How to Engage Students Around the SDGs – Antwerp Management School

ams-sdg-student-ambassador-tshirtOver the past three years, Antwerp Management School has stepped up its efforts to implement the PRME principles. Apart from having been a Signatory since 2012, they also hosted the Belgium Global Compact Network Chapter. Sustainability is a key focus area of their school, in particular what they refer to as societal consciousness of students in relation to sustainability.

I recently spoke with Eva Geluk, part of the team at BASF Deloitte Elia Chair on Sustainability and Manager of the Competence Centre Corporate Responsibility at Antwerp Management School about one of their newest programmes, the SDG Student Ambassador Campaign, that aims to engage students in sustainability discussions and, in particular, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

What is the SDG Student Ambassador Campaign?

At AMS, we aim to empower students with the necessary knowledge, skills and reflection on societal challenges that will not only help them to develop their own perspective on corporate responsibilities, but also help them by turning these into future business opportunities. As the SDGs are gaining increasingly visibility in the world of business and civil society at large we thought it was time to promote the Goals within our student community and empower them with the necessary knowledge to challenge their peers and faculty. Worldwide her Majesty Queen Mathilde of Belgium is one of the official SDG Ambassadors on global level.

Every year all of our students participate in a one-day programme consisting of an introduction to sustainability in the morning and an interactive and fun experiment in the afternoon. The morning lectures are on ‘Sustainable business = business’, followed by two interactive sessions on ‘Cultures of sustainability’ and ‘The evolutionary basis of sustainable behavior’. The afternoon session is an experiment through which students experienced (un)sustainability in an interactive, integral, and original way.

This year during the programme we launched the SDG Student Ambassador Campaign initiative looking for 16 Student Ambassadors – it is a voluntary initiative on top of their day-to-day curricula work. As there is no course incentive for them it is purely involvement based upon their own intrinsic motivation illustrating that this generation is not only aware of a changing world but also wants to actively contribute to it.

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

We see the creation of SDG Student Ambassadors not only as a means to promote the Goals within our own schools, both with fellow students and with faculty that teaches on their programs, but also as a means to further empower our students to critically assess the role of the Goals in management education. After all it is them who will be going out into business once they finish their degree and become the leaders of tomorrow. The original idea was to create 16 SDG Student Ambassadors that would facilitate a workshop with companies committed to the SDGs for their fellow students. To our delight the interest was that great that we ended up with 54 SDG Student Ambassadors. This represents almost a third of our total student population in the Full Time Masters division.

This group of SDG Student Ambassadors will be provided with extra information and get the opportunity to participate in conferences and events organized around the different sustainability themes. The best project will also get a prize for their work and we will create visibility for them where we can during their academic year. They have all received a SDG training session provided by CIFAL Flanders – part of UNITAR training centers, based in Antwerp and focusing all its training activities on the SDGs.

What are some of the projects that the students will be involved in?

Because of the success of the programme, we adapted our approach by suggesting a few more projects and letting room for the creation of own initiatives by the students. The result is a multiple of diverse projects:

  • A project where students will conduct a workshop with different companies active on the SDGs for their fellow students
  • a project where students will conduct a workshop on the SDGs in local schools
  • a project that will look at the own footprint of the student community
  • a project that will work guerilla style drawing attention in creative ways to the goals by for example organizing flash mobs in different cities in Belgium
  • a project that will organize a debating night on the SDGs and invite relevant and inspiring speakers
  • a project that will identify documentaries on the different goals and organize a movie night with teaching questions attached to it so that they can be used in class too
  • and a project with Aim2Flourish where students will interview business leaders that started a company with the aim of doing good
  • and finally a project that will look at SDGs in reporting and a project that creates our own SDG You Tube channel

What have been some of the challenges? 

Managing the additional workload that the great interest by students to become a SDG Student Ambassador had created. But this is only a pleasure! It would help to have a fixed budget for this project hence the leverage internally that this project creates is so important!

Successes?

The fact that we got 54 SDG Student Ambassadors instead of the 16 that we were hoping for was a massive success and gives us internal leverage to further promote not only the SDGs but PRME initiatives as a whole.

The fact that there is so much interest from the students is obviously very exciting. It gives not only hope about the next generation of young leaders understanding the importance of sustainable development in a business context but also fulfills our aim of empowering the students with knowledge and critical thinking that they can use with their peers, faculty and future employers. Also the fact that they are actively involved in finding own projects is exciting as it underlines the empowerment approach and shows that it is working. Thirdly, it has the potential to become an important internal leverage for putting even more focus and effort in implementing the PRME principles in all of our teaching, research and activities as almost a third of our students illustrated this much interest in the theme.

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

Do not think too much about it but just do it. We launched it as an experiment, with only the only objective being having 16 student ambassadors and one project so being flexible in what comes at you and have internal support from above is also essential.

What’s next for the initiative?

Now all focus is on executing the different projects and raising awareness on them and the AMS SDG Student Ambassador campaign at large. Early spring we will evaluate and see how we can further build not only the student empowerment programme itself with the overall aim of getting ECTS points attached to it, but also the SDG Student Ambassador campaign and create continuity. Furthermore we would love to share our experiences and the outcome of the projects with other schools as much as possible.

