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‘Mission impossible’ - or ‘never ending story’? Working on whole system change towards sustainability at the University of Plymouth, UK. Dr Stephen Sterling Centre for Sustainable Futures University of Plymouth, UK. CREE seminar University of Bath 13 th July 2009. Outline.

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‘Mission impossible’ - or ‘never ending story’? Working on whole system change towards sustainability at the University of Plymouth, UK

Dr Stephen Sterling

Centre for Sustainable Futures

University of Plymouth, UK

CREE seminar University of Bath 13th July 2009

outline
Outline
  • Context and challenge
  • CSF’s approach
  • Barriers and plusses
  • Progress - and work in progress
  • What we’ve learnt/implications for others
  • Some deeper questions...
reinventing the university
‘Reinventing the university’
  • ‘…it is pre-eminently in the universities that we should be thinking hardest about the implications of the whole world-system for our common life and its future, and bringing the best of our available intelligence to bear on the necessary changes. If not there, where? If that’s not the business of universities in the early twenty-first century, what on earth are they for?’
  • John Foster, 2007
  • From review of Michael M’Gonigle’sPlanet U: Reinventing the University
vision
Vision

‘The transformation of the UoP - from an institution characterised by significant areas of excellence in ESD - to an institution modelling university-wide excellence and hence able to make a major contribution to ESD regionally, nationally and internationally.’

the context the uop
The context – the UoP

Largest university in the southwest with over 30,000 students and is the fifth largest UK university based on student population.

It has almost 3,000 staff and an annual income of around £160 million.

Currently markets itself as ‘the enterprise university’.

centre for sustainable futures key features
Centre for Sustainable Futures: Key features
  • Five-year ‘Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning’ (2005-10)
  • £ 4.5 million (2M Capital spend in first 18 months); from Higher Education Funding Council for England
  • Core Team of 9 (Director, Associate Director, Reader, Centre Manager, Research Coordinator, 2 Research Assistants, Administrator, 1 Student Assistant )
  • Probably largest sustainability-related pedagogical and institutional change research team in UK
  • CSF directly linked to the Office of the Vice Chancellor
  • 2005-9: 43 bought-out academics normally on a .2 basis
  • Centre a once-derelict building retrofitted to high sustainability standards
proposition
Proposition

Whole system change depends on developing a sufficient critical, collective and connective intelligence - with regard to both systematic and systemic aspects of organisational change.

‘Leadership is shifting the collective attention at all levels’ – Scharmer, 2006

and some more cs
And some more Cs....

Coherence

Connection

Communication

Consistency

Congruence

Collaboration

Outcome

Process

Foci

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Systematic – ‘frameworks’

- policies, strategies, rules, procedures, assessment, evaluation, structures etc

Systemic –

‘glue’

- collegiality, social learning and exchange, informal networks, collective intelligence, ethos, self-organisation etc

Two dimensions of change

‘enabler role’

‘converter role’

two arenas of learning
Structured learning:

- intentioned learning amongst students in formal education which arises from educational policies and practices

Attendant learning:

- the social learning response to sustainability in organisations, institutions and

their actors

Two arenas of learning
csf s approach action keywords
CSF’s approach - action keywords

Learning

Dialoguing

Inviting

Mentoring

Facilitating

Valuing

Challenging

Supporting

Opportunism

Platforming

Connecting

Initiating

advantages of csf 2005 9
Advantages of CSF 2005-9

Well funded. Some prestige as CETL

Well connected, knowledgeable staff

Initial chancellery support; Corporate plan

Unusual status in university, belonging to no faculty, and no previous baggage

Free rein and encouragement from HEFCE to be innovative

Quite fertile ground – levels of interest, awareness and existing activity

Funded connection with HE Academy ESD Project

Reputation in wider field and expectations on UP

Supportive context: increasing sustainability profile in HE and wider society

barriers plusses
UoP barriers include

Uncertain institutional commitment

Other agendas at senior level (compatibility?)

