A Selection of MOOCs on Sustainability/Ethics for Fall 2015

Lund University
There are a growing number of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) being offered on a range of sustainability topics. These courses are available for free online and open to anyone with an interest in the topic, lasting between three and fourteen weeks and taking between three and eight hours of time per week to complete. Here is a selection of such courses offered this Fall 2015, listed by topic, from PRME signatory and non-signatory schools.


Solar Energy: This course explores photovoltaic systems and the technology that converts solar energy into electricity, heat and solar fuel. From Delft University of Technology, TU Delft – starts September 1.

Energy Subsidy Reform: This course explores energy subsidies, their costs, and the design of a successful reform based on country case studies. International Monetary Fund – Starts January 27, 2016.

Climate Change – The Science: Master the basics of climate science so you can better understand the news, evaluate scientific evidence, and explain global warming to anyone. The University of British Columbia – starts October 14.

Climate Change: This course develops an interdisciplinary understanding of the social, political, economic, and scientific perspectives on climate change. The University of Melbourne – starts August 31.

Basics of Energy Sustainability: Explore basics of energy sustainability through techno/economic frameworks and global markets – a comprehensive foundation for strategic business decision-making. From Rice University – starts October.


Tropical Coastal Ecosystems: This course will help you to develop the skills and knowledge needed to help preserve tropical coastal ecosystems that provide goods and services to hundreds of millions of people. It will give an overview of the challenges, and provide tools to understand problems and solutions to manage tropical coastal ecosystems. University of Queensland Australia – starting September 1.

Introduction to Water and Climate explores how climate change, water availability and engineering innovation are key challenges for our planet. Delft University of Technology, TU Delft – starts September 1.

The Biology of Water and Health – Sustainable Interventions: This course explores how to promote safe water conservation and water sustainability to improve public health. Open Education Consortium – starts September 29.

Planet Earth…and You!: This course discusses how earthquakes, volcanoes, minerals and rocks, energy, and plate tectonics have interacted over deep time to produce our dynamic island in space, and its unique resources. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – starts September 14.

Forests and Humans – From the Midwest to Madagascar: This course explores the forests of the world, from the taiga to the tropical rainforest. Learn why humans depend on them, and how we can sustainably manage forests for us, and the many species with whom we share them. University of Wisconsin-Madison – starts September 30.


Foundations of Development Policy – Advanced Development Economics: This course uses economic theory and data analysis to explore the economic lives of the poor, and ways to design and implement effective development policy. MIT – starts September 21.

Quality of Life – Livability in Future Cities: This course explores how urban planning, energy, climate, ecology and mobility impact the livability and quality of life of a “future city.” ETH Zurich – starts September 23.

Reconciliation Through Indigenous Education: This course explores strategies, examples, and resources that support teaching and learning of indigenous ways of knowing in classrooms, schools, and communities. The University of British Columbia – starts September 29.

Business Ethics for the Real World: This self-paced course is designed to provide an introduction to the subject of ethical behaviour in business. Santa Clara University – starts August 10.

Production and Consumption

Industrial Biotechnology explores the basics of sustainable processing for bio-based products, to further understand their impact on global sustainability. Delft University of Technology, TU Delft – starts September 30.

Circular Economy – An Introduction: Design a future that rethinks our current “take-make-waste” economy to focus on circular, innovative products and business models. Delft University of Technology, TU Delft – starts October.

Greening the Economy – Lessons from Scandinavia: This course addresses sustainability, climate change and how to combine economic development with a healthy environment. It will explore how individual choices, business strategies, sustainable cities and national policies can promote a greener economy. Lund University – starts September 14.

Change Makers

Transforming Business, Society and Self: This course puts the student in the driver’s seat of innovation and change. It helps change makers see below the surface of today’s environmental, social, and spiritual-cultural challenges, identify the root issues that cause them, and create solutions from a place of deeper awareness. MIT – starts September 10.

Social Entrepreneurship: This course will cover a select set of topics associated with social innovation and entrepreneurship whether non-profit or for-profit. The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania – starts September 14.

