Campus Sustainability at Copenhagen Business School

At the PRME Global Forum, several Signatories received Recognition for the Sharing Information on Progress Reports. Copenhagen Business School in Denmark once again received recognition for their report, a report which is distributed to staff, students and partners and is used as an important communication tool both on and off campus.

CBS has many initiatives around responsible management and sustainability and has recently launched a number of initiatives focused on campus sustainability. I recently spoke with Louise Kofod Thomsen, co-founder of the Sustainable Infrastructure Taskforce (SIT) at the business school about their approach to sustainability on campus and their plans moving forward.

Why is it important that universities bring sustainability onto their campuses?

Universities act as role models for their students and basically, nurture and influence future decision-makers. During students’ time at university, they are taught how to act when they take on positions in businesses, but if they experience that it is okay to waste or in other words act irresponsibly, this is what they will bring into their future roles. In this sense, campus creates a sense of identity for the students and it is our belief that focusing on sustainability on campus will ultimately foster certain attitudes towards responsible behavior upon graduating. 

What has been the push at CBS when it comes to embedding sustainability into the campus?

Every few years, the Minister for Education and Science negotiates new university development contracts. These contracts contain self-defined targets by individual institutions as well as obligatory targets based on societal needs. Until now, these contracts have not set targets for universities in terms of raising the bar for energy, waste etc. but we strongly believe that they should, in particular as part of universities’ role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Being a business school, we educate future employees for the business society (and other institutions). In recent years, we have experienced a growing interest from companies within the sustainability agenda that creates a natural push to how we should educate students. At the same time, there is also a considerable push from students through student organizations who wants to do more with sustainability.

What is your approach to sustainability on campus? What are some of the most material issues?

CBS Campus Services is working on getting waste sorting in all CBS buildings. At the moment they sort 12 different types of waste and we are working in close collaboration with the municipality to improve waste sorting on campus. A very recent development is the new department, CBS Estates. The new department will focus on 1. Operation and development of existing buildings, 2. Sustainability, 3. Development of teaching and learning facilities and 4. The establishment of Student and Innovation House in collaboration with the students. These four focus areas create a great platform for us at CBS PRME, student organizations and others to work more closely with CBS operations and top management to set even more ambitious targets for the green agenda on campus and launch projects that can get us closer to the goal of a more sustainable campus.

How are students engaged in sustainability on campus?

CBS engages students in sustainability on campus from day one. At the beginning of the first semester approximately 2500 new bachelor students start their time at CBS with Responsibility Day. The aim of the day is to provide them with an opportunity to reflect upon social, responsibility and ethical dilemmas, both in their new role as CBS students and in their future role as business managers. The day also sets expectations for the role that their education will play over the course of their time at CBS. One of our student organizations, oikos, hosts Green Week for one week in March where students learn more about sustainable living and working.

What have been some of the challenges?
It is always challenging when you try to create change. You meet a lot of “this is not possible” attitude or “this is how we have always done it” which can make it seem impossible to get the results. Often change starts from below, and when it comes to sustainability, this is also the case at CBS. This means that everything takes longer, because we need to mobilize stakeholders bottom up and document the impact to prove the importance. It is all about people, and therefore you need the people on board. We also need to work on improving environmental sustainability in buildings and this requires that we work across departments and facilities and collaborate with many different entities to achieve results.

What’s next for environmental sustainability at CBS?

CBS is collaborating with the Green Business Council to use CBS as a case study for the development of campuses in urban areas. We also recently launched The Sustainable Living Lab, a project that opens up campus data for students and researchers to use the campus to implement, test, research and teach sustainability. It is still in its early days but we are excited about what this could mean not just for the campus but for staff, faculty and students.

CBS Department of Management, Society and Communication is also engaging staff regularly around sustainability topics. With the Sustainable Infrastructure Taskforce, the department now wants to implement sustainable initiatives using the department as a pilot. One example is the department wide competition on ideas for how the department can become more sustainable. The winning solution was to have vegetarian meals as default for all meetings and conferences as opposed to the traditional non-vegetarian option.

A next step for the sustainable journey at CBS would be to gather more data on waste, water, energy and CO2 and set clearly communicated targets for these areas. It is a great opportunity to also track the savings you can make in the long run. The challenge is of course that budgets usually only cover short term, which can make it difficult to prove the long-term benefits.

