How to Raise Awareness about the Global Goals with Students – Copenhagen Business School

Although we are 2 years into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), many faculty, staff and, in particular, students are still not aware of what the Goals are and why they are important. After conducting an informal student survey last year, the PRME team at Copenhagen Business School (CBS) in Denmark was surprised by the low level of awareness around the Goals and decided to do something to address that. I spoke with Jacob Schjødt, Project Manager for a special day they organized for students on the Goals, about how the team went about raising awareness.

What was Students for the Global Goals?

Students for the Global Goals was a one day on-campus event organised by the CBS PRME office in collaboration with 13 student organisations from CBS. Each organisation hosted an activity uniting their area of interest with one or more of the SDGs. Twenty companies participated alongside organisations, that were either collaborating with the team at events (e.g. through talks, workshops and/or case competitions), or by being present at a stand throughout the day.

How did it come about?

The event came about when CBS PRME noted that we were addressing responsible management in our curriculum, faculty and outreach but that there was very little that directly targeted students. But the question remained of how to engage students and what was relevant. Louise Thompsen, a project manager at CBS PRME felt strongly that the SDGs were not on many of our student’s radars and that there was a lack of awareness regarding them. This was further fueled with the results of an informal survey which revealed that only 30% of CBS the students questioned had heard of the goals, and that only 12 % of these had gained this information from CBS. Something needed to be done to drive awareness and so Iwas brought in to take on this challenge. Prior to the Student for the Global Goals event, CBS had not held an event about the goals, which was in contrast to many other Danish universities who had already, contributed in some form to the perceived necessity of creating awareness. In a more practical sense, it came about via the joint effort of two part-time PRME employees, spending around 10 months on planning and executing the entire day

How was the day organised. What happened?

We had a number of workshops, debates, cases and talks throughout the day. This included an event with Velux, Novo Nordisk and Oxfam on the SDGs – a New Wave of Greenwashing and another about Sustainability as a Competitive Edge put on in collaboration with Maersk, Unilever and Orsted (a large producer of energy). We had some events organized by student clubs such as mending clothes during the event (CBS Fashion Society) and Volunteering for the Global Goals (AIESEC). The CBS Debating Society organised a debate on the SDGs, exploring their relevance to business and to students. The best overview is provided in the booklet we prepared for the event.

How did you get companies involved? How were they involved and has the relationship continued past the event?

Companies had three different ways of engaging. Some were involved as partners. Here we asked companies to contribute financially in return for exposure, a large stand in a prime location, and engagement in events during the day. Initially we were going to ask one company to be the main partner but later decided it was better to ask three different companies. This was done by email, followed by meetings. Several companies were involved in specific events. In this case it was the student organisations that organised all the connections themselves. Lastly we asked companies to join on the day with a stand where they were able to tell students about their companies and the work they do.

We have developed a very good relationship to everyone who was involved, and some have shown interest in participating again next year.

What were some of the companies and the cases involved? Were the solutions shared with the companies and will they be implementing them?

We had one large case competition with Chr. Hansen, a leading global bioscience company about further engaging the SDGs in their work. Here, 50 students worked for 48 hours in close collaboration with the company. We also had some smaller cases, such as the implementation of our SUPO (sustainability points) project. This is a project aimed at incentivising students at CBS to engage in sustainable behaviours by rewarding them with points they can use to gain on-campus benefits. The workshop was about developing this currency system.

How did you bring together all the student organisations?

We are very lucky to have more than 80 student organisations at CBS, so finding engaged students was not a challenge. We looked through a catalogue, and identified interesting and relevant organisations with a reputation for being ambitious. Then, we invited their leaders to an informal coffee meeting, asking them if they would be interested in engaging in a student-oriented event about the Global Goals. The majority said yes.

After plenty of coffee meetings, we had a larger gathering with all of the organisations, where we explained our vision for the event more in depth. All organisations were from CBS, so they all had a business background. Yet, they varied greatly in their activities (from marketing, to debating, feminism, to Asian studies, sustainability and exchange).

What were some of the challenges faced and how will you fix those for next year?

We spent a lot of time trying to get funding for the events, by applying to various funds instead of reaching out to companies. None of the six funds offered to give us any money. Another challenge was that we invited some student organisations that had limited experience hosting events. That created a lot of nervous energy leading up to their contributions on the day. A more thorough screening process would have saved us from such worries.

What were some of the successes, how was it received!