Women in Leadership – Inspiring Positive Change: This course aims to inspire and empower women and men across the world to engage in purposeful career development, take on leadership for important causes and improve our workplaces and communities for all. Case Western Reserve University – starts September 8.

Social Learning for Social Impact: In this MOOC students will collaborate with other like-minded individuals from around the globe on doing social impact work while also being exposed to concepts and models on how to effectively do so. McGill University – starts September 16.

Innovation and Problem Solving through Creativity: This course helps participants increase innovation and improve problem solving at work by fostering your creative abilities. The University of British Columbia – starts October 20.

The Science of Happiness: This course teaches positive psychology. Berkeley University of California – starts September 8.

– Are you organising a MOOC this or next term not mentioned above? Get in touch at gweybrecht@thesustainablemba.com

Lessons in Preparing your First SIP Report from Reykjavik University

SIPReykjavik University in Iceland was awarded, at a special ceremony at the 2015 PRME Global Forum in June, a recognition for their Sharing Information on Progress report (SIP). In their first SIP report they created an engaging and reader friendly communication tool that brought together the work that they are doing at the Business School, while actively promoting the voices of different stakeholders. I spoke with Hrefna Sigriour Briem, Director of the B.SC Programme at the School of Business, about their experiences and lessons learnt preparing their first SIP report.

What approach did you take when preparing your first report and how did you go about putting the report together?

The report was an excellent opportunity to take a close look at what is already in place. We started by discussing with faculty what initiatives they were already taking in their teaching and research—we were pleasantly surprised by the fact that there was more going on than we had anticipated. The reporting process was a great opportunity to shed light on various activities that were already going on and illustrate them in a coherent manner. In addition we discussed the issue of responsible leadership and sustainability at various faculty meetings and a task force brainstormed for new ideas and initiatives, particularly how to get students more involved and how collaboration could be encouraged.

Is there a part of your report or the process that you are particularly proud of? What parts were, or still are challenging?

It was delightful to experience that faculty members and students were quite interested and enthusiastic. We are particularly proud of the fact that the report illustrates the work of a large majority of our people and the ways that responsible management education (RME) is exercised in our various programmes. Getting started was the most difficult part. What to report on and how to report was a challenge, and we spent considerable time discussing these issues.

How have you been using/communicating the report?

We have mostly used the report for internal purposes—communication to students has been our number one priority. We did however distribute the report to the business community, and the dean and programme directors have made a point of discussing the importance of RME both internally as well is in external communications such as interviews and commentaries. We do see further opportunities in participating in a dialogue with industry, particularly through FESTA, a local business network for promoting sustainability. Our report was sent to the 300 biggest organisations in Iceland and was also covered by various local media.

What advice do you have for other schools putting together their first report?

Start by looking for what is already going on. Get as many of the faculty members on board as you can, but don’t waste too much time on convincing the skeptics, the advocates are the ones that will make the change happen. It is also good to keep in mind that the report should be useful for the institution, we used the report and the process as means to take stock and set goals, that way you can refer back to it as you move along.

What plans do you have for your second report?

We will proceed with the discussion at faculty meetings and continue our task force meetings. By the time we deliver our second report we would like to have reached some of our goals set forward in the first report, particularly with regards to leading by example as an institution, increased student involvement, and measuring progress by surveying faculty and students on their knowledge and attitude towards responsible management and sustainability. We won’t change the format much, but will embark upon attaining more depth. There will be more emphasis on research concerning responsible management education. We will also create more discussion among faculty members, students, business and society.

What are some initiatives mentioned in the report that you are particularly proud of that you are working on at RU?

After we signed up to the PRME principles we came up with the idea of rewarding students for responsible and sustainable business ideas in our Entrepreneurship and
Starting New Ventures course. Reporting on this student involvement was particularly enjoyable. Taking count of students views and attitudes towards sustainability through a research initiative of two faculty members is a very important part of monitoring this constant improvement process, and we will continue this effort and report on it in our next SIP. Last but not least, we thought it was very important to demonstrate, in our SIP, the variety of research projects that our faculty are conducting related to responsible management and sustainability.