Our approach to responsible management education is supported by the BASF Deloitte Elia Chair on Sustainability – a joint academic partnership by the faculty of applied economic science at the University of Antwerp and Antwerp Management School. For more read AMS’s SIP report.

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United for Refugees – JAMK University of Applied Sciences

image003Support for the continuing education of newcomers is quite broad in Finland, and as a university there is always the consideration for exactly how to support educational needs of asylum seekers and other newcomers at a university level, many of whom arrive with extensive professional experience and are highly educated. In response to this, students and staff at the School of Business at JAMK University of Applied Sciences organized the JAMK United for Refugees project in September 2015. The project is based in a cross-cultural management course where teachers and students develop their own approaches and solutions to supporting the present and future multicultural Finnish society. In response to this, Steven Crawford, a senior lecturer at the School of Business, decided to integrate asylum seekers into the classroom through the Open University system as credit earning students to share their stories and contribute to the course, and to connect students and staff directly to the refugee crisis. I spoke with Steven about this successful and scalable project.

What is United for Refugees?

The JAMK United for Refugees project began at the start of the fall semester of 2015 at JAMK University of Applied Sciences in Jyväskylä, Finland. The refugee crisis was quite prominent in the media then, as it still is, and I initially thought we might “pack a van” with personal sorts of supplies and head to Greece, where refugees were landing in large numbers on beaches. However, when we examined the idea more closely the reality set in that we were too far away from Greece. So my colleague Ronan Browne and I brought the idea of a refugee support project into a cross-cultural management course as a “local response” to the crisis, and offered it to the students as a potential project. They universally embraced the project idea and the development process started from there and is now (fall 2016) in its third semester.

How does it work?

A key feature of the project is that it forms a framework for the cross-cultural management course in which the underlying pedagogical approaches include experiential learning, meaning-centred education, and transformative adult learning. We activated students by giving them a stakeholder role, organized them into distinct task-oriented groups, and gave them the power to make their own decisions about what sorts of activities they would develop and execute. For the initial fall 2015 project semester, the students designed and executed a campus-wide awareness campaign that included and engaged numerous other stakeholders in our community, including asylum seekers. In spring 2016 the project continued in a more directed way so that we could develop a more tangible response to the crisis in the form of an educational game. Now the first version of that game is complete and we are moving into a phase in which we promote the product across Finland and support users, while also training students to facilitate game play.

What have been some of the interesting experiences so far?

At this point over two-hundred students, teachers, administrators and other stakeholders have participated in our project. Many of them have been affected in some significant positive way through their contributions and participation. Two of our asylum seeking students from the spring 2016 semester are now Open University track master’s students, thus proving that education as a path to integration is a primary means through which both newcomers and hosts benefit. Presently, in this fall 2016 semester, among our nine registered asylum-seeking students I believe that most if not all of them have had their residency applications rejected by the Finnish state. And still they press forward their desire to reside in Finland permanently. Our project of course is not involved in the political processes that produce these decisions, which presently lean toward residency application rejection. And so during each phase of our project there are very compelling personal and social situations both above and below the surface. I am concerned at the moment about one Iraqi lawyer from our 2016 spring semester. She lost the immediate male members of her family and brought her eight children to Finland. All children of asylum seekers in Finland attend school, and her children did also. But I have lost track of her now, so I wonder what her status is and how things will turn out for her and her children. This woman brought discussion into our course about the situation and roles of women in Iraqi society, and the resulting dialogue was compelling and constructive for all of our students.

What have been some of the challenges? 

In my view biggest opportunity is to positively affect the attitudes of Finnish people, those who comprise the dominant group that is the “host,” and who control the processes and outcomes of the asylum seeking system. As is the case in most European nations a sizable part of our host population feels threatened by the refugee crisis and its potential for changing things at home. On the other hand, many Finnish citizens see the very positive potential that diversity brings to societies in the global age. There is tension between these two perspectives, and so we seek to learn about and address the needs and concerns of all Finnish inhabitants about their future together.

In our project course the working language is English, and so all of the course students must have at least a conversational level of English. Thus there have been a few prospective refugee students who were not able to join the course but were able to find some kind of education opportunity elsewhere in our city that they could participate in. There is also the question of student assessment, and in this case I chose to employ the option of either a pass/fail grade or a numeric grade. If a student participates fully in classroom, groupwork and development activities I am comfortable in giving them a “pass” grade. If he or she also completes the “academic” requirements, which includes for example reflective essay-based assessments, I have the option of giving them a numeric grade. Sometimes our expectations, norms and “rules” must bend a bit to fit the urgency of a given situation. At least it is my view that educators have a distinct social responsibility to engage and work with these newcomers, and this may require us to change our practices.

Successes? 

All of our asylum-seeking students who participate fully earn university credits at a Finnish university. Perhaps this is not the first idea that comes to one’s mind when thinking about asyslum seekers. Two of our spring 2016 asylum seeking students received permanent residency status and are now taking Open University master’s-level courses. That is enough in my view to conclude that the project is successful. Beyond that, I sense that we have a positive impact across our community in terms of helping Finland to manage its part of the global refugee crisis and to provide unique and particularly socially relevant educational opportunities to the school’s more “traditional” sorts of students such as our Finnish and international degree students, and also our international exchange students. From a pedagogical perspective, the project has provided us with an excellent framework for a course that sets out to help student learn how to manage through cultures, including the approaches needed to activate experiential learning, meaning-centred education, and transformative adult learning. Overall, taking a community-wide stakeholder approach has allowed us to engage a wide range of participants while moving from a local to a national response to the crisis.