It was very well received. Plenty of people showed up. Participants and co-organizers seemed both happy and impressed with the event. We had some of the largest Danish companies and large number of sustainability VIPs participating. It has also been mentioned a lot since both in the hallways at CBS, and in CBS’ newspaper and blog posts. We have, undoubtedly, created awareness and engaged a large number of students in the SDGs.

What advice do you have for other schools thinking of doing something similar?

Start out by having fun with the idea, and be super ambitious. A lot is doable.

Then, seriously consider how much time and energy you have at hand. It was quite demanding to be in charge of the project while only being employed part- time.

What’s next for the event?

Planning next year! One major aspiration is to go beyond CBS, and invite student organisations from other universities but that remains to be seen.

 

17 Resources for 17 Goals – Part 2 of 2


There are a growing number of excellent resources around the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, many of which can be used in the classroom and to inspire activities or partnerships within University and Business School campuses. Here are a range of different international resources that can be used to engage in, and raise awareness of the 17 SDGs. Part 1 featured resources for Goals 1-9 and part 2 features resources for Goals 10 through to 17. If you are developing your own resources and would like to share these more broadly please share them here.

 

SDG 10: This past month the UN briefing on migration explored how stereotypes around migrants as troublemakers need to change to properly recognise their important role as contributors. The International Labour Organization estimates that there are 150 million migrant workers worldwide and that they contribute around 6.7 trillion to the global economy, significant in particular because they account for only 3.4% of the world population. This will be further discussed at the upcoming Meeting on International Migration, the United Nation Forum on Population and through the Global Compact for Safe and Orderly Migration which is currently in development.

SDG 11: C40 Cities is a group of 90 of the world’s greatest cities focused on tackling climate change and driving urban action that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and climate risks, while increasing he health, wellbeing and economic opportunities of urban citizens.. Their Finance Facility is sharing a number of best practice reports about cities around the world and their efforts towards reaching the SDGs. The most recently is around how to finance sustainable urban infrastructure and another looks at Bogota’s Quinto Centenario Project which has been part of the cities transformation into a cycling paradise.

SDG 12: As part of its follow-up and review mechanisms, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development encourages member states to “conduct regular and inclusive reviews of progress at the national and sub-national levels, which are country-led and country-driven”. These national reviews are expected to serve as a basis for the regular reviews by the high-level political forum (HLPF). The voluntary national reviews (VNRs) aim to facilitate the sharing of experiences, including successes, challenges and lessons learned, with a view to accelerating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The VNRs also seek to strengthen policies and institutions of governments and to mobilize multi-stakeholder support and partnerships for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. VNRs can be accessed online here.

SDG 13: The Green Climate Fund (GCF) was established by 194 governments to support actions on limiting or reducing greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries, and to help adapt vulnerable societies to the unavoidable impacts of climate change. Working within the framework of UNFCCC, the Fund is a central mechanism for catalyzing climate finance at international and national levels. It intends to raise $100 billion per year by 2020.

SDG 14: The Global Environment Facility (GEF) was established on the eve of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to help tackle our planet’s most pressing environmental problems. Since then, the GEF has provided $17 billion in grants and mobilized $88 billion in additional financing for more than 4,000 projects. The GEF has become an international partnership of 183 countries, international institutions, civil society organizations, and private sector to address global environmental issues.


SDG 15
: For International Day of Forests on March 21st, a special short documentary film called TARA Alpinia nigra was released which looks closely at how India’s non timber forest products and its access rights by indigenous peoples and other traditional forest-dwelling marginal groups. The film looks at 10 tribal villages , capturing the voices of vulnerable tribal groups dependent on forested landscapes for livelihoods. The film had support from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. The UN Forum on Forests will hold its 13th session at the UN in New York on 7-11 May.

SDG 16: UN Environment just launched a global report called “Making Waves: Aligning the Financial System with Sustainable Development”. The report is a culmination of four years of research and insights. It summarises progress made in aligning the financial system with sustainable development and reflects on the lessons that can be learned from their approach and what still needs to be done. The report is in English but executive summaries are available in a number of other languages.

SDG 17: This year’s edition of the UN Global Compact-Accenture Strategy CEO Study, the world’s largest program of CEO research on sustainability, focuses on transforming partnerships for the SDGs. The report incorporates insights from interviews with UN leaders and their private sector counterparts, survey of UN agency heads, and data gathering from across more than 35 entities across the UN system. Among these, 85% believe that cross-sector partnerships are critical to enable business to help achieve the SDGs.