To read Reykjavik University Business School’s SIP report click here. A Basic Guide to Sharing Information on Progress was also launched at the Global Forum and is available here. For more posts on SIPs click here.

Management Education Engaging High School Students in Sustainable Business

IYD_20152 copyAugust 12th was International Youth Day, a day focused on the engagement and participation of youth in sustainable development. This year’s theme was Youth Civic Engagement, to promote young people’s effective and inclusive civic engagement at all levels.

Business schools around the world are putting in a range of programmes and initiatives to educate and prepare their students to be part of a more sustainable future. However, they are also increasingly actively engaging with local high schools students, providing them with a range of opportunities to do the same. In celebration of International Youth Day here we look at some examples from around the world.

The University of Guelph College of Business and Economics (Canada) works in partnership with a local enterprise organisation, and a group of 46 students working in teams, to co-create a design solution to support youth (ages 18-25) engagement within the community. Topic areas include mental health, skill development, entrepreneurship, education, employment, voting and volunteerism. The teams have 90 minutes to craft a solution, prepare an elevator pitch, and present their pitch to the group. In 2014 the winning team was “Smash the Stigma,” a blog used to inspire conversation, raise awareness, and ultimately change the identity of mental illness by encouraging youth to go online and share their story.

Faculty, students and staff at the University of Porto (Portugal) are involved in the “Universidade Junior Project” (Junior University Project), organising a series of activities related to economics, management, and sustainability for more than 400 youth. The school also promotes a yearly contest focused on management for high school students.

Fairleigh Dickinson University (USA) engages several local high schools and their teachers in two yearly conferences focused on renewable energy and social entrepreneurship. In April 2015, STEM high school students were immersed in a real-world planning experience in which mixed-school teams designed a solar PV system for their schools. During the sustainability conference, students were given the challenge of creating a business idea that is judged by a panel. Students with the most innovative ideas were awarded scholarships, certificates and cash prizes. The school has also partnered with the University’s School of Education to provide training and support to primary, middle, and secondary school teachers and administrators on how to develop and implement problem-based interdisciplinary units focused on local and global sustainability issues that benefit their communities.

Staff and students at Nottingham Business School (UK) have joined forces with three Nottingham-based companies—Capital One, Eversheds and Ikano—to deliver a financial literacy programme called “Cheese Matters!” to children at the city’s secondary schools. The collaboration with Nottingham Business School in 2013 has contributed an expanded pool of volunteers to deliver the programme, and offered students opportunities to network with local businesses that foster cultures of socially responsible business.

IEDC (Slovenia) co-founded Challenge:Future, a global student competition that has engaged nearly 15,000 students, 18 to 30 years old, from ninety countries, to address global sustainability challenges through open collaboration. With six sustainability challenges explored—communication, transportation, media, health, youth in society, and prosperity—Challenge:Future has ignited unprecedented interest across universities and continents, and created a vibrant online youth community dedicated to advancement of the vision of sustainable development.

MoneyThink is a national non-profit organisation that equips urban high school students with personal finance skills. This is accomplished through the help of college students who mentor at local high schools. A chapter was founded at the University of Notre Dame (USA) in 2014, and so far it has grown to include over forty mentors, impacting over 100 high school students in the South Bend Community.

University of Waikato (New Zealand) organised the Annual Sustainable Enterprise & Ethics (SEE) Awards, which aim to give high school students the opportunity to learn about responsible management and business ethics through analysing the impact of New Zealand businesses on the wider community. Teams of 3-5 students are required to prepare a case study on a business around their community. Students have access to an online web portal where they can acquire a broader understanding of these fundamental concepts through online seminars and materials. The winning school receives a cash prize of $500.

Wayne State University (USA) is an active partners in the Teen Entrepreneurship Program. Selected high school students from around the area are given an intensive one-week on-campus training experience in entrepreneurship. The programme, also known as “Green Teens” centres around having the students (working in small groups) develop various “green” business-based projects.