 

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

There are many criteria that need to be addressed for a project such as JAMK United for Refugees to form and progress. First, the organizing teachers need support from the highest levels of the school. Our project also has a strong management team which now includes three teachers and quite purposefully includes students, some of whom are earning thesis, internship and project studies credits through their management level particpation. In this way multiple educational agendas converge to form and drive the project.

Bringing the project into a course may support both specfic course and curricular program-level intended learning outcomes. I suggest that a stakeholder analysis be conducted at the start in order to identify those who may be served and those who might help. After that, the students should be empowered through ownership to make the project happen. Engaging outside partners and stakeholders in the project is also essential.

I would conclude this section by pointing out that at JAMK University of Applied Sciences there is a distinct emphasis on projects and practical “hands-on” learning. And so this particular project fits quite nicely for us and also makes the project realizable based on our limited resources.

What’s next for the initiative?

We are presently rolling out our base training product, diversophy® New Horizons, across Finland to teachers and trainers, and our fall semester students are creating additional game content that focuses more specifically on certain topics, such as youth culture, sports, and employability & entrepreneurship. As part of the cross-cultural management course we are training our students how to facilitate our game in multicultural contexts. We are interested in youth culture because we know that Finnish law requires that all children, including newcomers, go to school. And so we know that there is a lot of interaction every day between dissimilar others in schools. We are interested in sports because, I suppose, Finland is a very healthy and sports conscious society. And we are interested in improving the receptivity of Finnish employers to newcomers, and to help newcomers acquire the insider’s perspectives needed to advance their career and business goals as contributors to Finland’s society. There is plenty left to do!

For information about the project visit the JAMK United for Refugees Facebook page.

For information about the the game, visit diversophy® New Horizons.

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Sustainable Business Examples from Around the World – Hong Kong, Kenya, and Canada

img_4721As businesses become more and more engaged in sustainability around the world, we are presented with an increasing range of examples of active companies. However, when I speak with students and faculty, they say that they often hear about the same examples from the same international companies over and over again.

In an attempt to share some new best practice examples, I asked a handful of faculty members from around the world about their favourite classroom examples of local companies that are actively involved in sustainability. Here are some examples from Kenya, Hong Kong, and Canada.

Jessica Vaghi, E4Impact Foundation, ALTIS Postgraduate School of Business and Society, Italy (examples from Kenya)

Continental Renewable Energy (Corec) is a Kenyan based company that recycles waste plastic into eco-friendly building material and sell the hardware to developers whose problem is high material cost by providing affordable and durable construction products. It prevented 700 tons of waste from landfills, made 26,000 posts and signed orders over 10.000 roofing tiles by customers across Kenya in 2 years of operations.

Stamp Investment is a Kenyan enterprise that distributes briquettes and multitasking fuel efficient stoves, which enables schools and households to have access to safe drinking water with a reduction of 75 % in water borne diseases. The business won the Grand Challenges Africa “pitching your innovation” competition in 2016 and has been national winner of the most innovative business idea during Enablis Chase bank, ILO business launch pad competition in 2011.

NUCAFE – National Union of Coffee Agribusiness and Farm Enterprises is a sustainable market-driven system of coffee farmer organisations empowered to increase their household incomes through enhanced entrepreneurship and innovation in 19 districts of Uganda. NUCAFE Contributed in influencing the development of a National Coffee Policy and to improve gender relations among coffee farming households and was nominated by AGRA best Africa farmer organisation of 2013 in income diversity category.

Click here for more information about E4Impact Foundation and their work in Kenya.

Pamsy Hui, Hong Kong Polytechnic University Faculty of Business, Hong Kong

It is often a misconception that interesting work in the field of sustainability can only be done by companies with a lot of resources.  In Hong Kong, many small and medium enterprises are doing very interesting things with limited resources.  For instance, Diving Adventure Ltd., a company providing training services and products related to scuba diving, has always put the environment in the forefront of its business decisions.  They regularly collaborate with NGOs, the government, and other organisations on environment protection initiatives (e.g., underwater cleansing activities, reef check).  What is impressive is that for such a small operation, they go far beyond just caring about environmental sustainability.  They are also committed to create employment opportunities to minority groups, released prisoners, and reformed drug users, to help integrate them into the society.  On the service side, they regularly provide training to underprivileged children and individuals with disabilities, providing a sense of inclusiveness for people who are often overlooked, if not discriminated, by the society.

Another example is Baby-Kingdom.com, a parental online forum for parents to share information and experiences related to bringing up children.  In addition to donating to NGOs, they help NGOs advertise on their forum, bringing awareness among their large number of users. They set up the Baby Kingdom Environmental Protection Education Fund in 2008 to support programmes in primary schools to educate school children on concepts such as greenhouse gas reduction and green diet.  Consistent with its family-friendly image, Baby-Kingdom.com started family-friendly practices well before they became a trend in large corporations.  The well-being of children is central to its human resource practices, and the company is often recognised for being a socially responsible employer.