What’s next in terms of student engagement?
In terms of engaging students, Five student organizations in collaboration with CBS PRME have come together to coordinate a 2-day hackathon inviting students from Danish universities to come to CBS and work on solutions to 4 defined sustainability challenges on campus from food waste to inequality. It is the ambition that the winning solution is to be implemented in collaboration with CBS top management and operations. The winning team will have the opportunity to present their solution at the PRME office in New York and hopefully inspire other universities to follow this path. A strong jury panel consisting of representatives from Copenhagen University, The Technical University of Denmark, CBS and representatives from private companies will judge the solutions. It is the first time that students, staff, management and partners come together to discuss the challenges and solutions for a greener campus and hopefully this will create a strong platform for future collaboration.

What advice do you have for other schools looking at campus sustainability?
It might seem as an overwhelming task, but just get started on the journey. There are ups and downs along the way, but if you keep pushing and engaging colleagues in the efforts, you will see results. Start by identifying the key stakeholders who you need to have on board to change the way you do things today.

Training the next generation of impact investing professionals through the Social Finance Academy – Smith School of Business

The Centre for Social Impact at Smith School of Business, Queen’s University in Canada educates students and fosters research and advocacy on issues of social impact. The Certificate in Social Impact programme is one of its sought-after programs. The Certificate allows over 500 Smith graduate and undergraduate students to earn a designation alongside their degree. Enabling business students to gain foresight into how social issues are affecting business and society while gaining relevant skills needed across today’s changing landscape is one of the focuses of the Centre and its newest programme, the Social Finance Academy narrows in specifically on the topic of impact investing.

I spoke with Joanna Reynolds, Associate Director of the Centre for Social Impact at Smith School of Business, Queen’s University Canada about this programme.

Why is impact investing important?

Increasingly, people in their professional and personal life want to be part of social and environmental solutions. Whether through our purchasing power as customers or in how we make investments. The appetite for social finance is growing across Canada and globally. Examples, such as impact funds and green bonds are two of the many new and innovative ideas gaining momentum in the marketplace, and inspiring organizations and consumers to think differently about our investments.   An example of the growth of impact investing globally is the 2017 Global Impact Investing Network’s annual survey which continues to report increases in the size of the global marketplace at USD 114 billion in managed impact assets across geographies and sectors. Professionals today want to know how to gain the skills that open opportunities for themselves and their organizations in this area.

What is the Social Finance Academy?

The Social Finance Academy is a unique opportunity for professionals to gain insights into a growing global field that now includes Social Responsible Investing, Impact Investing, and Venture Philanthropy. The Academy came about to meet this rising demand for professionals within finance, capital management, public and the not-for-profit sectors to understand emerging opportunities in this space.   Investors involved with foundations, endowment boards, or who manage assets for individual private wealth are increasingly seeking to align their investments with purpose and need advisors who can work with them to create customized solutions; while, not-for-profit organizations are seeing that social finance can enable their public benefit mission to thrive; and, governments recognize that social finance and social enterprise can meet multiple public policy objectives. Professionals across these sectors are seeking to enhance their skills sets and distinguish how they add can value.

Why offer a programme specifically focused on social finance?

Currently, programs like the Social Finance Academy are rare opportunities to learn from the trailblazers who have shaped the landscape and marketplace in Canada and globally.   As the appetite for social finance and impact investing continues to grow, the professional skill set requires more technical knowledge. Such as skills found in traditional finance and capital management now need to be combined with a rigor of impact measurement. Additionally, social finance often brings together people from across the public, private, and community sectors. Therefore, understanding public policy levers, community missions, and diverse investor values are essential contexts to creating a social finance solution. Educational programs such as these aimed at cross-sector collaboration with a focus on social outcomes are exceptional opportunities.

What is the content of the Social Finance Academy?

The Academy is a two-day program offered this November in downtown Toronto. Participants gain practical knowledge to apply social finance tools within their organizations to transform outcomes and investment models while achieving measurable financial returns and valuable social impacts. Sessions are led by professionals from the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing, BCorp Canada, City of Toronto, Ministry of Economic Development and Growth, Purpose Capital, Centre for Social Innovation, CoPower and top faculty from the Smith School of Business. Smith faculty and session leaders use a combination of insightful teaching, breakout sessions, and tutorials to examine case examples that provide participants with a local and global understanding of the marketplace. Session topics include outcomes finance, impact measurement, social procurement, solutions finance, community bonds, insights into public policy levers, and designing decision frameworks that guide social finance strategy.

What has been the response?

The response has been excellent. The 2016 inaugural session had a wait list of over 50 people. A great example of how institutions are taking advantage by sending their teams to engage and learn is our continued partnership with the Ontario Government who has sponsored ten Social Finance Fellows across departments to earn a full Certificate in Social Impact. By earning a Certificate, participants take a second program call Leading with Impact that help them gain the skills to affect change from within an organization. Participants then work individually or in teams on an applied project. The two in-class programs combined with the applied project has been well received as a way for professionals to bring value into their organization. Bmeaningful, Canada’s leading go to platform for career’s with impact is our promotional partner.