University of New South Wales’ (Australia) Indigenous Winter School Program is for Indigenous high school students from across Australia, in grades 10-12, who choose a faculty to spend three days with as part of a week-long residential programme. Out of a maximum group of fifteen students per faculty, the Australian School of Business (ASB) hosted 14 students.

Last but not least, Koc University (Turkey) provides a range of scholarships yearly which target successful students from underdeveloped cities in Turkey. So far 118 students have been supported.

Redesigning the Flagship Programme – Stockholm School of Economics (Part 2)

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 11.41.20Stockholm School of Economics (SSE) in Sweden recently submitted their first Sharing Information on Progress (SIP) report, which is filled with interesting and unique initiatives. In this two-part post, I feature two initiatives from SSE, the first on the multi-disciplinary Mistra Centre for Sustainable Markets, and here on their work redesigning their flagship programme to embed sustainability challenges.

Stockholm School of Economics (SSE) recently received a grant of USD 4.7 million over 10 years, from the Global Challenges Foundation, to redesign their flagship Bachelor in Business and Economics programme to focus around the biggest sustainability challenges of our time. The plans are being prepared and the programme, which is starting in 2016, will focus on a number of global challenges throughout the three-year Bachelor’s degree. The redesign will see a full core course in both the first and second years around global challenges, looking at risks and how to confront them. Secondly, students will take a number of skills courses that will address content relevant to those courses. Thirdly, there will be a range of electives around global challenges offered in the third year. I recently spoke with Pär Mårtensson, Head of Pedagogy, and Anna Nyberg, BSc Programme Director at SSE, about this ambitious project.

What are some of the global challenges that will be integrated?

Four categories are focused on throughout the programme: knowing, doing, being, and expressing. Students will first learn about a broad range of different global challenges and the underlying factors in these challenges such as climate change, global pandemics, poverty, and so on. After learning about challenges (“knowing”), the next step will be more action-oriented, i.e. what can one do about these challenges (“doing”). Based on that, the focus will shift to the students’ own view and perspective on these questions and their personal leadership (“being”). Finally, during the fourth semester, the focus will be on “expressing,” where the students will work on different projects linked to global challenges. The programme will be concluded in the Conference Day on Global Challenges at the Stockholm School of Economics.

Will this be integrated into other programmes as well?

As a starting-point we will focus on our BSc-programme in Business & Economics where the new mandatory track on “Global Challenges in Context” will be introduced from August 2016. As there will be new courses developed for this programme and several teachers involved, we can assume that there will be some indirect effects also on other programmes, but at the moment there are no plans for introducing similar mandatory tracks in other programmes.

What have been some of the challenges/successes of redesigning the programme to include these issues?

We are still in the early phase of this process, but one challenge is to find suitable ways to integrate this theme within different subject areas. How this will be done will vary between courses and will be decided in dialogue with the different teachers involved. So far, we have been met with positive reactions from faculty members who have seen many different way of integrating this into their courses. We believe that one important factor for a successful redesign of the programme is that this will be a theme that is counted as important as other topics. That is, it will be mandatory, there will different forms of examination, and there will be grades, just like in all other courses. This is one way of signaling the importance of the topic.

What advice do you have for other schools thinking of doing something similar?

It is, of course, very important to have the full support and commitment from the management of the school. It is also important to make sure that the resources needed will be available. We are lucky to have received a generous grant from the Global Challenges Foundation. We also believe that it is important to have a core team of committed teachers who really want to do this. Finally, it is important to include the students at an early stage of the process, for example by inviting them to different workshops and by having regular meetings with student representatives.

What’s next?

The next step in the process of redesigning is to start developing the different courses in more detail. In parallel with this, we will also start running faculty development activities to help prepare teachers who will be working with this new and exciting initiative!

To read Stockholm School of Economics’ full two-part blog post click here.

Generating Concrete, Multi-Disciplinary Solutions to Sustainability Challenges – Stockholm School of Economics (Part 1)

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 11.35.32The Stockholm School of Economics (SSE) in Sweden recently submitted their first Sharing Information on Progress (SIP) report, which is filled with interesting and unique initiatives. Sweden is home to a range of international companies including Ericsson, Astra Zeneca, Ikea, Skanska, Skype and H&M providing several opportunities for the School to engage and contribute to the corporate sustainability agenda. I recently spoke with Lin Lerpold, Executive Director at the Mistra Centre for Sustainable Markets at SSE about some of the initiatives that they are currently most proud of.