A third example of a company doing interesting things related to sustainability is 4M Industrial Development Limited, a toy design company specialising in educational toys.  In designing their products, 4M consciously favors sustainable materials and supply chains with lower carbon footprints.  In addition, 4M partners with NGOs in multiple ways.  With the Spastics Association of Hong Kong, they adapt part of their manufacturing process to support the disabled.  It also works with different NGOs to promote their causes.  Many of 4M’s products have a green message behind them (e.g., Paper Recycling Kit, Trash Robot Kit).  For each box of the Clean Water Science Kit, for example, 4M donates a portion of its profits to NGOs to fund water-purifying projects in the third world.  Meanwhile, children buying the kit would get a message about the project in the box.

Click here to read about the Interdisciplinary Wellness Clinic at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Deborah De Lange, Ryerson University, Canada

Our Horizon is a national not-for-profit organization led by Robert Shirkey that works with governments to require climate change labels on gas pumps. The idea is a low-cost, globally scalable intervention to communicate the hidden costs of fossil fuels to end users and drive change upstream.

ZooShare is a biogas plant led by Daniel Bida that turns animal waste from the Toronto Zoo and food waste from grocery stores into fertilizer and renwable power for the Ontario grid. The process aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10,000 tonnes of C02 each year. The biogas plant is starting construction now and will be operational in the summer of 2017.

Purpose Capital is an impact advisory firm that mobilises all forms of capital – financial, physical, human and social – to accelerate social progress. Alex Kjorven is the Director of Corporate Development and is a graduate student in the EnSciMan programme at Ryerson.

Click here to learn more about the interdisciplinary EnSciMan programme at Ryerson University.

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When Business and Healthcare Meet: A Look at an Interdisciplinary Business Run By Students from Hong Kong Polytechnic University

13923535_706655699475691_725367246747842977_oThe Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) Faculty of Business has a mission of IDEAS (Innovation Driven Education and Scholarship).  Underpinning this mission is the responsibility to develop future leaders who can contribute to the society meaningfully and innovatively.  Over the years, their Faculty has gradually stepped up its emphasis on ethics, responsibility, and sustainability in education, research, and service to the community.  A conversation between colleagues in business and the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences at the University resulted in the development of an interdisciplinary venture; the student-run Wellness Clinic.

I spoke with Pamsy Hui from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University about this innovative initiative.

What is the Wellness Clinic?

The Hong Kong PolyU Student-run Wellness Clinic is the first student-run physiotherapy clinic in Hong Kong.  Jointly set up by the Faculty of Business and the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), it promotes and provides preventive care programmes, such as fall prevention programme and lower back pain prevention programme to the community.  These programmes are designed, promoted, administered, and implemented by students, under the supervision of a registered physiotherapist.

How did it come about?

It started out as a university-funded interdisciplinary initiative to encourage entrepreneurship among students in the two PolyU units in 2013.  It was identified early on that preventive health services would be a focus.  The first phase of the initiative was an open competition, in which student teams put forth different business models based on their findings on the preventive healthcare needs in the community.  The winning team was then invited to join the core management team of the clinic, implementing its business model.  The first management team has since passed the responsibility to their successors.  So we have gone through a period of succession planning and transition in the clinic’s short life as well!

What are the key features and how does it work?

The interdisciplinary nature of the clinic is one of its biggest features.  While the physiotherapy students design the actual programmes to introduce to the community, the business students take care of the service operation, marketing and general strategic plan for the clinic.  In order to provide programmes that are high quality and suitable for potential clients, the two groups of students need to maintain constant communication.  In other words, business students would need to communicate to physiotherapy students the market needs, and physiotherapy students would need to communicate to business students whether the needs can be served.  Without such two-way communication, resources would be wasted on programmes irrelevant to the community served.

The second biggest feature is the extent through which students can practice what they learn in the classrooms.  In fact, through the application of their specialised skills, be it physiotherapy or business, students get to see for themselves how their knowledge can be a force for good.

The clinic is intended to be a self-sustaining social enterprise in the long-run.  Therefore, a Care Fund was established.  Normally, clients pay a fee for the service provided.  Part of this income, along with donations, is fed into the Care Fund to subsidise clients who cannot afford the normal price.  Part of the challenge for the students, then, is to figure out how to balance different types of programmes and clients to sustain the clinic.

How does this connect to the SDGs?

The Wellness Clinic deals directly with Goal #3: Good Health and Well-being.  Specifically, through the operation of the Wellness Clinic, students strive to provide services that are available to all, including elderly who cannot otherwise afford to pay for the programmes.  Regardless of the clients and programmes, the aim for the Wellness Clinic is to promote preventive healthcare.  Rising healthcare costs have been a concern the world over, especially in ageing societies.  If people can be educated about the prevention of health issues, the burden on the healthcare system can be lightened.  In a small way, the Wellness Clinic also aims to prevent extreme poverty brought forth by potentially crippling medical expenses among some of the most vulnerable inhabitants in the city (i.e., the elderly).

Challenges?

