Revitalizing economic and social fabrics

23 August – 01 September, 2019
Santa Clara-Saboia, Portugal
Register Now!
Deadline 17 May 2019

You will learn the soft skill of interdisciplinary collaboration while working on future scenarios of a center for the rural future that will revitalize the Odemira municipality in Southern Portugal.

What will you work on and why

While Odemira is the municipality with the largest territory in Portugal, its interior has one of the lowest population densities in Europe. Over the last two generations it has lost more than 70% of its inhabitants due to major shifts in agriculture and lack of alternative opportunities. This results in an ageing population, dispersed over a vast area, affected by isolation and social exclusion (one of the world's lowest birth rates, and a dramatic suicide rate three times the national level). Its shrinking population leads to neglect of the land, the decay of infrastructure, and the loss of traditions, knowledge, and culture.

Our partner is CLARA, a recently established center for the rural future. They purchased an old brick factory where the center will be located. Their sustainable development strategy is based on three crucial components:
- The integration of the local community of the interior of Odemira, embracing their skills, perspectives, and traditions
- The valorisation of indigenous resources; as a way to improve the local economy
- The attraction of new visitors and of the creative community and with their support, stimulate and activate new opportunities and spaces of dialogue and thought

Who are we looking for

We partnered with CLARA to investigate the future scenarios of such a center for the rural future. Our main aim is to develop functions and activities alongside business models that will help the center to revitalise the economic and social fabric of the area. We are looking for participants including, but not limited to, the following areas:

Social entrepreneurship
Art management
Business management
Systems thinking
Community development
Design management
Service design
Web Development

Team facilitators and experts

(More team facilitators to be announced.)

Dr John Stevens

Dr John Stevens joined the Royal College of Art in 2013 to help launch the new Global Innovation Design MA. John’s research interests concern the application of design methods to emerging contexts of innovation such as service design, multi-disciplinary design and design management, especially applied to social, cross-cultural and humanitarian innovation. This necessarily encompasses the design of products, interactions and systems.


What will you learn

Although we have different topics for each of our summer schools, they all focus on learning skills that will strengthen your ability to solve complex problems — regardless of the field you come from. We believe that hard skills are important, but with the rapid evolution of technology, a focus on hard skills can potentially leave you vulnerable to change as these often have a shorter shelf life. Soft skills, on the other hand, enable you to adapt to change more easily.

story telling

complex problem


cross-cultural teamwork




What you’ll be doing

You will be working on a real project in an interdisciplinary team because soft skills learning should be experience based. You will attend a 10 days / 9 nights on site workshop with both preparatory work and post-workshop assignment. You will produce project deliveries that might be used for further development and implementation thus achieving real impact in a long run.


An important part of the learning process when working with other people is to be open to, aware of, and efficient when giving and receiving feedback.

Team development

Understand the various tools and research regarding team development and group dynamics. Increase your confidence at utilizing team building tools.

Social impact

Understand how your project might have a positive effect on the social fabric of the community and well-being of individuals and families.

What will you gain

Besides the obvious part of learning the aforementioned mentioned skills, you will be part of an ever growing community of Holis alumni. Holis alumni consist of team facilitators and participants who are spread across the world. It’s a network of like-minded people who are helpful and occasionally even collaborate on projects.

How much does it cost?

This program is a non-profit endeavour. We receive a lot of volunteer work, get support from our sponsors, and grants. Nevertheless, your contribution is essential to make it work. We kindly ask that you pay as much as you can within the following ranges.

Student/Unemployed: €400-500.
(Self)Employed: €500-600.

Register Now!
Deadline 17 May 2019

Application process

Step 1 — Registration
This is you saying that you are interested in participating. We will ask you for some basic personal data and nudge you to complete your application.

Step 2 — Motivation letter and project portfolio
In your motivation letter, please tell us why you would like to attend Holis, what you expect from it, your relevant experiences, what you find interesting about the topic of this year’s summer school, and how can you contribute to the summer school and your team. Your motivation letter should be around 500 words. In your project portfolio, you should present projects that you were part of that are relevant to the summer school. Your project portfolio should be a one-page document.

Step 3 — Shortlisting
We will evaluate your application based on your motivation letter and project portfolio. We are looking for participants who excel in their chosen profession, are eager to learn, open for interdisciplinary collaboration, and have a sense of social and environmental justice. We will evaluate applications on the last day of each month meaning that if you submit your application earlier, you will get your results earlier.

Step 4 — Video interview
We will have a 30 minute interview with every shortlisted applicant to understand each one better and to answer any questions.

Step 5 — Final selection
We will make the final selection of participants one week after the application deadline at the latest. After you pay your participation fee, we will start the preparatory work online.

Why Holis

The Holis approach is different from traditional courses. We pay attention to every aspect of your well-being and learning. Our venue is in a rural  environment away from the rush of big cities; we prepare all of the delicious food that you will eat ourselves; there are opportunities to participate in sporting activities, games, and evening bonfires. All of this is intentionally planned to deliver a unique and unforgettable educational experience.

Learn by doing

We know from experience that people learn best through active doing, giving and receiving peer feedback, and hands-on problem solving.

Work in teams

Collaboration is a core competence in a world of complexity and constant change.

Peer learning

We select only the best candidates so that you can learn from each other.


We facilitate learning in the context of social challenges to make it all immediately relevant and useful.

Global network

We work with top experts and facilitators to provide the most cutting-edge content.

Do good

We facilitate learning in the context of social challenges to make it all immediately relevant and useful.
Register Now!
Deadline 17 May 2019


Why do I need to apply?

You will receive the information regarding how to make the payment once your application has been selected.

How and when to pay?

You will receive the information regarding how to make the payment once your application has been selected.

What’s included in the price?

Accommodation (9 nights)
Daily 3 meals (9 days)
A carefully selected international interdisciplinary team
An outstanding team facilitator
A real problem/task to work on and make an impact
High quality photos and videos that you can use
Certificate at the end of the programme

Please note that you will be responsible for your travel to and from the venue!

Do you have scholarship?

We offer a limited number of scholarship places for those who can't afford the full fee. With a scholarship you will receive a 60% discount on the student fee. If you are planning to apply for the scholarship please let us know at the end of the application form. Scholarships are awarded based on financial needs and the quality of your application.
We expect a participants with a scholarship to become a Holis Ambassador and help us in our mission to raise the awareness around soft skills, interdisciplinary collaboration and social innovation learning.

What’s the student/employed ratio?

We allocate 30% of the places for students/unemployed.

Life can only be understood backwards

The first Holis focused on the future scenarios of an old felt factory, which at the time was suffering from a 90% loss of income due to the rise in popularity of synthetic felts. As a result of the solutions that Holis participants helped to identify and implement, the felt factory now has new owners, new products, and other thriving business activities. Since then we’ve been working on the challenges of ageing and retirement in Ajka and Herend (HU), new functions for the Rákóczi-Bánffy ​castle in Gilău (RO), and the challenges of alienation, small-scale farming, public spaces, and well being in Sobole (PL).

Partners and sponsors