What’s next for the Social Finance Academy?

The Social Finance Academy is part of the Certificate in Social Impact for Professionals.  We expect to continue to partner with leading organizations to offer the Academy in subsequent years as the field continues to evolve.

Any tips for other schools looking to engage in this topic.

Impact investing and social finance present exciting opportunities for business school students to learn about an emerging field that crosses geographies and sectors. From mainstream capital markets through to development and community finance, this field is active, and demand is growing. A tip for other schools is to articulate the demand for social impact education across sectors and to identify the unique skill sets required by professionals to succeed in their areas of expertise. No longer are social impact considerations on the fringe for business success. It is now imperative for the resiliency of business and society as a whole to be part of the solutions that our world is grappling with.   Therefore, business education that is offered at the Smith School of Business is critical to developing outstanding leaders in business and society.

 

Business Schools Engaging Business in the SDGs Nationally – Lagos Business School

The 17th goal of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is partnerships. But it isn’t just a goal in itself; it is also a key component of the other 16 goals. In particular it is partnerships that engage the business sector that will be key in pushing these goals forward. Business schools can play an important, and much needed role in providing a platform to bring business together, guide collaboration efforts and provide training. This is exactly what Lagos Business School in Nigeria is doing with their new Private Sector Advisory Group. I spoke with Oreva Agajere, Sustainability Associate at Lagos Business School about this new programme.

How is LBS engaging/planning to engage in the SDGs in Nigeria?

At Lagos Business School, it is our mission to create and transmit management and business knowledge based on a Christian conception of the human person and of economic activity relevant to Nigeria and Africa at large. The school continues to promote sustainable and responsible business by being a hub of learning for entrepreneurs and managers. Since the launch of the SDGs, LBS has designed new executive programmes which speak to particular SDGs. For instance, our Agribusiness Programme is directly linked to goals 1, 2, 8 and 12. The programme trains experienced and budding entrepreneurs in the agriculture sector and is aimed at reducing poverty and hunger through job creation, economic opportunities and responsible consumption and production. LBS also engages with the SDGs by being a centre for sustainable thought leadership. Research and initiatives carried out by the school’s faculty and sustainability centre serve as conduits for mainstreaming the SDG conversation in the business space in Nigeria. Lagos Business School is also partnering with leading businesses to support the achievement of the sustainable development goals at a larger scale across Nigeria.

What is the Private Sector Advisory Group and how it came about.

The Private Sector Advisory Group Nigeria (PSAG Nigeria) is a local coalition of businesses formed to better align public and private sector partnerships for sustainable development in Nigeria. The group was inaugurated in February 2017 by the Office of the Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with a mandate to mobilise private sector organisations willing to partner on ventures to help the Nation achieve the SDGs. This group came about with the recognition at various levels of the public and private sector that Nigeria didn’t achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) because there was no clear working model for private sector participation to aid the achievement of the MDGs. The PSAG is a solution to this problem.

The role of the group is to inspire and organize renewed public-private collaboration to promote inclusive growth and development in Nigeria. Working in cluster groups focused on various SDGs, the PSAG will assist in identifying areas of common interest and promote business driven strategies, projects and initiatives around the 17 SDGs. Another primary objective of the PSAG is to establish productive partnerships between the public and private sector by offering policy recommendations on developmental issues which affect Nigeria and the everyday Nigerian. Thus, the group works closely with the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDGs to ensure a real connection with the arms of government and policy makers. The group will also support its members and the wider private sector in reporting on the SDGs to provide reliable data sources for policy and decision makers.

Who is part and how are they engaged?

The group was inaugurated with five organizations as co-chairs on the board. This includes Lagos Business School (LBS), Growing Businesses Foundation (GBF), Sahara Group Limited, Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) and PricewaterhouseCoopers Ltd. (PwC). Other members and key partners include British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN), Google, Unilever Nigeria, Airtel Nigeria, Standard Chartered Bank, General Electric (GE), Siemens Nigeria, Dangote Group, Coca-Cola, Channels Television, Chamber of Commerce- Lagos/Kano, and National Association of Small Scale Industrialists (NASSI). As the work progresses, the number of organizations that make up the PSAG is expected to rise.

Members have been engaged in several meetings and participate in SDG engagements at an international level. These include the High Level Political Forum which was held in New York in July 2017. The cluster groups structure of the PSAG is the main avenue of engaging member organisations. Companies join the cluster that focuses on the SDGs that are most material to their business and in that way, have the opportunity to collaborate with organizations that have similar sustainable development objectives. The group is still growing and is open to all private sector players who would like to make an active contribution to the achievement of the SDGs in Nigeria.