With its interdisciplinary nature, communication across disciplines would be a challenge.  Business students and rehabilitation science students have different mindsets and different focus areas in the project.  Fortunately, so far, all the students involved have gone into this with a learning mindset.  That helps a lot.  Another major challenge is the sustainability of the project.  Students constantly face the challenge of making the clinic financially viable while providing affordable care for those who need it.  That means they have to keep thinking about new business plans and reaching out to new donors.  Sustainability can also be viewed in terms of the human resources.  Most students complete their programmes in four years.  If they sign onto the project in their second year, realistically they have at most two years on the project before they are busy with the final year workload.  That means new members need to be recruited onto the team every year.  New members bring new ideas and energy, but also pose challenges to continuity.  Students really do learn the challenges of succession planning in this project!

Successes?

As the Wellness Clinic has a constant stream of courses for different target clients, it benefits a good number of people.  For example, among the clients in the fall prevention classes, 68% of them demonstrated significant improvement in the knowledge of fall prevention, 57% of them are more confident about dealing with falls, and 38% of them showed actual physical improvement.  These are encouraging results.  Meanwhile, both sets of students get to practice what they learn in a meaningful way.  They also get to learn about how to work across disciplines, sharpen their communication skills, and strengthen their sense of responsibility.  In addition, through the experience, they get to experience organisational issues, such as succession planning and sustainability.  These are good learning opportunities for the students.  From an education point of view, this serves as a prototype that we can replicate in the future with other disciplines.

What advice do you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar in place?

Interdisciplinary projects like this are very challenging to sustain.  First, there has to be strong commitment from different parties.  Even though this is a student-run project, supervision by the faculties would still be necessary.  Faculty support – be it financial or merely moral support – would also help motivate students.  Second, in a university setting, the need for a good succession plan is even more pressing than in normal organisations.  The turnover is constant and frequent.  Faculty facilitation in this aspect may be necessary.  Third, sustainability will be a challenge.  Before embarking on such projects, it is good to assess the long-term financial viability of the projects, as well as the likelihood that people will be excited about it in the long-run.  Finally, it always helps if the project is consistent with the general philosophy and values of the school.  Such projects take up a lot of energy, and if they are not in line with other things the school is doing, they will be very difficult to maintain.

What’s next for the initiative?

For the Wellness Clinic itself, sustainability is the number one priority.  The goal is not about growth, but about maintaining good quality and affordable preventive physiotherapy programmes for the community.  In order to serve more people in need of the services (but cannot afford them), students will need to find innovative ways to keep the Care Fund healthy.

This project also shows the value of interdisciplinary student projects.  So another next step is to locate new opportunities for business students to work with students from other disciplines (e.g., construction engineering, nursing, design, etc.) on social enterprise projects.

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Running a Successful Interdisciplinary Programme – Ryerson University

Since 2000, Ryerson University in Canada has been offering a unique interdisciplinary programme that brings together faculty from all of the university’s six departments. The Environmental Applied Science and Management (EnSciMan) Programme was a response to a clear societal need for graduates at the Master’s level with expertise in the core areas of practice in the Canadian environment industry. With a focus on applied research with immediate implications for practice, EnSciMan provides opportunities for students to bring together engineering, geography, public health, urban planning economics and other fields to create solutions to today and tomorrow’s challenges.

I spoke with Cory Searcy, Graduate Programme Director Environmental Applied Science and Management from Ryerson University about this programme.

Introduce the Environmental Applied Science and Management Programme and how it came about?

The EnSciMan Programme began offering its M.A.Sc. degree in 2000.  It was Ryerson’s first independent graduate programme. In the late 1990s faculty members in eight schools and departments (three engineering departments, chemistry and biology, geography, public health, urban and regional planning, and economics) collaborated in the initial development of the M.A.Sc. programme as a cooperative and multi-disciplinary degree.

The M.A.Sc. programme was developed to clearly link the environmental sciences and the management and decision-making disciplines in order to provide students the opportunity to integrate the two areas of study in the classroom and in their research. The emphasis was on applied research for resolving problems in environmental protection, conservation, and sustainable development. Much of the research conducted in the programme is intended to have immediate implications for practice

How has the programme grown over the years?

The initial planned intake was 12 full-time and 12 part-time students per year. In recent years, there has been a shift to more full-time M.A.Sc. students. The planned intake is now circa 20 full-time M.A.Sc. students per year. Several part-time students are also typically admitted.

The programme has continued to grow over time. The strengths exhibited by the faculty and students of the EnSciMan M.A.Sc. programme, through their published research and successful completion of degrees, were translated into the approval in 2008 of a Ph.D. programme in EnSciMan. The first cohort of doctoral students were admitted to the programme in the Fall 2009 semester. The planned intake was initially 5 full-time Ph.D. students per year but the target has typically been met or exceeded. The target now stands at 6 full-time Ph.D. students per year.

Since its founding, the EnSciMan programme has continued to foster research and training in the environmental sciences and in environmental management. The M.A.Sc. and Ph.D. students are now supported by over 85 faculty members at Ryerson University. EnSciMan is the only programme at Ryerson that includes faculty members from all six of the university’s faculties. The programme has been successful in preparing graduates for professional careers in the environment industry, as well as for doctoral studies.

How is the programme interdisciplinary?

The EnSciMan programme is designed to provide students with both breadth and depth of knowledge in both its programme fields (i.e., environmental science and policy and environmental management). This is done through, what the programme refers to as, its “T-shaped curriculum”.