 

17 Resources for 17 Goals – Part 1 of 2

There are a growing number of excellent resources around the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, many of which can be used in the classroom and to inspire activities or partnerships within University and Business School campuses. Here are a range of different international resources that can be used to engage in, and raise awareness of the 17 SDGs. Part 1 will feature resources for Goals 1-9 and part 2 will feature resources for Goals 10 through to 17. If you are developing your own resources and would like to share these more broadly please share them here.

SDG 1: The Social Protection Department of the International Labour Organisation works with member States to achieve and maintain the human right to social protection. Over 4 billion people worldwide are left without social protection. The department recently released their flagship World Social Protection Report Universal social protection to achieve the SDGs. A Social Protection Toolbox was also launched by the UN in Asia and the Pacific that provides tools and guidance specific for that region.

SDG 2: A new report on Financing for Development was launched by the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Financing for Development. The report provides a number of policy options which, if implemented, would put the world on a sustainable and sustainable growth and development path. It also examines the financing challenges to the SDGs under in-depth review in 2018 to help assess progress in the means of implementation for several of the goals.

SDG 3: April 7th yearly was World Health Day, coordinated by the World Health Organisations. The site for the Day, which is honoured yearly, provides a range of resources on how SDG 3 is so important and how we can achieve it including videos. The site also allows you to search to see how your country, and any other country around the world, is doing in terms of universal health coverage and SDG 3.

SDG 4: The UNESCO-Japan Prize on Education for Sustainable Development honours outstanding projects by individuals, institutions and organisations. Projects must have been running for at least four years, already show evidence of high impact, be easily replicable and scalable and contribute to one or more of the five Priority Action Areas of the Global Action Programme on ESD. The call for nominations is now open and need to be submitted through your countries official UNESCO delegation. Three prizes of US$ 50,000 each will be given.

SDG 5: The Global Trends Report on the Women’s Empowerment Principles Gender Gap Analysis Tool was recently released by the UN Global Compact, UN Women and IDB Invest. The Tool is a business driven online platform deigned to help global business leaders identify strengths, gaps and opportunities to improve gender equality and women’s empowerment in the workplace and within the markets and communities they serve. The report highlights key findings from the first 100 companies that took the self-assessment tool.

SDG 6: The Open SDG Data Hub promotes the exploration, analysis and use of authoritative SDG data sources for evidence-based decision-making and advocacy. Its goal is to enable data providers, managers and users to discover, understand, and communicate patterns and interrelationships in the wealth of SDG data and statistics that are now available.

 

SDG 7: Accelerating SDG 7 achievements: Policy briefs in support of the first SDG 7 review at the UN High Level Political Forum 2018 includes 27 policy briefs by 50 global energy authories from within and without the UN System. It proposes a Global Agenda for Accelerated SDG 7 Action, with recommendations and best options for countries to achieve universal energy access in the next 12 years. The briefs also aim to maximize energy’s positive impact on all the other SDGs.

SDG 8: The UN Global Compact Guide for Business on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities helps to improve business’ understanding of the rights of people with disabilities, including how to respect, support and give them an opportunity to improve their competitiveness and sustainability in alignment with relevant United Nations conventions and frameworks.

 

SDG 9: The Global compact Network in Argentina recently organised a two day event that brought together 600 local and global leaders from business, finance, civil society, Government, Global Compact Local networks and the UN. The event featured the launch of the digital Blueprint for Business Leadership on the SDGs, as well as another publication focusing on business action in the region Business Partnerships for the Global Goals: Advances in Latin America and the Caribbean. An overwhelming majority of companies participating in the UN Global Compact in the region – 80% – are taking action on the Global Goals.

 

Mindfulness at the Executive Level – University of South Australia

Sustainable Development Goal 3 focuses on ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages. This includes a focus on mental health. At the University of South Australia Business School, Nicola Pless, Chaired Professor of Positive Business, has been teaching a course focused on mindfulness for the past 5 years at the executive level. According to her, mindfulness not only helps develop more responsible and competent leaders, but to get better at that by paying attention to people in the here and now; to their positions and viewpoints, to their emotions and feeling – which is an important part of building more sustainable and trusting relationships to others. I spoke with Nicola about this course and the impact it has had had on her students.

What is mindfulness ?

