2014.

Sustainable Futures Thinking equips you to navigate and shape the future

If you're someone who people look to for future guidance and direction, then - in the face of the climate crisis, social division and economic turbulence - you may currently be:

  • Sensing that your decisions should be informed and future-proofed by insights beyond your own specialism.

  • Facing challenging questions from your clients, colleagues, teams, students or constituents, or other sectors and stakeholder groups.

  • Swamped by conflicting language, information, opinions and priorities.

This may be preventing you from moving forward efficiently or communicating with confidence.

Design Research: Pockets of the Future
Pictured: 'Muita Fruta' is an urban orchard project in Lisbon, Portugal. Photo by Carra Santos.

'Muita Fruta' is an urban orchard project in Lisbon, Portugal. Image by Carra Santos.

About futures thinking

Futures thinking is a manageable practice that enables creative and critical thinking on a 10 year timeframe - far enough away to stimulate imaginations, yet close enough to act - developing your competences in creativity, foresight, mental agility, enquiry, strategy, empathy and hope.The aim of futures thinking is not to predict the future, but to create a space to think about:

  1. Possibilities, so we can come up with new and better ways of doing things; and

  2. Likelihoods, considering all the angles and unexpected consequences, so we can evaluate, mitigate and prepare for various obstacles along the way.

Cultivating a futures thinking mindset improves your contextual knowledge of emerging topics within your reach; your ability to evaluate, organise and prioritise insights; and your confidence to communicate them.

Design Research: Pockets of the Future
Pictured: Belfast City Council's '2 Royal Avenue' is a free 'indoor public park' at the heart of the city for the people of Belfast, Northern Ireland. Photo by Carra Santos.

Futures thinking x Sustainability

When we reference the widely-accepted UN definition of sustainability: “Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”, we can apply our futures thinking skills to real-world needs in real time.We start from three overarching concepts:

  • Liveable futures. Our long-term ability to meet environmental needs and live - eat, drink, breathe, shelter, stay warm, stay cool - within the environment we inhabit.

  • Equitable futures. Our long-term ability to work together to meet the social needs, not just of ourselves, but of everyone, everywhere.

  • Viable futures. Our long-term ability to produce what we use, grow, make, swap, buy and sell within the limits of what's available to us on this planet.

Rather than focusing on what should be reduced or given up, this forward-looking approach empowers current and future leaders, educators and advisors to imagine liveable, equitable and viable futures with their stakeholders, and make solid steps towards them through current projects - shaping tomorrow, today.

“Carra knows her sustainability stuff and her knowledge has depth in addition to passion.”

Design Research: Indicators of Need
Pictured: A call for colour and nature through children's graffiti on the breezeblock shelter on their concrete playground, Bristol, UK. Photo by Carra Santos.

Colour and nature within children's graffiti on the breezeblock shelter on their concrete playground, Bristol, UK. Photo by Carra Santos.

Work with me

Sustainable Futures
Thinking Partner

I equip visionary leaders, educators and advisors with the futures thinking skills to navigate and shape the future.To contribute the deep interdisciplinary knowledge required for responsible guidance, I typically work on a one-to-one basis with individuals and small teams over a period of 6-12 months, spanning 0.5 days to 5 days per month. Example activities during that time include:

  • Online/telephone consultations. Soundboarding, signposting, and addressing your questions and challenges as they arise.

  • Tailored learning sessions and resources. Developing specialist knowledge and skills as particular needs emerge.

  • Document reviews. Notes with recommendations/improvements, strengthening proposals, copy and communication.

  • Email Q&A. Considering and explaining issues, opportunities and obstacles as you encounter them.

  • Curated research and reading lists. Including added explanations appropriate to your context.

I work closely with you to get you on to solid ground. To be useful to you while we evaluate our potential fit, I offer your first online consultation free of charge.

“Carra’s approach to every project is in-depth, practical and passionate; working with her is always a very pleasurable experience.”

Design Research: Pockets of the Future
Pictured: An ongoing project combining nature with urban planning on the Ile de Nantes, France. Photo by Carra Santos.

An ongoing project combining nature with urban planning on the Ile de Nantes, France. Photo by Carra Santos.

My background

Exploring all the angles

My broad, in-depth and interconnected insights into sustainable futures themes are based on inherent creativity and relentless curiosity.Over 20+ years, my career in creative communication has evolved from illustration and design, to internationally-acclaimed product innovation and future concepts for world-class events, to creative thinking skills for visionary leadership.Feet kept firmly on the ground by an MSc Sustainable Development in Practice (Distinction), this creative yet research-focused approach results in strategies that are imaginative and far-seeing, yet pragmatic in their approach.

“Extremely knowledgeable and passionate - these two qualities don’t always come together.”

Design Research: Pockets of the Future
Pictured: LX Factory, a modern arts and creative enterprise hub in Lisbon, Portugal.

Carra Santos at LX Factory, a modern arts and creative enterprise hub in Lisbon, Portugal.
Carra Santos

Contact me

Always Happy to Talk

Please don’t hesitate to email me and we'll work out a good time to chat about what inspires you.

