The call is out for universities to engage with the Sustainable Development Goals in multiple ways; through research, through curriculum and partnerships. But equally important is to raise awareness and engage individual students on a day-to-day basis. At Monash Business School, an online platform that challenges participants to make an SDG-inspired change in their life and document their progress was launched in 2016. I spoke with Professor Michaela Rankin from the School about this successful initiative.
Introduce Take One Step and how it came about
Take One Step is an online platform developed by Monash Sustainable Development Institute (MSDI), Monash University, which aims to engage and educate students about the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through social interaction, light learning content and quizzes. The interactive platform plays on student’s competitive instincts and incorporates the use of achievement badges to encourage action. As part of the challenge, students are asked to commit to an action, allocate an SDG that aligns most closely with the action, post updates, take quizzes and read learning content. It also inspires social interactivity through the ability to share, like and follow other people’s challenges.
The platform also provides an enhanced education experience to our students in order to support the School’s commitment to PRME and implementation of the SDGs.
What are the key features of the programme and how does it work?
The platform offers practical tools akin to an online social network. Take One Step sets out a challenge for users to commit to an action or ‘step’ in their own lives that would contribute to a more sustainable future. As part of the six-week pilot, participants who signed up were asked to:
- Sign up to the platform and outline one (or more) sustainability action they planned to take
- Share their progress on this step to track its completion (through photos, explanations, comments etc.)
- Earn five achievement ‘badges’ through milestones on the platform including social media sharing, liking other participant’s steps, reading articles and completing quizzes
Those who completed these ‘badges’ would become eligible to attend a celebration event hosted by the School.
What have been some of the challenges and successes?
In 2016, Take One Step was delivered as a tailored pilot to students in Monash Business School. A total of 239 students took part, 87 actions were committed to and 60 students registered for an end-of-challenge event featuring the Managing Director of L’Oréal, Australia New Zealand who, as an organisation have taken great strides in implementing the SDGs in their day to day operations. An evaluation of the pilot found that 65% of students improved their understanding of the SDGs, while 80% reported a greater awareness of why sustainability is relevant to business.
As a pilot we were overall very pleased with the results and have identified technical areas to enhance its simplicity. One option for consideration is to develop a mobile app to support user engagement and to provide simple ways to share activities and milestones.
Our pilot audience identified strongly with the issues of sustainability, and we received a wide range of recorded ‘steps’ on the site, with a diverse range of SDGs represented in the actions recorded.
We have also received enquiries and positive feedback from constituents interested in engaging with the platform. The importance of mobilising student groups and staff members to champion the project was critical to the success, as well as gamification elements of the platform. While the project experienced some initial engagement issues, particularly with students who had little or no interest in sustainability, it proved valuable to focus on networking opportunities and linking sustainability to future job roles.
What’s next for the initiative?
Following a detailed evaluation phase, a number of recommendations have been identified and we are looking at ways we can scale up the platform to enable it to be shared more widely. There is significant potential for other institutions to engage with Take One Step providing them with a practical tools to enhance sustainability education in both the education sector and corporates.
In the long run, it is envisioned Take One Step will enable students from different countries to interact, share ideas and work on challenges together. MSDI is looking to create a dedicated platform for the site that can be customised with educational video content and collaboration tools.
For the month of May Primetime will be featuring examples around the Special Focus area Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG 11). Click here to see the rest of the articles in that feature.