My understanding of mindfulness is shaped by the influential work of medical professor Jon Kabat Zinn, creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. It can be defined as the practice of paying attention to the present moment without judgment. Thus, mindfulness requires a bivalent attitude of paying attention to the present moment, and the challenges at hand, while adopting reflective distance and a non-judgemental attitude.

Leaders often operate under extreme pressure (tight timelines, multitasking, high risk decisions) and experience high levels of stress which can negatively impact communications styles, internal and client relationships, decision making quality, well-being etc. Mindfulness is used as an effective tool for coping with stress and fostering resilience.

Why is mindfulness important for business students?

Responsible leaders are boundary-spanners who bring together stakeholders from different sectors to facilitate co-creation processes to develop sustainable solutions to complex economic, social and environmental problems that have an effect on the sustainability of business and society.

Mindfulness is an important element that helps them develop their inner self and be better equipped to cope with the broader challenges around them – to stay grounded in complex and uncertain situations, stay calm when juggling different responsibilities and interacting with diverse stakeholders, and have a clear, open and then focused mind when making difficult decisions that impact stakeholders in business and society.

At the intra-individual level mindfulness helps people to become more self-aware: (1) in the physical sense – being aware of the body, relaxing, taking better care of their physical self and balance – important for lowering stress levels; (2) emotionally – what affective experience are there – this helps to distance one-self from emotions and better respond to stimuli; and (3) cognitively – to focus attention to what is happening in the present moment, to reflect on thoughts, values, intentions, and what is truly important for the leadership vision that one pursues.

It also helps leaders to connect with, listen to and focus on others, which is an essential part of building sustainable and trusting relationships to others. This and the following aspects are relevant at all interpersonal levels of leading teams and mobilizing and interacting with stakeholders inside and outside the organization.

So for students who aspire to become resonant and responsible leaders, mindfulness can be a fruitful catalyst.

Introduce your Responsible Leadership course

The course provides a unique opportunity for current and future senior and executive leaders to prepare themselves for leadership. It follows a multi-level approach tackling RL at the intra-individual level by looking into the inner theatre of resonant and responsible leaders, and addressing it at the interpersonal levels of (1) the team by addressing dynamics that affect RL, (2) the organization by touching on questions of a responsible organizational culture, and (3) society by addressing the multi-faceted relational interface to the multitude of stakeholders that leaders have to engage with.

The course integrates the latest knowledge on personal and strategic leadership with topics such as CSR, sustainability, diversity, business ethics, and geo-politics and offers a variety of practical tools on how to become an effective responsible leader.

The course explores mindfulness throughout as participants discover and work on their inner strengths as a leader and their leadership story, acquire skills for approaching broader leadership challenges in business and society, strengthen their leader decision making skills, learn about best practice approaches in Australia and beyond, come up with their own leadership vision, and craft their leadership development plan.

How do you develop / use mindfulness?

I introduce mindfulness as a voluntary element within the Responsible Leadership course and as an opportunity for people to explore. I work with a certified mindfulness trainer who delivers an introductory session and a debriefing session based on a 4-week program that we have developed together. Between those sessions participants work daily with guided meditations that we have created with leading experts in the field. They write down their experiences in a journal and submit their weekly diaries, on which they receive a weekly feedback to foster learning and engagement. We use a range of teaching methods such as 360 leadership feedback, guided self-reflection, coaching, work on case studies, decision making cases, and dilemma vignettes to practice ethical reflection and critical thinking as well as inputs from responsible practitioners.

What have been some of the challenges?

Despite wide media coverage of the relevance of mindfulness for stress reduction and benefits at work in particular, it is still a new field in management which requires a bit more explanation then other psychological concepts that have a longer tradition in leadership, such as the related concept of emotional intelligence.

So if one teaches mindfulness one can expect a certain percentage of course participants who are sceptical and with whom the idea of mindfulness does not resonate. This does not mean that they cannot profit from such a component, some of them may even find it quite useful once they have tried it. However, it is always important to offer it as a voluntary tool and provide a convincing and evidence-based business case to show the relevance of such an intervention, so that also highly sceptical individuals at least accept it as a well-researched approach and potentially helpful tool that one can give at least a try.
How has this approach been received by students?

In my courses there is a high number of students (80%) who enjoy the short mindfulness practices in the classroom and more than half of them engage in the daily guided online practices over a four-week period. Over this time we also have observed an increase in the experience of well-being as well as empathy and perspective taking, which are relevant for resonant and responsible leadership and decision making. I also have a number of students who started mindfulness initiatives for employees within their companies based on the positive experiences they made in the course.