“It was a real pleasure working with Carra, I look forward to working with her again in the future.”

Request your complementary consultation

Complete the form to arrange your complementary telephone/online consultation of up to 50 minutes. Details will be provided upon confirmation of a date/time that works for both of us.

Carra is UK-based and works internationally.
© Carra Santos MSc FRSA

Example Clients

Education & Advisory

Higher education (e.g. design, business, finance and technology), councils, enterprise/industry/trade advisors, and business leaders, for example:

  • A design educator aiming to understand and integrate circular economy practices and skills into curriculums as the sector skills of the future.

  • A group of finance and business academics looking to introduce fundamental/advanced sustainable development principles and practice into course materials.

“It’s fantastic to be shown that we can start a conversation and provide leadership/guidance through our courses, even if we are not experts.”

Creative/Design Leaders

Architecture, placemaking, design (multi-disciplinary), hospitality, branding, communication and technology, for example:

  • An interior design business owner aiming to commission social enterprises and contribute to their clients' social and environmental impact objectives.

  • A creative agency aiming to deliver more local economic, environmental and community impact through their client projects and communication.

“Working with Carra is a fantastic opportunity that all businesses should be lucky to have. You need to know more than you think you know, and I would highly recommend that Carra be the person to bring the passion and creative solution to your business.”

Place-Based Projects

Place-based start-ups, social enterprises, councils, urban and public spaces, and educational/design-led community initiatives, for example:

  • A lead architect working to expand projects from CO2 emissions reduction to social impact and community resilience.

  • A community leader wishing to cultivate deep understanding of Doughnut Economics theory and practice on which to develop clear strategy, outreach and communication.

“A special talent for looking at projects delivering solutions that satisfy the requirements from all stakeholder perspectives, are truly relevant and have undeniable integrity.”

Example Projects & Research

Public Talks & Presentations

CfSD (Centre for Sustainable Design) 'Accelerating Sustainability in Fashion, Clothing and Textiles' Book Launch & Workshop
Presentation of my lead chapter contribution for the academic/industry-focused book launch, alongside facilitation of a roundtable discussion..
The RSA (Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) 'A Different Way'
An online talk for the RSA highlighting the role of creatives to shift sustainability-thinking ‘beyond net-zero’ and create the conditions for everyone to thrive within the means of the living world.
Design Council: 'Design, differently with Communities'
Scriptwriting, delivery and recording of a futures narrative imagining life in circular communities in the year 2033 - on themes of energy, mobility, land use, food, education and circular skills - including co-facilitation of the related workshop at Design for Planet alongside members of the Design Council team.
Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution ‘Doughnut Economics: Can Bath Thrive Like Amsterdam?’
An in-person lecture at BRLSI exploring the potential of the UK city of Bath to thrive like Amsterdam - the first European city to adopt The Doughnut as its economic development strategy.
UCA (University for the Creative Arts) Sustainable Innovation Conference 'All Sewn Up: Dismantling Fast Fashion Consumption as a Social Practice through Creative Empowerment and Consumer Collaboration'
Academic and industry research paper, presentation and (consequently) Routledge book chapter contribution, on enabling sustainable social behaviours through post-growth fashion design and retail.

Research Writing & Publications

Accelerating Sustainability in Fashion, Clothing and Textiles.
Lead author of Chapter 17: Crafting connections with clothing: values, influence and relationships, by Carra Santos, Kadian Gosler and Ann Marie Newton.
Published by Routledge, edited by Martin Charter, Bernice Pan and Sandy Black.
'All Sewn Up: Dismantling Fast Fashion Consumption as a Social Practice through Creative Empowerment and Consumer Collaboration'
Research paper on sustainable behaviour change in fashion industry and consumption exploring Social Practice Theory to restore creative thinking and practical skills, published by UCA Centre for Sustainable Design.

'Communicating Degrowth: Analysing language to find favourable starting points for degrowth discourse with UK business leaders'
A Master’s dissertation exploring effective communication of sustainability and degrowth business practices to UK business leaders, combining economics, behaviour and communication theory.

Further/Higher & CPD Education

'The World We Will Create'
Visioning and futures thinking workshops and resources for young people (15-24) to support their sense of empowerment and agency in shaping a climate-positive future in ways that inspire them.
'The Basics of Sustainable Futures'
Design and ongoing facilitation of a four-part education programme delivered to design, business, finance and technology academics, to provide sustainable development context beyond their subject specialisms, and help inform their content, curriculums, and responses to student enquiries.
'The Future of Interior Design Practice'
Research and recommendations report with stakeholder presentation on interior design education in the context of a regenerative, distributive and circular economy, for an award-winning private interior design school in London, UK.
‘The Sustainability Spectrum’
A learning series for creative and professional services demonstrating the full scope of sustainable futures beyond 'green', and their untapped potential to support an integrated approach to environmental, social and economic innovation.

