GCSO Quarterly Update: First-year projects impacting teachers, cities, GHG emissions

The Global Consortium for Sustainability Outcomes is a non-profit international consortium of universities that collaborate to implement and scale solutions to sustainability challenges. GCSO membership spans seven countries on three continents, enabling universities to work together in partnership with each other and with governments, businesses, schools and NGOs.

GCSO CapaCity Project kick-off workshop takes place at the KIT ‘Futures Room for Sustainability and Science’
“GCSO is the only consortium focused on taking sustainability solutions developed in the university setting and transferring them to people and organizations that can affect change,” says Dr. Rob Melnick, Executive Director of Arizona State University’s (ASU) Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability and School of Sustainability, as well as ASU’s representative to GCSO. “At a time when sustainability problems are growing faster than solutions are being implemented, GCSO provides a global vehicle to accelerate interventions that address this gap.”

In GCSO’s first year, there are three Consortium-funded projects. Each project goes beyond research, collaborating with implementers to achieve sustainability outcomes.

The first helps K-12 teachers integrate sustainability principles into their curriculum. Teachers engage in competency-based workshops offered in Germany, Ireland and Mexico, with plans to include additional international locations in year two. Project participants convened at Leuphana University of Lüneburg, Germany this April to design the Continuing Professional Development for K-12 package and implementation strategy.

GCSO CapaCity project participants meet at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology for kick-off workshop
Top to bottom, left to right: Corrie Griffith (ASU); Kaidi Tamm (KIT); Amy Lerner (UNAM); Richard Beecroft (KIT); Beatrice John (LUL); Lauren Withycombe Keeler (ASU); Fletcher Beaudoin (PSU)
The second project entails working with city staff to address high-priority sustainability issues. Five collaborating GCSO member institutions met for a kick-off workshop earlier this month at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany to better understand sustainability implementation capacity across the five cases: Mexico City, Mexico; Karlsruhe, Germany; Lüneburg, Germany; Portland, Oregon (USA); and Tempe, AZ (USA).

A third, solutions-focused project is enabling universities and cities to reduce their GHG emissions by eliminating unnecessary hot water use in public buildings. The project is being piloted at universities in London (King’s College London), Toronto (University of Toronto) and Dublin (Dublin City University). In addition to reducing energy use and associated costs, the project also looks at what is required to promote behavior change among building users. Experimentation began this summer, and is already yielding insights that GCSO members can learn from and plan to transfer to city government in each location.

“In a short time, the Consortium has enabled each member university to develop strong working relationships with other ‘like-minded’ universities committed to implementing solutions,” says Jenny Carter, GCSO’s Director. “This approach is important if we are going to address at scale critical global sustainability challenges.”

Global Consortium for Sustainability Outcomes announces first global collaborations

The Global Consortium for Sustainability Outcomes (GCSO), a global network of universities dedicated to scaling sustainability solutions with like-minded partners around the world, has announced its first round of grant awards.

Three interdisciplinary teams were awarded USD $125,000 each to implement projects designed to create and scale sustainable outcomes across the globe.

Led by sustainability experts from ten GCSO member universities across seven countries, the projects work directly with implementation agents, such as cities, schools, agencies and neighborhoods, to put research-backed solutions into practice.

“GCSO is about solutions,” said founding director Jenny Carter. “Our member universities are leaders in sustainability in their respective regions. Our consortium is uniquely poised to address sustainability challenges because our members have the knowledge and resources to develop solutions. It is by working together and scaling the solutions that we will have the greatest impact.”

In October 2016, the consortium held its first annual meeting at Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe, Arizona (USA). ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability is GCSO’s managing partner.

Members decided to address three core sustainability challenges in GCSO’s first year—city capacity to solve sustainability problems, sustainability education, and living laboratories for sustainability transformations. Subsequently, member universities collaborated to design the following projects, which have now received funding:

Building Sustainability Implementation Capacity in Municipal Staff and Leadership

By providing training of staff and leadership in Karlsruhe (Germany), Mexico City (Mexico), Tempe, Arizona (USA) and Portland, Oregon (USA) the project will advance the sustainability of regional economies, communities and environments, and create a context-sensitive typology of best practices that can be utilized to help other cities to become more sustainable.

GCSO participants: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (Germany), Leuphana University of Lüneburg (Germany), Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (Mexico), Arizona State University (USA), Portland State University (USA)

Educating School Teachers and Faculty for Sustainability through Continuing Professional Development

Recognizing that the world can only become sustainable if people of all ages learn how to behave more sustainably, this project helps teachers master principles of sustainability and provides practical strategies to help students attain relevant competencies via the public education system, from kindergarten to adult learners. This project will adapt competencies-oriented models to offer workshops for primary to tertiary educators, ultimately resulting in generations of students with deeply rooted sustainability competencies.