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

Since Mindfulness does not work for everyone it is important to keep the practice of it optional. I also make it clear from the beginning that we use it as an educational tool, it is not psychotherapy and also does not replace any other kind of psychological or medical treatment.

It is also strongly recommended to work with a certified mindfulness expert who runs the interventions and a coach with a psychological background who oversees the feedback process. So if one integrates such a component one needs to make sure that one can provide this additional support.

Meditation in the Classroom (Part 2 of 2) – Chiang Mai University

In the first part of this post we looked at how Chiang Mai University has integrated meditation into their business curriculum. The team guiding the meditation exercises at the University have provided some tips on how to meditate as well as tips on how to guide a meditation excercise.


There are several ways to establish peace and improve efficiency among mankind and meditation is one of the most prominent ways. It is apparent that through meditation, one develops power of the mind which is helpful for righteous judgment and action. Naturally, a person’s mind is filled with thoughts and emotions. Lots of confusing thoughts could potentially lead to wrong decisions. Once in the meditative state where the mind power is generated, the mind becomes restrained and reasonable. With accumulated mind power being automatically used, decisions become useful and constructive.

For those who have little time, the so called “Vidhisa Samathi” or Easy Mediation is recommended as it is easy to practice, requires little time but generates sufficient mind power needed for daily activities and harmonious living.

Methods

  1. Practice 3 times a day: morning, midday and evening, for 5 minutes each time. Try to practice at the same time every day, like taking meals.
  2. Can be practiced in any positions: sitting, standing, walking or even reclining. But sitting position should be the most effective position while walking meditation is not highly recommended especially when one needs to close the eyes while meditate.
  3. While meditating, close the eyes and recite a word (or a few words) silently and repeatedly for 5 minutes. The word(s) should not be too long and preferable should have positive meaning. The word commonly used by meditation practitioners in the East is “Buddha” which means purity, peace.
  4. While reciting, the mind will focus on reciting word and less on diverse thoughts. Hence, the mind becomes more focused and can reach one point-ness stage where mind power is generated.
  5. Through this pattern, one will have 15 minutes of meditation in a day but the mind power generated from meditative mind will stay and help to improve efficiency of work-related decisions and performance as well as other daily activities.
  6. If practiced regularly, within one month, one will have 450 minutesor about 7 and a half hours of meditation. This has been proved to be sufficient to help one maintain peace in the mind and efficiency in work performance.
  7. For self-encouragement and discipline, one may want to keep record of his/her practice by ticking in a simple table.

Tips for the mediator

  1. Hold a discussion on the usefulness of meditation as related to work and harmonious living.
  2. Introduce method of easy meditation and tracking form.
  3. In case of face-to-face introduction, practice a short session together to see if the participants can follow the steps/methods correctly.
  4. To follow-up on the results, the facilitator may want to have meetings with those participate in the programme from time to time (e.g. monthly or bi-monthly) to share experiences and discuss changes in their lives as a result of greater mind power or any challenges in practicing meditation.

Creating a Truly Interdisciplinary Degree in Sustainability – Monash Business School

For the last post as part of our special series focused on Australia and New Zealand we travel back to Melbourne to speak with Susie Ho, Course Coordinator of the new Master of Environment and Sustainability at Monash University in Australia. This new Masters, currently in its second year, is a truly interdisciplinary approach that doesn’t just allow students to take courses in different disciplines but involves the active participation and collaboration of faculty across several parts of the university.

Introduce the new cross faculty masters and how it came about.

The Monash Master of Environment and Sustainability provides interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary and specialist topics, plus real-world practice, all within a single course.

It was created by a range of senior University experts from different disciplines, from Arts, Science, Business and Economics, the Monash Sustainable Development Institute, and beyond. All recognised that challenges in sustainability require interdisciplinary discussion and multidisciplinary solutions, and future leaders with the capacity to span boundaries.

Young change agents of today are incredible – they are articulate, bold and passionate about improving the world around them for people, ecosystems, and economies. However, to do this, they will need to deal with considerable complexity and influence behaviour, organisations, and social systems. This course aims to provide the theory as well as the interdisciplinary awareness and hands on, real-world experience and 21st century skills to help foster their technical and personal capacity to help drive innovation and lead sustainability initiatives in Australia and internationally.