What are the key features of the programme and how does it work (what is planned).  Why have a group like this? What are you hoping it will accomplish?

The PSAG’s activities will include joint private sector SDG projects, businesses reporting on the SDGs, capacity building for business executives and policy recommendations to government.

Lagos Business School is leading the group’s capacity building initiatives. The focus is to increase private sector involvement in socio-economic change by providing a platform for active participation, partnership, advocacy and awareness. Through the PSAG, we hope that there will be an overall promotion of the development of practical and sustainably impactful business models; improvement of capacity building for stakeholders; midwifing relevant dialogues between public and private stakeholders to provide real solutions to Nigeria’s challenges and opportunities for improvements where necessary. LBS has developed new training programmes for C-Suite level business executives and implementing managers. The programmes focus on the integration of sustainability and the SDGs into the strategy, operations and reporting of businesses in Nigeria. A group like the PSAG is necessary in an emerging economy like Nigeria, because businesses are a key part of the society’s desired growth and advancement

What have been some of the challenges and successes (or expected)?

Some of the challenges so far have been around ensuring proper implementation and governance; the PSAG has had to spend a good amount of time working out the structure of the group. The group has also had to gradually build stakeholder’s interest and commitment.

Since February, the PSAG has gained commitments from leading business in Nigeria. Their commitment is one step in the right direction for Nigeria in advancing the SDGs. The group is also working collaboratively with the office of the special adviser to the President on SDGs and has been able to share its working model with other countries. The PSAG model has also drawn interest among other countries in Africa and the Middle East which face similar sustainable development challenges.

What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?

Our advice would be that management education institutions adopt a corporative approach to advancing the sustainable development goals in their spheres of influence. Partnership with the private sector and other stakeholder groups can ensure that the goals are met faster and more effectively.

What are 2 other initiatives at your school you are particularly proud of in this area?

  • Sustainable Business Models for Delivering Digital Financial Services (DFS) to Lower Income Unbanked Citizens of Nigeria (Research Project): This is a two-year research project of Lagos Business School (LBS), supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation). This project’s core objective is to establish the supplier side constraints to sustainable DFS in Nigeria and develop economic models for addressing identified constraints. The project also aims to recommend market-enabling policies for the sustainability of DFS in Nigeria.
  • Nonprofit Leadership and Management (Certificate Program): The course will provide a detailed introduction to Nonprofit Management through a highly practical, experiential and interactive series of faculty-facilitated lectures, guest lectures, case study discussions, videos and field visits. The programme is designed to meet the pressing need for effective and impactful management competence in Nigeria’s nonprofit sector. This programme, which commences later in 2017, is supported by the Ford Foundation. The Ford Foundation is the funding partner and LBS is the executing partner.

Students Driving the Reporting Process – Boise State University (part 2 of 2)

At the 2017 Global Forum for Responsible Management Education, several Signatories were recognized for their efforts in reporting. The reports that received recognition represent different approaches to reporting on progress against the Six Principles of PRME. One of the Schools to receive recognition in the First Time Reporters category was the College of Business and Economics at Boise State University (COBE) in the USA. But what makes this impressive report unique is that the whole process of putting together the report was lead by student volunteers.

This is the second part of a two part interview with former MBA Student, Graduate Assistant and Sustainability Report Project Lead Taylor Reed about their report. Click here to read part 1.

What impact does this kind of experience have on the students involved?

The experience was challenging and meaningful. The best way I can describe the reporting process in the first year is driving a car down the road while also building it. At least four of the members of the team now work in industries related to sustainability, and I’m confident that all of the graduates are now working in roles where they have to perform research, synthesize and communicate information, or develop buy-in from colleagues, consumers or business partners—these are all skills team members were able to develop by participating in this project.

One of the most valuable lessons that came from this process wasn’t necessarily the data gathered, but rather the conversations that arose throughout the research process. Many students were frustrated that key metrics like the amount of waste generated or carbon footprint did not yet exist. However, by meeting with campus officials, discussing their purpose in creating a sustainability report, and posing questions related to sustainability, students were able to begin to educate campus staff and faculty and empower employees to begin considering social and environmental impacts. Those initial conversations helped build a foundation for the development of systems to capture improved sustainability data.

What were some of the successes?

Three years later the college continues to produce an annual sustainability report and our efforts have inspired Boise State University’s College of Health Sciences and the Student Union Building to publish their first sustainability reports. The reports have driven sustainability achievements such as more sustainable procurement policies, the installation of solar panels, the college’s strategy for inclusive excellence and a taskforce focused on increased inclusion, and increased awareness of environmental and social issues across campus. And of course we were thrilled to receive recognition from the PRME for our work!

