Online and connected: Engaging students in sustainability projects

In the second installment of our series about how universities are using the internet to engage students in sustainability, we look at a growing range of online platforms where students can work together to come up with solutions to real problems and challenges around the world.

IEDC-Bled School of Management in Slovenia co-founded the Challenge:Future global student competition, which has engaged nearly 15000 students ages 18 to 30 from 90 countries to address global sustainability challenges through the means of open collaborative innovation. With six sustainability challenges explored in the 2009-2010 competition year (communication, transportation, media, health, youth in society, and prosperity), Challenge:Future has ignited interest across universities and created a vibrant online youth community dedicated to these issues. Young people can submit solutions to the challenges and/or vote on the submissions already posted online.

Several universities, including Boston University School of Management, are becoming active on an online platform called JustMeans, a social networking and corporate news site devoted to issues in corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability. Here, users can participate in forums and contests, read editorials, listen to podcasts, post news releases, look for jobs, network with leading companies in the CSR space, and follow the professional activities of others in their networks.

Dominican University is using the power of microlending to flight global poverty by working with Kiva, an online platform that lets individuals lend as little as $25 to entrepreneurs around the world. Lenders receive updates and, as the borrower repays the loan, the money becomes available in the lenders account again. Dominican University’s Kiva Lending Team, founded in June 2009, surpassed its first-year goal of making $5,000 in loans. The team has provided over US $17000 in loans to date, which places the school in the Top 25 “Colleges/Universities” supporting Kiva.

Another interesting example is OpenIDEO, an online platform that involves the global community to solve big challenges for social good. Although not associated with any specific business school (IDEO, a design and innovation firm, developed OpenIDEO as a way to include a broader range of people in the design process), it is a place where students can participate in coming up with solutions to real problems around the world.  Challenges are posted on the website and go through three phases – inspiration, conception and evaluation. The community is then invited to contribute through photos, sketches, and/or business models, which might provide new information, sometimes building off another person’s work.

Ashoka Changemakers is a global online community that supports everyone’s ability to be a changemaker by inspiring, mentoring, and collaborating with other members of the community. The website hosts online competitions posted and sponsored by NGOs, foundations and businesses around the world. Individuals and groups can submit solutions to the challenges and collaborate to refine, enrich and implement them. Many of the challenges have cash prizes.

Have you created or do you use any online platforms to involve and exposure students to sustainability and responsible leadership issues? Please share them in the comments area below.


2 thoughts on “Online and connected: Engaging students in sustainability projects

  1. It focuses on engaging the students in successful environment/social justice action projects students that are explored over the course of the youth forum. Specific strategies are developed to work toward creating change that is truly sustainable, not just for the Earth but also for students and for teachers themselves.

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