The previous director of EnSciMan, Michal Bardecki, has discussed this concept in considerable detail. He explains that in many graduate programmes students acquire and graduate with highly specialised and deeply developed “I-shaped” expertise. However, in the 1990s an alternative model emerged recognising the value of those with “T-shaped” skills. Figuratively, the horizontal crossbar represents an ability to apply knowledge across disciplines and an understanding of fields outside one’s principal area of expertise, as well as complementary skills of communication, institutional knowledge, and the ability to solve problems collaboratively.

Recent research has continued to argue the case that the goal of shaping a T-shaped professional should guide programme development and delivery in a wide variety of discipline areas at universities. This can be particularly true of interdisciplinary programs which students’ strong foundation of specialised knowledge. For students seeking professional development, approaches such as these are often particularly attractive since they offer the promise of bridging to workforce relevance. There are manifest benefits to students as employers often seek those who can perform as “environmental integrators” (i.e., managing and coordinating projects, working in multidisciplinary teams and networking effectively). In addition, students possessing skills as both “specialists” and “generalists” may be better able to adapt to the inevitable fluctuations in the job market.

The EnSciMan programme possesses a T-shaped curriculum providing problem-solving and research depth in one area while explicitly incorporating overall breadth in the understanding of a range of other fields and developing complementary skills seen as valuable to students in the development of their careers.

What have been some of the challenges in creating an interdisciplinary programme such as this one?

Some of the key challenges in creating the program include:

  • Student funding: EnSciMan is a graduate program that does not have an undergraduate program directly associated with it. As a result, it can sometimes be difficult to secure Teaching Assistant (TA) positions for students. That said, many undergraduate programs from across the university have helped our students find TA positions.
  • Different academic cultures: EnSciMan includes over 85 faculty members from across the entire university. As a result, sometimes expectations for students (e.g., in the completion of their research) are different.
  • Seminar and office space: There is limited designated seminar and office space on campus for the interdisciplinary graduate students. Students and faculty are thus dispersed throughout the campus. This can create challenges in fostering a sense of belonging in the program.

What about some successes? 

There have been a number of successes. Two I would like to highlight are our graduate successes in securing employment in an environmentally-related area and our long history of successful co-supervision of graduate students. Over 90% of our graduates work in an environmentally-related field. The full details are available in the programme’s occasional paper (starting on page 21).

The co-supervision of graduate students has long been encouraged in the EnSciMan programme. This reflects the interdisciplinary nature of the programme and provides students with exposure to a variety of perspectives. As noted in our occasional paper, over 25% of M.A.Sc. students have been co-supervised. Many of these co-supervisions bridge departments and faculties. Examples include biology and public health, mechanical engineering and geography, biology and urban planning, and economics and occupational and public health. With over 85 faculty members in all six of Ryerson University’s faculties, it is anticipated that EnSciMan students will continue to enjoy opportunities to be co-supervised by faculty in a wide range of research areas in environmental science and environmental management.

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

Establishing reasonably common expectations for students (in terms of both coursework and their research) is very important given the different academic cultures involved in the programme. We need to always make sure we are fair to all students, which can sometimes be a challenge given the very different backgrounds and needs they will bring to an interdisciplinary programme. One key challenge these types of programmes may have is that faculty members are often members of a “home” department. This can result in them being pulled in different directions. It is therefore particularly important to have a core of several faculty members who are deeply committed to the interdisciplinary programme. One challenge of these programmes is that they often belong to everyone and no one. Several faculty members need to be deeply committed to the programme to make sure the needed things actually get done. We’ve been lucky to have this, but sustaining this commitment over time is a challenge for any interdisciplinary programme.

What’s next for the initiative?

EnSciMan is a well-established programme, however, we continue to improve over time. Key areas of focus include working to address the challenges listed above. We also recently completed a curriculum review, which resulted in the addition of two new courses (on responding to climate change and business fundamentals for environmental professionals).

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How the Social Impact Festival at University of Western Australia Supports Global and Local Progress

img_7254-smlThe Sustainable Development Goals help us consider everything – from one person, to the university, to our cities – in a global context. They provide a robust yet accessible framework for learning about global progress. This is the focus of the work being done at the Centre for Social Impact at the University of Western Australia. Among their many programmes is their annual Social Impact Festival, an opportunity to bring together individuals and organisations who are deeply committed to making Western Australia a better place.

I spoke with Claire Stokes from the Centre for Social Impact at the University of Western Australia about this increasingly successful event.

What is the Social Impact Festival?

The Centre for Social Impact at The University of Western Australia (UWA) hosted the first Social Impact Festival in May 2015 – we call this ‘prototype 1’. It saw over 1,000 people attending events on the UWA Crawley campus focused on furthering social impact. When 2016 began, the team at the Centre for Social Impact UWA decided to take the festival into ‘prototype 2’ in July 2016. Katie Stubley (the other co-director) and myself started with a purpose and designed the event to fulfill that purpose. This included three primary aims: share and diffuse cutting-edge knowledge; strengthen and connect social impact networks; and increase our capacity to make WA better for all. We also identified many people, ideas, organisations and networks that have been deeply committed to making WA a more just, vibrant and better place for all. So a key element of the festival was bringing stories of social impact in WA to the surface to be celebrated and amplified.