The first of two featured initiatives is SSE’s Mistra Centre for Sustainable Markets (MISUM) that started the first of January 2015, and already includes more than 17 multi-disciplinary researchers. Funded by the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research (MISTRA) for the next five years, the Centre will aim to generate concrete solutions and processes that will contribute directly to sustainable economic development. It is cross-disciplinary and research is meant to be collaborative and draw on actors from academia, business and policy, in order to understand and create business-relevant solutions for sustainable markets. The Centre has three pillars: research, education and outreach, which will develop in concert with each other.

How did this partnership with MISTRA come about?

The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research (MISTRA) supports research of strategic importance for a good living environment and sustainable development. The SSE has a long reputation for conducting collaborative research with Swedish Multinationals such as Ericsson and H&M. Mistra approached SSE some years back and wanted to meaningfully support the already ongoing sustainability research in a major way, not least of all building on SSE’s corporate connections and having an impact on future leaders in society.

What are some of the research projects you are working on now, or are being planned going forward?

A number of research projects are already being conducted in MISUM. Projects include a focus on circular economies in the fashion industry, microfinance and poverty alleviation, global supply chains and human rights, the creation of sustainable food consumption, sustainable capital budgeting, and integrated reporting. A new project is in the works focusing on sustainable systems, including research on how current economic systems can better be used for more sustainable markets. This project is really exciting involving some 50 researchers in Sweden and abroad, and is a collaboration between natural scientists, engineers, economists, management scholars, sociologists, political scientists and even philosophers.

How will this impact teaching and students? Will students be involved? Students are already involved in a number of capacities. Several are helping out in an administrative capacity whilst learning about sustainability research, others are working as teaching assistants in courses and a number are participating in either a MISUM-initiated research project or in MISUM-supported thesis research. Regarding MISUM’s impact on teaching, the SSE mission is that all education is based on science. Thus our teaching relies on the latest research and all MISUM faculty are simultaneously researchers and teachers covering all degree programmes at SSE.

What are some of the challenges/successes of working across disciplines through this centre?

All trans- and cross-disciplinary research collaborations are a challenge. Researchers from different fields most often have diverse views on ontology and the philosophy of science, and approach knowledge with different lenses and methods. This is a challenge and requires time to learn a common language and understanding. Though our pre-understandings may be different, all researchers in MISUM have been recruited on two requirements: one, that they are excellent researchers in their own fields and two, that they share a common passion for sustainable development and the conviction that solving our sustainability challenges require a trans-disciplinary research.

What advice do you have for other schools thinking of doing something similar?

Get top level strategic support from school leadership, and meaningful resources to make it happen. For a long time and increasingly so, academic careers are solely built on publications not easily accessible to users or practitioners. The relevance of academic research to society and stakeholders has been seriously challenged, and the role of universities and business schools in society is being debated. As Brewer (1999) says, “The world has problems, universities have departments.” To address this, leadership must have the vision and the resources to commit to change.

What’s next?

After the initial start-up and the creation of a critical mass in researchers working together, MISUM is well positioned to develop into a knowledge and resource centre of excellence on sustainable markets, its actors, structures and processes. As multi-stakeholder collaboration in research is further ensured and deepened, plans are under way to develop a “Sustainable Markets Action Lab” where financial market actors, companies and researchers can together design and experiment with sustainability initiatives and monitor their actual outcomes as they unfold.

Part two of this post will introduce SSE’s work in redesigning their flagship programme to embed sustainability challenges.