The final piece of the report presents sustainability recommendations for the Dean and Associate Deans to consider. After COBE’s leadership deliberates and discusses strategies with student reporters, many of the recommendations are implemented over time. This part is especially meaningful because it’s where the research and analysis performed by students becomes actionable and translates to social and environmental impact—that’s the best part in my opinion.

Why should schools engage their students in the reporting process?

According to the Deloitte 2016 Millennial Survey, 87 percent of millennials believe that “the success of a business should be measured in terms of more than just its financial performance.” Millennials judge the performance of a business on what it does and how it treats people— both of which are data points in COBE’s sustainability reports. More than 60% of millennials believe businesses achieve long-term success by putting employees first, and developing a solid foundation of trust and integrity. Finally, millennials choose employers whose values reflect their own— 56 percent of Millennials have “ruled out ever working for an organisation because of its values or standard of conduct.”

Projects like the sustainability report are the secret sauce to motivating, developing, and retaining millennial employees. By producing a sustainability report COBE achieved all of the following:

  1. Creating a healthy culture that exists to achieve more than financial results
  2. Identifying the values of students and providing an opportunity to practice those values in their profession
  3. Providing hands-on opportunities for millennials to take on leadership roles and gain critical thinking skills that will make them more competitive in the job market and equip them with the skills needed to effect real change

What advice do you have for other schools looking to engage students in the reporting process?

Do it. If schools think that tomorrow’s leaders should understand the social and environmental impact of their business decisions, and take responsibility for them, then students must learn these skills and have the opportunity to practice them.

Create a safe space for students to fail—if they do, coach them through the steps needed to get back on track. When they’re faced with a similar scenario in upon graduation they’ll know how to succeed.

What’s next? Any plans for the next report? Things you will be doing differently?

This fall, students of Boise State University’s College of Business and Economics (COBE) will publish the College’s third sustainability report measuring the social, environmental and economic impacts of the College (we produce reports annually). Student reporters continue to implement recommendations made in the College’s first two reports, and continue to develop new targets based on the feedback of internal and external stakeholders. In line with COBE’s sustainability initiatives, student reporters have transitioned to an interactive online format, rather than a printed report. We have a collective aspiration to produce a university-wide sustainability report in the near future.

 

A few highlights of the report:

  • A summary of percentage of responsible business faculty research organised by department (p. 26)
  • An overview of the new College of Business and Economics Building, built in 2012, designed to have minimal environmental impact and maximum environmental efficiency (p.42).
  • An overview of how they assessed materiality and what their material issues are, organised by stakeholder group (page 49)
  • A detailed timeline and process map for the sustainability report (p. 50)

Students Driving the Reporting Process – Boise State University (part 1 of 2)

At the 2017 Global Forum for Responsible Management Education, several Signatories were recognized for their efforts in reporting. The reports that received recognition represent different approaches to reporting on progress against the Six Principles of PRME. One of the Schools to receive recognition in the First Time Reporters category was the College of Business and Economics at Boise State University (COBE) in the USA. But what makes this impressive report unique is that the whole process of putting together the report was lead by student volunteers.

I recently spoke with former MBA Student, Graduate Assistant and Sustainability Report Project Lead Taylor Reed about their report.

What was the driver behind the Sustainability Report?

In 2014, COBE underwent a strategic planning process to establish the collective values that ground the work done at the College. These values—relevance, respect, and responsibility—are not truly lived if we don’t measure, analyse and publicly report the results. A sustainability report, which covers issues such as climate change, health & wellness, community engagement, and transparency, helps us live those values rather than simply posting them on a webpage. The annual report serves as a thermometer for how the college is doing in terms of living its values and creating a healthy culture for students, faculty, staff and the broader community.

COBE firmly believes that sustainability reporting is a best practice, so before engaging its business community partners to pursue this type of analysis, the College needed to get some skin in the game and develop its own expertise. Producing the COBE report allowed the College to gain empathy and discover the challenges and opportunities that arise from this practice.

Why involve students in the reporting process?

The College recognised that if it identified sustainability reporting as a best practice, COBE graduates should not only be familiar with sustainability reporting, but have firsthand experience in creating one. COBE is one of only a handful of colleges and universities globally to integrate students fully into the management, research, writing and publication of its sustainability report. The students that participated on the reporting team did so as a volunteers.

How was the report produced?