Communication

Policy incoherence

Limited understanding of sustainability outside the converted

Little tradition of interdisciplinarity or pedagogic innovation

CSF small part in large institution & end of funding looming

Positives include

Support/progress at senior management level

CSF 5 yr funding and experience

Pockets of expertise and enthusiasm across university

Funded connection with UK HE Academy

External recognition of UoP’s reputation – profile

Rising expectation, initiatives and interest in HE and wider society around sustainability

Barriers Plusses
self imposed criteria csf
Self-imposed criteria (CSF)
  • Sustainability vision – policy statement
  • Whole institution strategy and action plan
  • SEO with known responsibility for implementation
  • Senior executive committee
  • Regular sustainability and environmental auditing
  • Sustainability applied to all aspects of campus operation
  • Ethical investment policy
  • Excellent internal communication
  • Excellent external communication of sustainability message
  • Holistic perception and management of 4 Cs
  • Embedding sustainability in formal and informal learning of students
  • Sustainability principles and pedagogy in L&T policy
  • University sustainability research centre and research strategy
  • Culture of organisational learning and improvement
  • Concern for wellbeing of whole community as well as achievement
how are we doing roughly
How are we doing (roughly)?
  • Sustainability vision – policy statement - 4
  • Whole institution strategy and action plan - 3
  • SEO with known responsibility for implementation – 2.5
  • Senior executive committee
  • Regular sustainability and environmental auditing - 4
  • Sustainability applied to all aspects of campus operation - 4
  • Ethical investment policy – 2.5

X Excellent internal communication - 1

  • Excellent external communication of sustainability message - 3
  • Holistic perception and management of 4 Cs - 2
  • Embedding sustainability in formal and informal learning of students - 3
  • Sustainability principles and pedagogy in L&T policy - 4
  • University sustainability research centre and research strategy – (potentially) 3/4
  • Culture of organisational learning and improvement – 3.5
  • Concern for wellbeing of whole community as well as achievement – 3
what s good so far
What’s good, so far?
  • Sustainability adopted as one of three platform foci for the university – Corporate Plan
  • Sustainability policy March 2008
  • Sustainability Strategic Action Plan, with 72 actions and tracking facility
  • Sustainability Advisory Group in chancellery
  • ISO140001 and BS8900
  • Signed Earth Charter
  • Sustainable procurement policy
  • Ethical investment policy in pipeline
  • Campus developments and CAALR project
  • Student engagement – Sound Impact, Green Gowns, Green Week
  • Curriculum innovation
  • Research Occasional Papers on key aspects of HE sustainability
  • External recognition e.g. HEFCE, HEA, and Green League top position averaged out over last three years
green gowns shortlisted
Green gowns - shortlisted
  • Green ICT PlymDESK5: Enhancing the University’s Green Credentials With a Full Life-Cycle Desktop Service
  • Continuous improvement – institutional changeA model for Institutional Change and Transformation
  • Social responsibility

Shattering Glass Walls to Deliver Sustainable Community Enterprise

uop green agenda
UoP ‘Green Agenda’

‘Through our development plan and key policies we have committed to:

  • Conservation of natural resources used by the university
  • Minimising adverse environmental effects of travelling
  • Ethical and sustainable procurement
  • The well being of our people and employee relations
  • Enhancing our community and public engagement
  • Developing sustainability-literate graduates’
csf s curriculum related work includes
CSF’s curriculum related work includes…
  • UP Sustainability Policy and Action Plan
  • Supporting the sustainability dimension in ‘Skills Plus’ policy
  • Integrating sustainability into LTHE
  • Sowing Seeds sustainability module guidance
  • Staff ‘wiki’ site on ESD resources and practice
  • Web-based interactive learning activities bank
  • Professional Support Programme (PSP) as part of Staff Development
  • Scholarship scheme with Schumacher College
  • Curriculum stories research (curriculum development experience)
  • Learning and teaching framework (in prep)
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Sowing SeedsHOW TO MAKE YOUR MODULES A BIT MORE SUSTAINABILITY ORIENTEDA help guide to writing and modifying modules to incorporate sustainability principlesCentre for Sustainable Futures University of Plymouth

a few outputs
A few outputs...
  • CSF Occasional Paper 3: Getting it Together - Interdisciplinarity and Sustainability in the Higher Education Institution

http://csf.plymouth.ac.uk/?q=node/712

  • Jones, P,Trier, C. and Richards, J. Embedding Education for Sustainable  Development in Higher Education: A Case Study Examining Common Challenges and Opportunities for undergraduate Programmes.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_