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

The interdisciplinary springboard to the course provides a strong and broad foundation for understanding the nature of sustainability and global change – as well as the languages of different disciplines, cultures and sectors as required for effective collaboration. Students collaborate to examine and integrate different forms of evidence and diverse perspectives – as will be required in the complex work environment and the world ahead. The forward-thinking specialisations include unique perspectives and synthesis of emerging fields and trends in global change. Students critically examine and apply professional practice in Australia and globally in topics such as environmental security, governance, international development, leadership and corporate environmental and sustainability management.

Throughout, the course connects students with experts and influencers from across the many disciplines and industries of environment and sustainability – as well as one another – their future global work network. They can also select electives from across eight Faculties at the University.

How did you bring together the different faculties to put this programme together?

It was crucial to involve passionate educators from all key contributing Faculties at all stages. This meant collaborating on the overarching vision, to the curriculum design and skills mapping, to how the units would run on the ground. This degree is truly unique in involving all voices from the early stages to implementation. We are a tight team in regular contact to ensure that harmony persists. This goes right down to letting each other know how our students are responding to different content throughout semester. We also use a unified Course level Moodle page to communicate with students together at the course-level.

We knew from the start that a ‘patchwork’ degree was not on the table, and thus we used a broad variety of strategies to ensure cohesion and harmony as outlined above. Educators must be willing to get out of their comfort zones, and truly span boundaries themselves, just as the students will do.

A good example of our approach is our foundation units. We designed the core units, through true inter-Faculty collaboration, meaning they have the same features of interdisciplinarity, multiple perspectives, reflection, and a strong commitment to collaborative, active and blended learning. However, we were careful to be complementary rather than repetitive. So, one of our two core units explores perspectives on sustainability and develops transferable skills, appropriate for all careers, via critical analysis of conceptual frameworks (e.g. it has a social science flavour). The other focuses on evidence-based practice and sustainability science, developing transferable skills such as critical thinking, systematic review, and horizon scanning (e.g. more scientific).

What have been some of the challenges? 

Interdisciplinary – true interdisciplinarity – is challenging. For educators and curriculum designers, it requires the willingness and capacity to learn new languages and ways of doing things (methodologies), and to see the merit of new ways of looking at the world. You must be able to step right out of your comfort zone and your discipline. It involves constantly learning to approach task through new disciplinary and industry lenses. I would say that self-reflection is key, for both students and educators. How is my discipline, or other elements of my culture, narrowing my view – and how can I integrate and translate what I know to go beyond my niche? For me, this is the purpose of the United Nations SDGs, and of what we do in this course.

Successes?

Our students are just incredible. They are passionate, proactive, and bold change agents. For example, they come to us from 15 different countries, and with United Nations, industry, government, and other amazing professional experience. We are privileged to work with those coming in from the Colombian police force to those in sustainable fashion.

Another success of the course, noting it is only in its second year, is seeing how the course fosters careers and impact. Our first few graduates have come through, and it’s been incredible. One student has recently taken a position at Tesla. Another will lead up a Geographic Information Systems laboratory in the Colombian Police Force. Others are getting involved with the UN in their home nations, or moving into policy and consultancy.

What do your students do to prepare for post graduation?

Students are all different with different aspirations for their career ahead. Thus, we provide multiple practice options, including an internship, with many students based at E&Y and Melbourne Water over this summer, and an open project creating flexibility for students to follow their own passions. Our more academically inclined students are preparing for a PhD by commencing a thesis year. Research theses are on topics that align with the student’s particular background and passions. To provide an example of the range, one student is investigating water quality parameters and nutrient cycling while another is exploring green urban design in low socio-economic areas.

Our Course Director, specialisation coordinators, and lead educators, including Melodie McGeoch (Science), Annette Bos (MSDI), and Wendy Stubbs (Faculty of Arts), provide one on one course mapping, support, opportunities and contacts to suit specific needs. This is something that is rare and clearly deeply appreciated by our students.

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

As we know, an interdisciplinary offering – a true interdisciplinary offering – is much more than allowing students to take units from a range of different Faculties. It involves educators – and students – working very hard to harmonise and integrate different knowledge and perspectives to find new harmonised solutions. It involves an incredible amount of work to collaboratively develop and where possible co-teach students but it is the type of work that rewards and enriches all of those involved.

Interdisciplinary staff and students must be supported in this deep work, through educational training, time and resources. They need time to understand one another and to ensure their approaches are harmonised. The team must work together form the get go – and be prepared to learn a lot from different fields. This extends to administrators, who need to develop new administrative models to support the inter-faculty offering.