GCSO participants: Leuphana University of Lüneburg (Germany), Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKSAR/China), Dublin City University (Ireland), Tecnológico de Monterrey (Mexico), Arizona State University (USA)

Living Campus Accelerator Toolkit

This project offers a “toolkit” to identify and implement solutions to sustainability challenges including energy, waste and water. University campuses act as living laboratories for implementing measurable, effective, equitable and viable solutions. Using this approach, the project will identify regulations and attitudes regarding the built environment that result in unnecessary waste and offer policy solutions to decision-makers. As its first challenge, the project will pilot removal of unnecessary hot water use in select buildings on university campuses, assessing pre- and post-pilot attitudes and leading to reductions in carbon emissions and implementation of behavior change methodologies.

GCSO participants: University of Toronto (Canada), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (Germany), Leuphana University of Lüneburg (Germany), Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKSAR/China), Dublin City University (Ireland), Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (Mexico), Tecnológico de Monterrey (Mexico), King’s College London (UK), Arizona State University (USA)

Founding members of Global Consortium for Sustainability Outcomes gather in Tempe to find large-scale solutions

ASU President Michael Crow addresses the kick-off luncheon for founding members meeting of the Global Consortium for Sustainability Outcomes, on the Tempe campus, on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016. Nearly two dozen people representing the 12 founding members, from eight countries, listened to Dr. Crow ask the rhetorical question, "Could sustainability ever be a value?"

The energy in the room was powerful.

Twenty men and women from around the world had traveled to Tempe, Arizona, for this moment. Alone, each might be able to change their own small corner of the globe. Together, they might one day change the world.

Eleven universities, one corporation — leaders in sustainability — working together to create sustainable outcomes on a global scale. It was clear from the dialogue over the course of their two days together that this was the goal of every founding member at the first-ever meeting of the Global Consortium for Sustainability Outcomes.

The challenge

When you’re a world leader in sustainability science, you know that the challenges are growing faster than their solutions. From poverty, terrorism and climate change to ocean acidification, food insecurity, water shortages and disease — the world is quickly recognizing how these problems negatively affect human well-being.

Universities are ideal places to develop and test solutions to these challenges. Often universities can implement solutions on a small scale with local partners. The nascent consortium empowers its members to achieve solutions on a global scale.

The founding meeting began Monday with a welcome from Arizona State University President Michael M. Crow, who described the depth of the challenge and his excitement to join forces with other universities to make sustainability both a value and an outcome.

Crow’s remarks harkened back to his 2002 inaugural address, when he spoke of crossing boundaries — both geographic and disciplinary — and transforming ASU into a university that “shapes its research initiatives with regard to their social outcomes.”

That charge has motivated the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability since its founding in 2004. It is the reason the university has joined like-minded partners in forming the consortium. ASU is a dues-paying member of the consortium and provides staff and operational support.

The consortium

The Global Consortium for Sustainability Outcomes (GCSO) is a global network that transforms ideas into action. What does success look like? It could be research that leads to a new solution, or an existing solution confirmed as functional or improved based on testing. It could be that a proven solution is implemented in a different location, industry sector or social context.

Equally important, success includes expanding capacity — whether enabling organizations and institutions to implement sustainability solutions or teaching students the skills they need to do so. It also includes submitting successful proposals for funding from other sources.

By joining together to form the consortium, members increase their global connections with partners who share a common desire to make sustainable change at a global scale. They increase their eligibility for funding from agencies around the world. They expand their pool of knowledge and skills.

Each member pays annual dues to the nonprofit, member-governed organization; 100 percent of membership dues are used to support member activities.

Near the end of the first day of meetings, Remus Pricopie, rector of the National University of Political Studies and Public Administration in Romania, expressed a sentiment echoed by many others in the room. His university did not join the consortium to compete against other consortium members for funding, Pricopie said. Rather, they joined because they expected to get their investment back many times over — not only financially, but also through the very real benefits of collaboration, international connectivity and the catalytic effect that contributes to sustainability impact.

“This could open up new possibilities for my institution, my country, the world,” Pricopie said.

The consortium is a new way of doing things, said Rob Melnick, executive director of the ASU Wrigley Institute. “No other university network fully focuses on sustainability outcomes, as GCSO was founded to do,” Melnick said. “This is not business as usual.”

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