  • Kagawa, F., Selby, D. and Trier, C.  2007. Exploring students' perceptions of interactive pedagogies in education for sustainable development.  Planet, 17, 53-56

http://www.gees.ac.uk/planet/index.htm

  • Selby, D.  2007.  The catalyst that is sustainability: Bringing permeability to disciplinary boundaries.  Planet, 17, 57-59.

http://www.gees.ac.uk/planet/index.htm

  • Sowing Seeds: HOW TO MAKE YOUR MODULES A BIT MORE SUSTAINABILITY ORIENTED http://csf.plymouth.ac.uk/?q=node/585
  • Cotton et al (2009) Revolution s and second best solutions – ESD in HE, Studies in Higher Education
csf occasional papers
CSF Occasional Papers
  • Paper 1: Marketing University Sustainability Credentials
  • Paper 2: Green Travel Plans
  • Paper 3: Getting it Together - Interdisciplinarity and Sustainability in the Higher Education Institution
  • Paper 4: Internationalisation and Sustainability in the Higher Education: Snug or Strange Bedfellows?
  • Paper 5: Sustainability and Governance
  • Paper 6: Enterprise Earthwise - Researching the relationship between enterprise and sustainability in HE
  • Paper 7: Towards the Healthy University: Sustainability and Well-being in Higher Education Institutions
what we ve learnt
What we’ve learnt....
  • Don’t over-reach your capacity
  • Marketing and communication is vital
  • Attract allies and support them
  • Create spaces for discussion, exchange and trust building
  • Make connections that wouldn’t otherwise exist
  • Don’t assume too much
  • Slow is the new fast
  • Balance systematic and systemic aspects
  • Balance your ‘grit’ function with your ‘integrative’ function
  • Value and build on existing things that support sustainability
  • Continually learn how the organisation works
  • Be exemplary as far as reasonable
  • Ensure feedback
  • Passion and commitment is key – but hard to sustain
  • Keywords: invitation, challenge, persistence, opportunism, profile, external recognition, celebration...
however
However....

There is always a tendency for significant challenges (such as education for sustainability) to be understoodand accommodated within the norms of the existing system - rather than change the system to be congruent with the challenge (first order change).

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EUSD?

‘at present most of our universities are still leading the way in advancing the kind of thinking, teaching and research that…accelerates un-sustainability’ (Wals 2008, 31).

Wals, A (2008) (ed.) From cosmetic reform to meaningful integration: implementing education for sustainable development in higher education institutes - the state of affairs in six European countries, DHO, Amsterdam.

uop as the enterprise university so how does that leave sustainability
UoP as ‘the enterprise university’ (so how does that leave sustainability?)

‘No problem’

‘There are no tensions between the two, enterprise and sustainability are interchangeable.’ [quote from UoP staff]

‘Subsumation’

‘Enterprise should be thought of within the context of sustainability, otherwise it’s likely to be unsustainable.’ [quote from UoP staff]

‘Happy marriage?’

‘at Plymouth, we are particularly interested in the role that we can play in the community, enhancing the impact of our volunteering and that of ethical, sustainable and socially-focused enterprise’

- Wendy Purcell, VC

uop a story of transformation or accommodation
UoP: a story of transformation...or accommodation?
  • How about your story?
  • Differences, commonalities?
  • What patterns of thinking lie beneath

commonly occurring resistances to change?

  • What kind of learning and change needs to occur within policy and practice so that sustainability competencies, understandings and values are more likely to be fostered amongst staff and students?
  • How can such learning and change be encouraged rapidly but also deeply and critically?
  • How do we balance urgency and practicability?
  • What does it take to achieve the really sustainable university fit for our times?
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Centre for Sustainable FuturesKirkby LodgeUniversity of PlymouthDrake CircusDevon PL4 8AAUnited Kingdom01752 588890csf@plymouth.ac.ukESD CETLwww.csf.plymouth.ac.uk
useful websites
Useful websites
  • Centre for Sustainable Futures (CSF) at UP

www.csf.plymouth.ac.uk

  • HEFCE’s online resource for sustainable development in HE http://www.hefce.ac.uk/susdevresources/
  • Higher Education Academy ESD Project http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/esd
  • Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC) http://www.eauc.org.uk