The Sustainable Development Goals and Management Education – an Overview and Update

Over the past couple of years the international community has come together to create a range of far-reaching goals and targets to replace the previous set of goals, the Millennium Development Goals, which are set to expire at the end of this year. These cover a wide range of issues: social, environmental and economic. Their replacement, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been undergoing development through a collaborative process engaging a wide range of stakeholders, including business through the UN Global Compact. This new set of goals will be agreed upon in September, and will come into effect on the 1st of January 2016. They will help guide national priorities as well as the work of business and other organisations for the next 15 years. For a background of the SDG process, read this previous Primetime post.

Why should management education care?

It is crucial that business school students are knowledgeable about these goals, the implications on business, and the impact that business can have. Each provide both risks and opportunities for businesses of all sizes, and opportunities for business schools to partner with local, national and international businesses on these priorities. The SDGs provide a wealth of opportunities for collaboration with business around research and new programme development. Explore further how management education can engage in this here.

What are the seventeen goals?

The SDGs are made up of seventeen goals and 169 associated targets. The goals are:

Goal 1 End poverty in all its forms everywhere
Goal 2 End hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
Goal 3 Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Goal 4 Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Goal 5 Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Goal 6 Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
Goal 7 Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
Goal 8 Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Goal 9 Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation
Goal 10 Reduce inequality within and among countries
Goal 11 Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Goal 12 Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Goal 13 Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Goal 14 Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
Goal 15 Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably managed forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Goal 16 Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions of all levels
Goal 17 Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development

How is the business sector engaged?

Based on extensive consultations with the Global Compact network of companies, a series of issue briefs were developed to explore the critical role business has to play in achieving the SDGs, and the willingness of the business community and higher education institutions to support the efforts of government and civil society in this work. A recently released document on the Global Compact and the SDGs explores why they are relevant to business The UN Global Compact and business internationally are committed to the SDGs.

What about the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)?

The Millennium Development Goals Report 2015 was recently released. The report provides a final assessment of global and regional progress towards the MDGs since their endorsement in 2000. It shows that significant progress has been made across all goals and that the global efforts to achieve the MDGs have saved the lives of millions and improved conditions for many more around the world. The report also acknowledges uneven progress and shortfalls in many areas, which need to be addressed in the new SDGs.

What’s next?

A draft of the outcome document is now available, that will be signed by the Heads of State and Government of the 193 member States of the United Nations in New York from the 25-27 of September 2015. This document fully outlines all the goals and related targets. You can also follow the negotiations at the UN General Assembly live or watch past negotiations on UN WEB TV including the most recent intergovernmental negotiations, which took place on 22-25 June 2015.

Where to find out more?

Over the coming months I will be posting more information about the goals and how to engage students in them, as well as a range of resources that can be used in the classroom. For more information on the SDG process visit https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org and http://post2015.org. For updates on the UN Global Compact’s engagement in the SDG visit www.unglobalcompact.org. For past Primetime posts covering the SDGs, click here.


Business Schools Engaging in Interdisciplinary Projects to Reach Sustainable Development Goals – Aarhus University and the Maasai Mara in Kenya

20150422_130113Global challenges are often very complex and call for evidence-based solutions across disciplines and sectors. The question is, who can and will take leadership and bring the necessary stakeholders to the table to find sustainable solutions?

Universities and business schools, like Aarhus University School of Business and Social Sciences (Aarhus BSS) in Denmark, are increasingly taking on this role. Initiated by the Interdisciplinary Centre for Organizational Architecture (ICOA), a global challenge has been identified at Aarhus BSS to work on sustainable development challenges with the Maasai Mara in Kenya. I spoke with Program Director Pernille Kallehave from Aarhus University about this ambitious and unique project.

What is the Maasai Mara?

The Maasai Mara is a national reserve named in honour of its ancestral inhabitants, the Maasai people. Thousands of wildebeests migrate every year from the Serengeti plains in Tanzania to eat the juicy grass of the Maasai Mara. While rich mega faunas with large annual migrations like in the Maasai Mara were once common across the earth, they now form a unique African heritage, and survive only in a declining, small part of the continent. The Maasai Mara hence constitutes a unique and irreplaceable part of Africa’s natural heritage. With about one million inhabitants, the Maasai Mara also experiences an increase of the population of 4,7% annually, with a poverty index of 41%, and about 344,000 people living below poverty line. These people need food, jobs, education, infrastructure and health services, and these needs put huge pressure on the land, and increase human-wildlife conflicts. Thus, the Maasai Mara faces challenges in four main categories: land use and climate change, ecosystem challenges, political and economic challenges, and human and cultural challenges.