What are the key features of the Festival and how does it work?

The concept of ‘social impact’ is so broad that we knew a regular conference format would not work. To see real change, we knew we had to reach audiences beyond those who had previously engaged with the Centre and in a variety of settings. The format was based roughly on a ‘fringe festival’: a diverse range of small, low-cost, and engaging events in a variety of venues so attendees could ‘create their own adventure’.

We turned to our postgraduate course – the Graduate Certificate in Social Impact – for a framework which gave us the following themes for the four key days of the festival:

  • Creating social impact: entrepreneurship, innovation & design
  • Demonstrating social impact: research, measurement & evaluation
  • Funding social impact: investment, philanthropy & ethical consumerism
  • Leading social impact: organisation, collaboration & systems

As a whole, the festival featured 34 events over 7 days in 16 venues around Perth. Individual event prices ranged from $0 to $30 and 15 events were free. More than 150 people and organisations contributed to the festival programme (including speakers, workshop facilitators, co-working space hosts, artists, performers, open house venues, and market stall-holders). Through the interactive ‘Stories from the Field’ events (21, 22, 26 & 27 July), 68 individual stories of social impact were shared. Twenty local ethical businesses featured in the Marketplace & Ethical Fashion Show (23 July), and 10 spaces and organisations featured on Social Impact Open House day (25 July).

What are/were your favourite parts of the festival?

Pitching events are always interesting, as they provide opportunities for real people and organisations to take action, as well as the chance to learn about investing and the local landscape. The Impact Seed Pitch Night on 26 July was no exception. Run by a new Perth-based organisation, Impact Seed, the event saw five investable social businesses pitch for investment to a packed auditorium of 120 people. It also featured a highly engaging keynote address from Bessi Graham (The Difference Incubator, Melbourne). Graham also sat on the judging panel with Paul Flatau (Centre for Social Impact UWA), Derek Gerrard (Innovation Bay), and Paul Bide (School for Social Entrepreneurs).

Two other standout events were the Festival Opening and Marketplace & Ethical Fashion Show. The Opening was a directed performance, mixing inspiring speech from Michael Chaney, Cassandra Goldie and Noel Nannup together with music, poetry, song and dance. The Marketplace & Ethical Fashion show held an atmostphere that was absolutely perfect for what we were trying to achieve. There was a modest amount of stalls – 20 in total – but every single person involved demonstrated deep passion and commitment to their cause. This also extended to an excitement in celebrating and helping each other on the day. Businesses represented included social enterprises, fair trade homewares, organic kombucha and tea, eco-garden services, ethical fashion, Aboriginal enterprises, and more. An estimated 300+ people attended the event and all stallholders reported they sold more than expected.

Although not an event, the ongoing co-working and collaboration space was another highlight. This provided ample opportunity for attendees of events throughout the festival to come early or stay afterwards to simply work, or meet other like-minded people and make new connections. The hosts of this space, Perth-based social innovators enkel, also ensured users of the space made the most of it by engaging with interesting activities such as mindfulness, story-telling, and more.

What impact does the festival aim to have/ already have?

We have already observed and heard about the immediate impact of the Festival. For instance, as one of the key aims was connecting people across sectors we were delighted to hear that almost 70% of attendees said they made new connections they intend to follow up with (or already have). That does not even take into account the connections made across the 150 contributors. We have also heard of some changes, or actions taken based on transformative experiences. For example, 26% of attendees to seek out formal education or training in fields linked to social impact. One person reported they have already chaired a board meeting and presented information from the Festival, leading the Board to review the organisation’s mission, objectives, strategies and how we can better measure our social impact.

Anecdotally, we have heard of many new connections and collaborations around Perth that resulted from the Festival, while other connections have strengthened or formalised. This is exactly the kind of impact we intended to create.

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

Design with a purpose. That was the single-most important aspect of the festival and it resulted in an event that was not only successful in terms of numbers and engagement, but in the immediate impact it had, leaving everyone involved with the optimism and drive to create positive change.

What’s next?

We are synthesizing the huge amount of information that was drawn out during the festival – in the form of stories, ideas, presentations and feedback. Many of the resources presented or created throughout the festival can be found here: http://www.socialimpactfestival.org/resources/

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A Selection of MOOCs on Sustainability/Ethics for Fall 2016 (Part 1)

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Every year there is an increase in the number of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) available on 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 three to eight hours per week to complete. Below is a selection of such courses offered this Fall 2016, listed by topic, from PRME as well as some non-signatory schools. The first part focuses on courses that relate to some of the Sustainable Development Goals.

1 No Poverty

Challenging Wealth and Income Inequalities: This course explores the concerns about rising generational and economic inequality in developed countries. From the Open University – starts October 3.

Hierarchy in Property Rights: This course looks at how language can help us to develop our relationship with nature and determine the rights of access and ownership. From University of Leeds – starts October 17.

Subsistence Marketplaces: This course looks at bottom-up understandings of the intersection of poverty and the marketplace. From University of Illinois – starts August 29.

2 Zero Hunger

Global Food Security: Addressing the Challenges: This course introduces the issue of food security, specifically how do we feed an extra two billion people by the middle of the century, with a focus on UK agriculture and on food supply chains in other parts of the world. From Lancaster University – starts August 29.

