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Notes from the EcoDistricts Summit: Universities as Living Laboratories Original post: Tue 11/12/2013 at 6:57 PM

Universities as Living Laboratories for District Transformation

EcoDistricts Summit – November 12, 2013

David Waldron, Daniel Pearl, Amy Oliver, Fletcher Beaudoin, Sarah Brylinsky


How can universities create transformation at the district scale?

What are they key roles to accelerate change beyond “green”?

The Transformation Potential of Higher Education (Sarah

ACUPCC – advancing climate neutrality and education for sustainability

  • represents 1/3 of American institutions

  • commitment to reach climate neutrality, provide education for sus for all students, and work with community to achieve both goals

  • publicly reporting on these goals

  • the only voluntary carbon reduction model for industry in US

  • reduced emissions by 25% in first 5 years

higher ed represents <1& of US carbon footprint but captures 100% of educational footprint; 675 institutions, 6.5 million students attend annually, 45.5 million students engaged to date

higher ed is in trouble

  • MOOCs

  • concerns for cost

  • what's the value?

  • changing student demographics

  • rising operational costs

485 (72%) campuses are within an urban area

transformative change – people, planet, prosperity; campus, curriculum, community

  • campus (as a living lab) – model innovation and implement solutions

  • curriculum ( and research) – provide education and research necessary to prep students for challenges of 21st century

  • community – recognize comm needs and interdependence; assess vulnerabilities and inequality

56% of campuses have created a plan for engaging community in climate and sustainability educational345 campuses have sustainable community initiatives

campuses are realizing the value to students, mission and bottom line of partnership with surrounding community

white paper: Higher Education's Role in Adapting to a Changing Climate – GET THIS SLIDE

Why district scale?

  • Campus – reduce costs, living laboratory creation

  • Curriculum – relevant projects close to home; accountability and access for students; urban innovation a growing demand in all fields

  • Community – move projects beyond “green”; human health, social justice can become equal partners for measurement, innovation, implementation

PSU's Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative: Advancing neighborhood livability through long-term university-community partnerships (Fletcher)

The relevancy of universities in question

Embracing a new paradigm

  • policy-relevant research

  • educating change makers

  • community impact

evolving our current expertise

partnerships mapped – assets-based & community-based learning

focusing university partnerships in given places

  • Does the neighborhood scale serve as a better platform for teaching sustainability?

  • How does this scale change the influence of university classes/research?

  • How could scale help (or hinder) the university's pursuit of strategic partners?

EcoDistricts Emerging – September 2012

a hypothesis we've been testing

  • materials management across buildings

  • communications and engagement in sustainability

  • business case for sustainable practices

learned so far

  • students are engaged by this scale & approach (assessed qualitatively, feedback from professors, using other models outside higher ed e.g. Oregon Sustainable City Year; working on getting pre & post data, to assess “delta”)

  • design for learning, and get better project outcomes

  • focus on building capacity with a few partnerships – better for capacity expansion

  • administration is key to long-term success

our approach: RFP – building formal partnerships with cross sector “clusters” of organizations committed to sustainability in a few neighborhoods

  • mutual long-term commitments (continuity)

  • goal alignment across organizations

  • interdisciplinary, multi-year project list

  • partnership/course administration

  • support for continuation beyond courses (internships, fellowships)

goals for initiatives

  • measurable progress toward local sustainability metrics such as carbon reduction

  • large percent student leaders equipped to address and advance complex sustainability issues

  • model that can be adapted... (Daniel)

From institutes to community – GET THIS GRAPHIC

Visionary (re)Generation – graphic

compactness, complexity, efficiency, stability – all these simultaneously

finding the dormant synergy – mine the latent potential

activate synergies:

  • biodiversity & living classroom

  • social innovation exchange

  • complimentary demographics

  • traditional and experimental knowledge

Catalyzing Transformational Change at the Universite de Montreal's new campus (Amy)

transformational change is change that is net positive and improves surrounding community

design process/framework – GET THIS GRAPHIC

participation vs. consultation vs. collaboration

Regenerative Neighborhoods Project @ University of British Columbia (Dave)

* Sweden

* Suzuki Foundation

Regenerative Sustainable Development of Universities and Cities: The Role of Living Laboratories (book)

Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (building)

morphology vs. planning

emerging themes:

context matters

  • unique and place-based narrative

  • integrated, whole systems – living with technological

  • institutional considerations

process matters

  • informed by knowledge and imperatives of sustainability

  • potential-seeking, capability-enabling process

  • participatory, resonant, emergent, nested outcomes

to management:

  • How, and to what degree, can this place improve human well-being and environmental conditions, including beyond its borders?

Design brief goals and cross-cutting goals; set intention >> institutionalize intention

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