How did Aarhus become involved with the Maasai Mara?

The Maasai Mara project was initiated by a request from administrators of the Karen Blixen Camp, a safari camp in the Maasai Mara. A year ago, they presented the many challenges of the area for example the ongoing erosion of the area’s iconic wildlife and other key ecosystem components, the human-wildlife conflicts, the climate change, the land tenure system breakdown, and the uncoordinated research activities. They expressed the need for evidence-based knowledge to ensure sustainable development of the region. Intrigued by the challenge, an interdisciplinary group of researchers from the four faculties at Aarhus University and the Justus-Liebig Universät Giessen (Germany) established The Maasai Mara Science and Development Action (MMSDA). Maasai Mara University and University of Nairobi from Kenya soon joined the project.

Researchers in this interdisciplinary network represent a broad variety of perspectives; researchers from biology and agri-ecology will contribute with knowledge about climate change, ecosystem management and food security, and researchers from economy and business will look at the economic drivers and governance challenges of the region. Cultural analysis will be brought in to understand the complex cultural dynamics and the intricate negotiations around heritage and identity. Furthermore, ICOA provides knowledge in developing models that can analyse complex dynamic interdisciplinary organisational problems using statistical as well as simulation models. The models will integrate biological and social data, combining both quantitative and qualitative data.

What are the key features of the programme and how does it work in practice?

The intentions of the MMSDA are fourfold:

  • Develop a research strategy that can meet the research needs of the identified challenges of the Maasai Mara: In April 2015 the first Summit took place at Maasai Mara University. A broad group of academic and non-academic participants provided valuable insights about the challenges. The four universities involved are now developing a catalogue of research ideas. The ideas will be mapped with the challenges to ensure that the research initiatives will be relevant and have a potential to create real impact and sustainable solutions.
  • Develop interdisciplinary analysis tools that can work with the complexity of the challenges. This includes the development of a cross-disciplinary database that can feed data into the analysis tools. To develop the analysis tools, the network connects researchers with different professional backgrounds from Europe and Africa. Later other researchers will be invited to share their data and results via the database for the benefit of the Maasai Mara.
  • Develop strategies for how the results of analysis can be implemented. This is done in collaboration with researchers and stakeholders with local knowledge (Kenyan ministries and universities, companies, local community and institutions, NGOs, conservancies etc.).
  • Facilitate local implementation projects in cooperation with local authorities and population. This requires a special organisation of the project with a number of advisory boards, associate members and a strong outreach strategy. This is being set up now.

A Board of the projects and an interdisciplinary Scientific Board have been elected. They will design a strategy for the activities to support the interdisciplinary cooperation.

What have been some of the lessons you have learnt so far or some of the interesting insights that have come from working on this process?

All involved are very enthusiastic and show a high degree of commitment to the project. Working holistically with an important challenge and in close cooperation with the people, whose lives are affected by the problems, inspires the researchers involved. Research has a new meaning now that publication is not the main goal.

What have been some of the challenges? Successes?

Of course working across continents and culture is always a bit of a challenge, but also makes it very exciting. We are looking forward to starting the dialogue with potential sponsors and getting their feedback. We hope that they will appreciate our holostic approach. This will give them the opportunity to make a difference in a long-term and evidence-based manner.

The Summit at Maasai Mara University 21-23 April 2015 was a great success. The Maasai King came and endorsed the project and so did the Danish Ambassador in Kenya. But most importantly, the local Maasai community came and engaged in the discussions.

What’s next for the initiative? 

We will now define an ambitious 20-year research and development proposal and then go look for funding. We will also start including students in the project and use the Maasai Mara as a case in teaching at various programmes. The next Summit will take place in the spring of 2016 and here we will invite researchers from other universities to come and share their research.

For more on this project visit http://projects.au.dk/maasai-mara-science-and-development-action/





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