The reporting process was broken up into five phases:

  • Focus: In the first phase of the project the team of student reporters engaged three stakeholder groups (students, college faculty/administrators, and community business leaders) to define the college’s material issues.
  • Coordinate: Next, the topics found to be material in the Focus phase were assigned to student reporters. I purposefully matched topics with students’ interests or area of study. For example, equal remuneration was assigned to a student studying human resources.
  • Research: Team members then gathered quantitative and qualitative research across departments through a series of interviews and collaboration with faculty and staff to gather data.
  • Synthesize & Write: In this phase of the project, students synthesized and analyzed collected data and collectively outlined a rough draft of the report. A majority of the writing and revising was done by a few individuals to maintain style and tone throughout the report.
  • Review & Publish: In the final phase of the project students worked with relevant stakeholders such as sources and key administrators to revise and finalise the report. In addition, the college’s first report was audited by a team of graduate students studying accounting. Finally, the team’s leadership worked with an external firm to design and publish the report.

What were some of the challenges? 

Finding answers to all of our research questions was our main challenge. We found that the systems for collecting much of the data we were seeking did not yet exist (i.e. waste metrics). Another challenge was developing buy-in from data sources—some of our sources found it challenging to make time to fulfill our data requests, or didn’t understand the concept of sustainability reporting.

This was a volunteer project that many students took on in addition to part-time jobs, rigorous coursework, and other demanding activities. Given these circumstances, there were times when responsibilities such as enforcing deadlines and motivating team members was difficult. However, the lessons learned during production of the first report helped facilitate smoother operations in year two.

How was your experience using the GRI framework (especially since it isn’t specifically geared towards education?). Any tips for others looking at using these in their report?

Using the GRI G4 guidelines helped build our team’s awareness and understanding of the concept of materiality, along with a variety of social, environmental and economic metrics. GRI isn’t geared towards educational institutions, however its focus on materiality helped inform our process. The team performed several stakeholder engagement sessions to pinpoint material issues, such as rising tuitions costs and sustainability curriculum—topics that may not have been identified in the GRI framework. It also served as a useful source to cross check that our stakeholders weren’t forgetting any fundamental issues.

GRI also helped the team identify leaders in nonfinancial disclosure—seeing these examples helped us better understand nonfinancial reporting and frame expectations. Although the framework wasn’t a perfect fit for our industry, it was useful for students to gain experience using this framework, especially as it continues to be recognised as one of the highest standards of nonfinancial disclosure.

 

(Part 2 will be posted on Thursday)

 

Interdisciplinary Teams Developing Solutions for a more Sustainable City – Kemmy Business School

Developing more sustainable cities require interdisciplinary solutions. It is this mindset that has framed the Heath Futures Lab, a five-week long interdisciplinary unit focused on ‘Innovations in Health and Well-Being for Limerick City’. The lab utilises design principles to organise the interaction between 14 recent graduates across a range of disciplines including Economics, Marketing, Architecture, Engineering, Interactive Media, Product Design and Occupational Therapy. The researchers were guided in their work by a team of academics representing each of these disciplines, as well as regular input from representatives from local and regional authorities, business chamber, charities etc.

By tackling local issues as opportunities & problems and harnessing social capital, within and outside the University, the five weeks aimed to explore how the combining of disciplines could bring about new perspectives as well as thoroughly achievable innovative solutions. I spoke with Dr Annmarie Ryan who co-led this unit with colleagues in the design faculty of the University of Limerick.

How did it work in practice?

The participants were all recent graduates (within two years) from either undergraduate or postgraduate courses and were integral members of the trans-disciplinary teams bringing specialist expertise and perspective to the challenges. The structure of the HFL followed a Design Thinking Process or a Design Process where the main focus is on making things, testing and iterative development and embodiment of ideas. Those operating within the process must be open to change, comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity as the process itself is non-linear and in continuous flux. Reflection, critique and constant questioning ensure all ideas are robustly tested and refined ideally leading to the emergence of one or a number of solutions that best address the challenges under exploration.

The Lab was deliberately held in an unused city centre industrial building as it allowed for a physical and emotional connection with the city, the civic society and the stakeholders in the project. The facilitators chose the building as it had the added benefit of anchoring the participants in a new physical space which was unfamiliar to them. This encouraged the development of a new set of norms and working practices which would have been less possible in the University environment.

This centralised location enabled the researchers to access the field easily whilst also allowing stakeholders and interested parties to ‘drop-in’ and see the work in progress. Through this engagement we enabled key stakeholders (education, public sector, community and the sponsor of the event Johnson & Johnson) to co-imagine and create solutions for the betterment of health and well being in Limerick.

What were some of the results from the Lab?