Agriculture and the World We Live in: This course looks at the world’s population and the crucial role of agriculture in feeding the steadily increasing number of people. From Massey University – started August 9.

3 Good Health and Well Being

Strategies for Successful Ageing: This course explores how we can stay happy, healthy, socially-connected and active as we age. From Trinity College Dublin – starts September 26.

Food as Medicine: This course explores the role of food in health and how to apply nutrition science to guide you on using food as medicine for you and your family. Monash University – starts October 24.

Identifying Food Fraud: This course provides an introduction to modern analytical science techniques and how they can be used to uncover food fraud. From University of East Anglia – starts October 24.

4 Quality Education

Education for All: Disability, Diversity and Inclusion: This course is about how inclusive education can work, especially where resources are limited. From University of Cape Town – starts September 19.

Teaching for Change: an African Philosophical Approach: This course explores teaching and learning in an African context and learn about cultivating pedagogical encounters in relation to Africa. From Stellenbosch University – starts September 19.

7 Affordable and Clean Energy

Elements of Renewable Energy: This course explores renewable energy using the four Greek elements as core theme – power derived from earth, from air, from fire and from water. From The Open University – starts September 5.

Fundamentals of Global Energy Business: This course looks at the diverse and integrated markets for primary energy, and the essential considerations driving business leaders and policy makers in development of global energy resources. From University of Colorado – started August 15.

Our Energy Future: This course introduces students to the issues of energy in the 21st century including food and fuels, as well as energy production and utilization. From University of California – starts September 5.

11 Sustainable Cities and Communities

Re-enchanting the City: Designing the Human Habitat: This course is an introduction to the interdisciplinary nature of city making looking at the interdependencies of the professions at play; urban design, architecture, construction management, planning, landscape architecture and design. UNSW Australia – starts September 5.

Smart Cities: This course explores the role of technology and data in cities and how these can be used to deal with challenges such as rapid urbanisation, climate change and inequality that cities are increasingly facing. From The Open University – starts September 26.

Indigenous Studies – Australia and New Zealand: This course looks at the distinctive stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia and Maori people in Antearoa New Zealand. From Massey University and University of Tasmania – started August 9th.

Designing Cities: This course looks at how cities have evolved, how shape a more sustainable city. From University of Pennsylvania – starts September 5.

Greening the Economy-Sustainable Cities: This course explores sustainable cities as engines for greening the economy. From Lund University – started August 8.

12 Responsible Consumption and Production

Making Sense of Health Evidence – The Informed Consumer: This course helps consumers to understand whether health evidence is likely to be reliable or not. From Cardiff University – starts September 26.

Antiquities Trafficking and Art Crime: This course looks into the seedy underbelly of the art world, looking at smuggling, theft, fakes, and fraud. From University of Glasgow – starts October 3.

The E-Waste Challenge: This course looks at what e-waste is and why it is the challenge of our century and how we can turn this challenge into an opportunity. From UNEP and KU Leuven – starts September 1

13 Climate Action

Causes of Climate Change: This course provides the basis for understanding the underlying physical processes governing climate variation in the past, present and future – University of Bergen – starts September 5.

Climate Justice – Lessons from the Global South: This course builds an understanding for how we can balance human needs with caring for the planet. From UNESCO – starts November 14.

Climate Change: This course looks at the biggest global challenge the human race has ever faced, our insatiable demand for energy and how it is changing our atmosphere and our climate. From Macquarie University – started August 8.

Making Sense of Climate Science Denial: This course looks at the social and psychological drivers of climate science denial and how to effective debunk climate misinformation. From University of Queensland – started August 9.

14 Life Below Water

Exploring Our Oceans: This course explores the half of our world covered by deep ocean and how our lives affect the hidden face of our planet. From University of Southampton – starts October 10.

Contemporary Issues in Ocean Governance: This course considers the nature of how the world’s oceans are regulated, how this has evolved through time and how it actually works. From University of Wollongong – started August 8.

15 Life on Land

Environmental Challenges: Justice in Natural Resource Management: This course explores three basic principles when considering natural resource management: the principles of justice, transaction costs, and the problem of aggregating social preferences. From University of Leeds – starts September 5.

Introduction to Ecosystems: This course looks at the natural world, how the web of life works with illustrations from around the world. From The Open University – starts October 24.

16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Environmental Challenges: Rights and Values in Ecosystem Services: This course explores how differences in values can create conflict and how we can learn to manage our natural resources with integrity. From University of Leeds – starts September 5.

Ending Slavery – Strategies for Contemporary Global Abolition: This course looks at the 45.8 million slaves alive today and how we might achieve a slavery-free world. From University of Nottingham – starts October 17.

Corporate Lawyers – Ethics, Regulation and Purpose: This course explores the role and purpose of corporate lawyers, examining how they are regulated and the ethical challenges they face. From University of Birmingham – starts November 7.

17 Partnerships for the goals

Global Systems Science and Policy: This course looks at how Global System Science can inform and model the impact of social, economic, political and environmental policy making including citizen engagement. From UNESCO – starts September 5.

Earth Observation from Space: The Optical View: Discover how optical Earth observation data is gathered and used, for example, to monitor changes to our climate, and natural and build environment. From the European Space Agency – starts September 12.

Have we missed any? Email to be added to the list.

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