There are many key players when it comes to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Perhaps the most important player however is each and every one of us. As Antonio Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations, said “We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to achieve the world’s goals. We cannot do it unless everyone plays their part.” In order to engage the whole Swinburne community in making a real difference in sustainability and the SDGs every day, the School recently launched a new programme; Swinburne Actions for Sustainability Impact or SA4SI (said SA for SI). While originally planned as an on-campus awareness raising event, because of COVID-19, SA4SI went online and, according to Shana Chong at Swinburne Business School, it became stronger and more impactful than expected. I recently spoke with Shana about this initiative.
What is SA4SI?
SA4SI – Swinburne Actions for Sustainability Impact – is a responsibility programme initiated by Swinburne Business School in Semester 2, 2020. This programme aims to inspire sustainable actions in small ways that Swinburne staff and students can contribute at home or as part of their learning activities. At the same time, the programme promotes awareness of and profiles actions on the 17 SDGs.
Participants self-enrol into the learning management system (LMS) site and they can view a range of sustainable events on the calendar and suggested actions. They can also learn information and take actions with respect to each of the individual SDGs as the LMS provides a self-learning module for each SDG. There are also themed challenges and regular discussion boards, which members can participate and suggest ideas or actions.
What are some of the examples of activities?
World Water Week during August was a focus of activities across multiple platforms. We invited participants to take up the water saving social media challenge by showing creative ways to save water around the home and also complete a quiz: https://www.riddle.com/showcase/206328/quiz. The Swinburne social media team also promoted World Water Week as an Instagram story -see images below.
The programme encourages participants to share their actions on social media using the hashtag #SA4SI.
We also promoted RUOK? Day in the lead up to the annual event on 10 September in support of SDG 3, Good Health and Wellbeing. RUOK? Is a Day observed across Australia to inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with people around them and start a conversation with anyone who may be struggling with life. We invited our community to share what actions they would take to support RUOK? Day. The responses ranged from raising the topic at staff meetings, student club meetings to taking part in an online course on suicide prevention in order to be equipped with skills when communicating with people who may be struggling mentally.
How has it been received?
It has been amazing to see the Swinburne community get behind SA4SI and see the interactions on social media. The actions of our sustainability community are helping to make a difference to delivering actions on the SDGs. One student commented: “I’ve been struggling to find, especially in the current climate, a sustainability initiative I can be involved in and I’m so thankful that this programme has granted me the chance.” The World Water Week campaign created significant exposure for the #SA4SI campaign and created awareness of the SDGs more broadly with our stakeholders. We had originally planned to launch a responsibility programme around Orientation Week on campus, however, we flipped our concept onto an online platform due to COVID-19, and the transition to an online programme has actually been more impactful than what we had originally envisaged.
Are you measuring impact in any way?
As Professor Weng Marc Lim, Head of School of Business, Faculty of Business, Design and Arts put it, “One action a day is a very pragmatic suggestion and multiply that with 365 days in a year and you get 365 SDG actions. And that’s the impact of only one individual”. The results have been very pleasing, and we have been able to observe impact on a number of platforms. We have had more than 1,000 participants sign up to SA4SI across Hawthorn and Sarawak campuses, with an estimated 88 per cent active user engagement rate. The Swinburne Instagram story performed quite well overall, according to reports from our social media team. We’ve been able to grow a Facebook SA4SI community and invite members from the wider Swinburne ecosystem to join in the programme. Participants in SA4SI can view other’s actions or see the impact of their actions by sharing on social media using #SA4SI. By empowering and motivating individuals to take action, and see how their actions are profiled, the programme makes an immediate impact and this encourages more people to get involved. Our social media wall captures a daily feed of latest actions through the social actions feed channel on the LMS.
Any tips so far for other schools moving their student engagement activities online like this?
Students and staff have a genuine desire to be involved and help make a difference. A programme such as this one that supports them to take small actions in their life and links them with like-minded peers is very empowering. This has been a beneficial experience for all the stakeholders involved in SA4SI.
This is only the beginning. We are looking at ways to include this as part of the sustainability module of the University’s Emerging Leaders programme. The Emerging Leaders programme provides recognition for a broad range of experiences and skills that students develop during their time at university. Activities such as participation in a club, volunteer work and internships, can be recognised within the programme and are formally documented on student’s academic transcript. We have engaged students to design and build an SA4SI mobile phone app, which will enable participants to see the impact of their actions and link them back to the SDGs. This is in very early stages of development, so watch this space.