What’s next for the initiative?

We are absolutely thrilled to be offering a MSDI-led interdisciplinary industry consultancy project for the first time this year. In this unit, students are grouped into teams based on their complementary disciplinary expertise, and partnered with a governmental or industry group, with a real problem. Just like in real consultancy work, students must liaise to understand the client’s issue, write a proposal, form a solution or product, and present it.

The 21 Day Challenge at University of Canterbury

In 2015 and 2016, students from across disciplines at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand have the opportunity to positively impact a specific community in the Asia Pacific region. The project, which takes place over 21 days, I spoke with Sussie Morrish, the project lead, about the challenge.

Introduce the 21 Day Challenge and how it came about

The 21 Day International Challenge is an initiative undertaken by the College of Business and Law. The initiative involves a group of students selected to work on a project over 21 days that positively impacts a community. The challenge was designed to align with the pillars of the graduate profile by helping the students in the competition to become globally aware; engaged with their community; employable; innovative and enterprising; as well as mastering their chosen academic discipline.

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

Each team is made up of 5 students from a different College at the university. Students have to apply to be part of the project. They each have a business mentor to help guide them with their plan and have access to an academic advisor from each College to provide expert advice as well as a cultural mentor who knows the country and community well. Teams get to make a weekly phone call to the local community to help direct them. Over 21 days, groups of students work to identify critical issues, prioritise them, develop a proposal and present it. They decide themselves how they will drive the project and use the mentors. Throughout they are given quite a bit of information about the communities they will be working with.

After 21 days, each team pitches their plans to a judging panel. They are judged based on contextual and cultural sensitivity, community involvement and consultation and expert involvement, whether the solution is technically feasible in the time frame available for implementation and considers post implementation (training, maintenance, monitoring etc.). They are also judged on the potential positive impact, the students’ ability to consider both the negative and positive intended and unintended impacts as well as the budget.

What is the impact of this Challenge on the local communities?

The winning team gets to travel to the location and implement their plan. While there, they usually partner with local organizations such as local government and schools that are able to help them and also help monitor the projects and take ownership for them once the students leave.

We have had two challenges so far. In 2015 30 students were selected to devise an affordable and sustainable project for Tarong, a small village in Central Philippines that was hard-hit by typhoon Haiyan in November 2013. They were given a budget of $5000. Bee Team won for their environmental and commercial idea to reintroduce native bees to the area because many of the bees had disappeared after the typhoons. They partnered wit the University of Philippines to help with the training and monitoring of the project after the students left. Each student was also required to write a blog about their experiences.

A second team partnered with an elementary school in San Dionisio, Iloilo and Cabiokid for a Green Library project that involved planting a large permaculture garden with native edible trees and plants.

In 2016 the challenge was to assist the Niuean community to conserve, protect and sustainably manage its food supply with a view to becoming self-sufficient. The overall budget given was $10,000NZD. During this challenge student teams had access to engineers and project experts who were able to answer questions about the viability of their business ideas. The winners proposed the publication of a cookbook, the building of a traditional Taumafa kitchen with “umu” pits and engaging with organic farmers and community leaders to take ownership of the project. The students helped build the kitchen with community involvement. Primary school helped paint it.

Many of the teams go abroad. Are there any projects that focus on local challenges within New Zealand?

This initiative is an international challenge specifically to help our students become globally aware of issues outside of New Zealand. The university has different programmes that address local issues such as The Kaikoura Challenge which was in partnership with New Zealand Transport Authority (NZTA) to help businesses and residents in Kaikoura that was badly affected by the earthquakes due to road and infrastructure damage caused by the 2016 earthquakes.

What have been some of the challenges? 

All the students that have participated in the challenge report that this is one of, if not, the highlight of their university study. Much as it would be good to have as many students participate and have the experience, resources are limited. It requires a high level of commitment for both staff, students and mentors in terms of time and resources. Health and safety considerations are also a concern given there is duty of care when taking students overseas.

Successes?

Business mentors and sponsors continue to show interest in being part of this project. The students get so much out of it. There was also a lot of media interest in both locations during the projects which was a great additional experience for the students.

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

For those thinking of doing a similar project, I recommend finding a champion who will have oversight of the whole project and given the appropriate support. No doubt the coordination of the many people involved in this type of challenge eats up a lot of work hours and require dedication.

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