Three important proposed themes emerged from the project: a new initiative that tackles the growing obesity epidemic through innovative technology and health promotion to prompt a permanent and personalised cultural and lifestyle change (Saol Nua); A service to ensure timely and aggregate flow of information through a persons life as they interact with the health system (LifeBase) and a city-wide policy to introduce preventative measures and increase resilience amongst grassroots organisations that focus on mental well-being (Minding Minds). Each of the propositions offered independent, but interconnected, ways to address pressing issues around Health and Well-Being experienced by citizens of Limerick.

The final output of the HFL was a pop up exhibition where large scale posters explained the detail of the three proposals. These were tied together with a floor-based timeline that highlighted key moments in a fictional person’s life. The stories of these moments explain the pivot points where interventions offered by one, two or all of the proposed solutions might have prevented or lessened the impact of challenges an individual might face as they journey through their lives. The outcomes of the HFL not only proposed a bold future vision for health in Limerick City it also offered a detailed roadmap on how we might get there.

Was the impact of the lab measured in any way?

The academic team was very keen to understand the experience of graduates working in a new inter-disciplinary team, in the context of a ‘live’ project. An ‘Ethnographer’ was employed as an independent researcher to record the processes, follow the ideas and observe peoples actions and behaviours. The participants were interviewed at various intervals throughout the process. The data was then mapped and analysed to identify key themes and trends. Through this unpacking process the facilitation team and the partners (including J&J) began to understand how it could be modified and applied across longer-term projects that are situated in different research areas. A key emerging insight was that for high achieving, high performing graduates becoming part of a team with people outside of their discipline was a real challenge for them. In order to work well as a team they had to be able to articulate the value added of their knowledge and discipline specific expertise. This required a kind of objectified understanding of their discipline and how it might be different in terms of values or approach to others; for instance how can an occupational therapist and an architect find common ground? How can a marketer inform an engineer about healthy lifestyle choices? These were the day to day challenges and opportunities afforded to the group.

What was the role of the advisory board and have they taken on any of the project ideas?

Every week the groups would present their work in progress to a gathered audience. As such the advisory board evolved over the course of the lab as experts were found to match the direction of the groups emerging project ideas. Representatives of the local authority were invited, along with visiting academics, directors of charities and regional representatives of the National Health Service Executive (HSE). Following the lab the HSE representatives along with 2 of the lab’s academic team began discussions to progress Limerick’s application for WHO European Healthy Cities Network, whose goal is to put health high on the social, economic and political agenda of city governments.

Any advice do you have for other schools?

At the University of Limerick we have been modelling a form of engagement with the city that is particularly rich. Of note in the approach is the interdisciplinary and response nature of these engagements. The HFL was a follow on to the IU Designing Policies lab in 2013, and was followed by The IU Culture Lab in 2015 which looked specifically at supporting Limerick’s bid for European Capital of Culture in 2020. The design studio approach supports the interdisciplinary work by giving a framework for each participant to bring their own disciplinary specific knowledge to bear and work iteratively with other disciplines to create a rich knowledge base to support innovative ideas to complex problems. Rather than a single discipline carrying out one piece of research, the lab encourages quick iterations through different pieces of research where the output of one becomes the input to another. For cities coming to their local university for support, this kind of rich but fast, research that they themselves participate in, ensures that the research is meaningful and impactful.

What’s next?

My main goal would be to find a way to ‘institutionalise’ the lab without loosing the spontaneity and sense of ‘getting away’ from mainstream teaching environment.

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.

 

Universities Collaborating with Cities Around Sustainability – UWE Bristol

In 2015, the Bristol became the first city in the UK to achieve the honour of being named European Green Capital. The award is given to a different city yearly by the European Commission and aims to promote and reward sustainability initiatives in cities, to spur cities to commit to further action, and to showcase and encourage exchange of best practice among European cities.

UWE Bristol played a key role in the year, not only working closely with Bristol City Council and others in supporting the bidding process for the award, but also as a founding member of the city-wide Bristol Green Capital Partnership (now made up of 800 local organisations). The year provided an opportunity to weave sustainability into the curriculum, undertake focused research on sustainability and celebrate and get people thinking and inspire action for sustainability.

I recently spoke with Georgina Gough, James Longhurst and Svetlana Cicmil from UWE Bristol about the insitution’s engagement in progressing SDG11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities and their involvement in Bristol’s Green Capital year.

How is UWE Bristol engaged in the topic of sustainable cities?

