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Tackling World Challenges

People

Gibbert M.

Course director

Description

At the SI, during our 10 days in a full-immersion course, we develop students’ understanding of UN sustainable development goals as broad-scale societal issues (“wicked"  problems, or World Challenges), which are difficult, if not impossible, to ‘solve’, unless they are examined in the concrete application context from which they emanate. They require an extended reflection and application of problem solving techniques across disciplinary boundaries. In our case, we situate the ‘tackling’ of wicked problems in a development context which highlights a key ingredient, namely social justice. We are convinced that this approach addresses a significant relevancy problem when it comes to applying sustainability to concrete, practical situations, namely unless environmental sustainability is tackled in the context of economic feasibility as well as social justice, it will be perceived quite literally as a ‘first world problem’. Given our South-North learning approach, we mirror these insights in a Swiss/European context where, at first sight, these linkages seem to be less pervasive. 

Objectives

This course is run in collaboration with the Sustainability Institute (SI), under the auspices of the Center for Sustainability Transitions https://www0.sun.ac.za/cst/ University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, where we spend 10 days in a full-immersion course. The concrete topic in which we situate this learning is Food Systems in Transition.  The objective is to encourage South-North learning, i.e. in the first part of the course, we develop an understanding of how world challenges can be addressed via a three-fold approach to sustainability, which involves economic, environmental concerns and combines them with a concern for social justice. The learnings from the ‘South’, i.e. from SI will subsequently applied in Europe/CH in a concrete context. 

Teaching mode

In presence

Learning methods

We situate the ‘tackling’ of wicked problems in a development context which highlights a key ingredient, namely social justice. We are convinced that this approach addresses a significant relevancy problem when it comes to applying sustainability to concrete, practical situations, namely unless environmental sustainability is tackled in the context of economic feasibility as well as social justice, it will be perceived quite literally as a ‘first world problem’. Given our South-North learning approach, we mirror these insights in a Swiss/European context where, at first sight, these linkages seem to be less pervasive. Learning Methods are 360 degrees and go beyond classroom work:

Classroom Work: The teaching follows a seminar style assuming that the required pre-readings have been read (classroom work will be at SI in Stellenbosch, South Africa).

Community Work: At SI, after the morning gathering (incl. some gymnastics), course participants work in small groups for one hour in some or all of the following: assisting in the SI gardens and food production; cleaning of the classrooms and SI buildings and helping to prepare meals in the kitchen. The ethos behind the community work sessions is that all those at the SI are a community and need to contribute to the maintenance of that community. It is also a useful time for groups working on their group project to interact with each other on a different level.  

Examination information

The individual performance will be evaluated through a final, written exam (70%, involves written work, post-course individual assignment, and class test, see below), and group project performance (30%). 

  • Group Project: Working in groups, course participants will be required to formulate and present a group project. Guidelines for how to go about this will be presented at the start of the week, and time will be allocated during the week for group work and discussion. 
  • Written Work: Written work consists of a pre-course class test, and a post-course individual and group assignment. 
  • Class test: A mark will be allocated for the results of a class test set before the module starts. The content of this test varies, but is usually based on the readings that will be done prior to arrival for the module. 
  • The post-course individual assignment at SI and USI consist of students’ personal reflections: on the various learning experiences during the two stages of project implementation.

Education

Study trips

  • Stellenbosch, South Africa, 18.07.23 - 27.07.23 (Compulsory)