The School for Designing A Society was founded in 1992 by Herbert Brün, Susan Parenti, and Mark Enslin. It is an experimental school created with the intent that participants could explore not only the means for changing a social order, but also their ideas for what a desirable society could be. There are many criticisms and justifications of current societal structure; Often, those criticisms are met with the question, “do you have a better idea?” The School exists to enable its students to develop answers to that question. It is distinguished from other schools and organizations interested in social change by its emphasis on the desires and ideas of its students.

The School is not strictly an academic institution; it has neither classrooms nor administrators, but instead is a community of teachers, artists, writers, poets, and activists. It was originally known as the Summer School for Designing Society and met for four weeks in a different location each year until 1997, when it settled permanently at the University of Illinois in Urbana. Since then, it has been in operation full time.

As part of the School’s “curriculum”, participants are encouraged to think about composition – where composition means the way things are put together, or how things that have never been put together can be in new ways to do things they wouldn’t do alone. Instructors ask the participants to consider what they’d want in a desirable society, to take their ideas from concepts to concrete ideas, and act on those ideas. As former participant Thomas Hendricks put it, the School’s purpose “… would be to give people the opportunity to develop their ability to not only make a positive change in a social system, but to be able to change the system itself.”

Previous sessions of the School for Designing A Society have included such topics as:

Participants and instructors come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and this diversity is put to use in designing the classes and projects. Among the better-known instructors of the School are Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams, of the Gesundheit Institute where sessions are often held; and the late author and composer Herbert Brün, an early pioneer of electronic and computer-generated music.


Chynoweth, Danielle and Enslin, Mark. "School for Designing A Society". 18 August 2002. <> July 2003
Various authors. "Herbert Brün". 3 December 2000. <> July 2003
Dialogue for Democracy. "Dr. Susan Parenti". <> July 2003

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