UWE Bristol’s teaching and research mission explicitly supports the development of sustainable cities. We have a number of degree programmes and research centres located across the university academic portfolio that focus on this topic. A few examples include our

World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Healthy Environments which is part of the European Healthy Cities network, the Centre for Sustainable Planning and Environments which aims to develop understanding of how to achieve places that are environmentally sustainable, socially just and economically competitive: the Centre for Transport and Society which aims to to improve and promote understanding of the inherent links between lifestyles and personal travel in the context of continuing social and technological change; and the Air Quality Management Resource Centre which is widely recognised by air quality and carbon management practitioners, nationally and internationally as a leader in this field. The Bristol Leadership and Change Centre is further internationally and locally recognised for developing leadership practices driven by the vision of sustainable cities and the global sustainability agenda

How was UWE Bristol involved in the European Green Capital in 2015?

Our campuses were buzzing in the Green Capital year. Social media channels were used extensively to connect students and staff and promote activities. Budget allocations encouraged engagement and innovative action from academic departments, professional services, the Centre for Performing Arts, the Students’ Union at UWE and others, embracing research, teaching, music, work in schools, volunteering, internships and extra curricular activities. Over 5,300 staff and students attended presentations/stalls specifically about Bristol Green Capital 2015 including 200 events either led, co-ordinated or facilitated by UWE. Over 3000 students engaged, volunteered, interned or undertook Green Capital projects. We had some 600 students sign up to be part of UWE Green Team working on student-led sustainability projects on campus. This is just a brief snapshot.

What was the Whole Earth Exhibition?

One of UWE’s busiest thoroughfares was transformed into an outdoor art gallery for The Whole Earth Exhibition, a powerful visual statement of the environmental and sustainability challenges facing the world as we struggle to provide for the needs of more than 10 billion people while safeguarding our planetary life-support systems and conserving the non-human lifeforms that make up those systems. The Hard Rain Project and the National Union of Students (NUS), who curated the Whole Earth exhibition, invited students and universities to share the sustainability work that they are doing and approaches they are taking that might underpin future security for all. Embedded in the exhibition were a series of challenges to the university sector. When UWE Bristol opened its Whole Earth Exhibition, the President of the Students’ Union at UWE formally requested that the university publically respond to the University Challenges presented in the exhibition.

What was the MOOC on ‘Our Green City’ and how did it come about?

Our Green City celebrated and showcased UWE academics and Bristol based sustainability organisations to develop public understanding of sustainability issues in Bristol’s year as European Green Capital 2015. Based on a free, open, online course format, c2000 learners signed-up to gain insight into themes of food, nature, energy, transport and resources through a range of video presentations, tasks, quizzes and community discussion forums.

Our Green City featured the work of 14 academics, 24 organisations including The Bristol Green Capital Partnership, Bristol 2015, Bristol City Council and the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

We have archived all the materials for future use, including by schools and will soon be creating a series of school engagement and outreach products from the learning materials that will form part of our BOXed project, an outreach programme of STEM related activities aimed at youth aged 11-18.

Did that year change the way the institution interacts and works with the community?

UWE is an initial funding partner of Bristol Green Capital Partnership (BGCP) and serves on the Board of Directors of this Community Interest Company. The 800 organisations who are part of BGCP work together in pursuit of the Partnership’s aim to develop a sustainable city with a high quality of life for all. The research activity of the university supports the work of the Partnership and current activities include Urban ID, a study diagnosing the sustainability issues and challenges in the city region. An innovative multinational Horizon 2020 project ClairCity is exploring solutions to air pollution in 6 cities including Bristol. UWE is actively engaged with and supports (with financial and in kind support via time of students and staff (including very senior staff)) the work of sustainability minded organisations and networks in the city (which in Bristol are many in number!).

What have been some of the challenges? Successes?

Delivering enough support, given the extremely high demand for knowledge, research and action, is a key challenge. Aligning the rhythm of the academic year to the needs of the city and its communities can also be challenging at times.

UWE’s activities to support Bristol Green Capital complemented those in and around the city and our commitment was recognised by key Green Capital players. UWE staff have produced a number of research papers and reports on the Green Capital year which are available in our Research Repository.

What advice would you have for other institutions thinking of putting something similar into place?

Consider the strengths of your institution and the needs of your potential partners in order to identify the most fruitful project partners. Have an open mind and willingness to work through challenging situations. Commitment to the objectives of the project by senior management is important in working through challenges. A diverse project team is useful for enabling action across the institution.

What’s next for the initiatives?

The Green Capital Student Capital project has formally ended. However, much legacy work continues. The project team continue to disseminate their experience via publications and conference presentations in order to support other HEIs to undertake similar projects. An online portal, SkillsBridge, has been established by the project team to facilitate the development of opportunities for students to support sustainability work of organisations in the city of Bristol. This work is being undertaken in conjunction with the Bristol Green Capital Partnership. UWE, Bristol’s sustainability work is ongoing, in accordance with commitments made in our Sustainability Plan.

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.

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