Urban Design & Community Development

'Make Space for Soil'
A cohesive communication campaign concept to educate and encourage two interconnected audiences - city-dwellers and private developers - to incorporate space for soil into urban property developments, homes and gardens, with core messages adapted to each.
'Bridge to Belonging'
A place-based evaluation tool to establish priorities and consensus among designers and decision-makers at a neighbourhood level - in particular, within areas of urban inequality/deprivation.
'Design for Thriving Cities'
A future-shaping series of workshops for design professionals, conveying needs and knowledge in context, including Circular Economy, Social Value, Inclusive Design and Reinstating Nature.

Design Council: 'Design, differently'
Coach and co-facilitator for a six-month Design Council programme that invited six communities and councils to combine design thinking with systems thinking, to solve local challenges and issues as a result of the wider effects of climate change.

Educational Design Installations

Farm Kitchen for 100% Design, London
A 272sqm immersive design concept, installation and pop-up restaurant integrating micro-agriculture - the practice of growing food on a small scale using a variety of light sources, irrigation methods and growing mediums - into interior design. Sponsored by Gaggenau.
Maker Carousel for 100% Design, London
A playful 81sqm makerspace concept and installation designed to reveal the magical world of the designer-maker - from paper prototyping, model-making and block-printing to 3D printing, smart tech and connectivity - a colourful journey steeped in experimentation and spontaneity. Sponsored by Oikos.
Mattergarden for 100% Design, London
Creative concept for a 160sqm design installation devised as an interactive platform for the exploration of natural and regenerative materials, treatments and applications used in design, architecture and construction. Sponsored by Formica Group.

Doughnut Economics

Economic Development Strategy, Bath & North East Somerset Council, UK
Independent analysis, synthesis and interpretation of participatory research findings for public review, following the Doughnut Economics strategy launch in B&NES, UK, facilitated by economist Kate Raworth and the DEAL team.
Staffordshire & Stoke-on-Trent 'Celebration of the Possible', UK
Workshop facilitation on behalf of and alongside Globe Group CIC and Keele University, with independent analysis, synthesis and interpretation of their initial regional research presented to multi-stakeholders and decision-makers at their launch event.
Bath City Doughnut Learning Group
Organising and hosting monthly learning sessions for the professional and local community to read, learn and apply Doughnut Economics principles, and gain a deeper understanding of the concept and its potential in the city of Bath, UK.

Carra is UK-based and works internationally.
© Carra Santos MSc FRSA


Carra combines twenty years in the creative and design industries with an interdisciplinary MSc Sustainable Development in Practice (Distinction).Over the years, her career has evolved from multidisciplinary creative and design concepts for cross-sector applications - including internationally-acclaimed product innovation and highly-prescient future concepts for world-class events - to future-shaping skills and inspiration for forward-thinking leadership.Carra's approach is influenced by her career origins in multidisciplinary concept generation and development - tapping into food, fashion, interiors, furniture, exhibition, spatial and urban design - and her personal passion, which is exploring how transformative habits, attitudes, practices, behaviours and relationships can be facilitated by forward-thinking design and communication.She has introduced diverse and interconnected topics via talks, workshops, interviews, research presentations and panel/roundtable discussions, as a Design Council Expert, and at Design Council's Design for Planet, The Design and Technology Association (DATA), Sustainable Innovation Conference, the International Federation of Interior Architects/Designers (IFI), the International Food and Drink Event (IFE), and 100% Design London.In addition to her everyday practice, she is an independent Doughnut Economics educator and facilitator. Her lead author chapter contribution to the book ‘Accelerating Sustainability in Fashion, Clothing & Apparel’ was published by Routledge in 2023.


Powering Change: Women in Innovation and Creativity
ACID Female Design Champion Award, Runner Up.
Issued by ACID (Anti-Copying in Design) on World Intellectual Property Day 2018.
“For the imaginative boundary breaking work she is doing between different individuals” - Design Council

Key research areas

Carra Santos

Carra's 'beyond net-zero' research sparks from three vibrant themes: Regenerative Enterprise, Circular Networks and Creative Communities.These interconnected themes offer a groundswell of creative, place-based potential to shape thriving futures that can be sustained within the means of the living world.Regenerative Enterprise
Alternative business models and project strategies that aim to put back more than they take, so as to preserve and restore our natural environment - often from the perspective of micro- (<10) and small (<50) enterprises in particular.
Circular Networks
Practical and interpersonal skills for beyond-sector knowledge and collaborative relationships across different disciplines and communities, to preserve our life support systems and spread economic opportunities widely.
Creative Communities
The physical and digital landscape that supports creative and collaborative capabilities within communities, such as growing, making, sharing, repairing, and learning the practical skills required to support a circular economy.

Academic underpinnings.

Carra's in-depth and interconnected insights into sustainable futures education and communication are based on inherent creativity, curiosity and ongoing research into new economics, enterprise, behaviour, communication and design, reinforcing her twenty-plus years of creative practice with academic insights.

Master's Modules:

  • Sustainable Development: Principles and Practice

  • The Sustainable Organisation: Vision into Practice

  • Sustainability in the Built Environment

  • Creating Sustainable Behaviour Change

  • Communications Campaigns: Creative Approaches and Tools

  • Learning Design for Professional Development

  • Journalism Writing

Carra is UK-based and works internationally.
© Carra Santos MSc FRSA