European Symposium on Sustainability in Business Education, Research and Practices

We just got back from Liverpool where we presented our project and met some fantastically inspiring and engaging ESDers. You will have to excuse the length of this blog item; we found it hard to choose what to leave out. There were so many other presentations that have not been included in the blog today, but equally inspiring and excellent.

Several lecturers shared experiential student activities, master program development, and individual student-centred learning models that help to develop sustainability learning environments. We heard talks about fostering student mobility and the social value process by Adam Shore and Tony Wall at Liverpool John Mores university. They discussed the value of involving all stakeholders, understanding changes, a decrease in greenwashing and increase in transparency, which all allure to the importance of developing competency for sustainability.

Kent Williams at Rowe School of Business, Dalhouse university, talked about impact research that help disrupt mindsets as a social force for positive change. He shared his insights using land-based learning experiences in ESD to engage students in traditional knowledge education (Berkes, 2018) that reunites indigenous knowledge with current university practices. Therese Adam at Global Governance and Diplomacy, Switzerland, shared a project about Development Diplomacy and transformative teaching and learning. She described a platform for multi-stakeholder partnership for internships and research that is designed to create practice-oriented learning events. Connecting organisations with academic staff and students creates opportunities to learn from real-life sustainability challenges.

Some great gamification work with students was shared. Konstantina Skritsovali at Liverpool John Mores University shared a game (ABIS Scenario Exploration System) that is designed to develop futures thinking competency through a student-centred approach. Valeria Andreoni at the University of Liverpool described a card game, like Trumps, that tasks students to address different sustainability challenges. Students can learn about the overlapping influences actions can have on society, environment and economy, with guidance from the UN’s sustainability development goals.

Most of the participants shared insightful views about how important it is to encourage self-awareness through reflective work. Mike Ryder at Lancaster University presented the OODA loop model that describes our continuous work with orienting our self and how reflective work can support this important competence. Jessica Lichy at IDRAC business school and the project team Naomi Braithwaite at Nottingham university and Lisa Trencher at Manchester Metropolitan university all shared their experiences with using Photo Elicitation. Students use photography to reflect on sustainability challenges. For example, a photo of a fashion item and it’s life-cycle, or a photo that captures what sustainability is for the student.

Several lectures also presented their work with interpersonal competency for sustainability, which can deepen student understanding through collaborative experiences. Amanda Mason at Liverpool John Mores university exhibited an international learning lab both online and in real life. Students gain from exchange experiences and working with sustainability challenges through international perspectives. Kay Emblen-Perry at Worcester Business school, as well as Jan Brown at Liverpool John Mores university, presented their different projects where students investigate what sustainability is for the organisation through internship projects. Providing real-life sustainability challenges helps students to connect theory to the workplace and understand how important learning for sustainability is for their own futures.

Wonderful work with practitioners was discussed by Fiona Armstrong-Gibbs, also at Liverpool John Mores University, who talked about how Place Leadership can anchor the collaborators to a common understanding. Once students have discussed their place and how they connect to each other as well as provide different perspectives, the students establish action for sustainability projects with real-life challenges. Marcus de Vries, a coach on a project affilliated with IBS Maastricht university, shared a superb project SiTL where students plan their own individual learning objectives, and paired with organisation’s learning objectives, work together on projects for sustainability. Through the 6 criteria of challenges, community, events, coaching and expert meetings, students reflect on their learning as assessment. The use of no exams means that the teacher puts “trust in the learning journey”. Alternative learning approaches and activities opens education up to be able to tap in to creative, reflective and collaborative education that is better equipped to transform mindsets for sustainability.

Thank you for sharing your work, everyone. It is fantastic to hear about how so many lectures and practitioners are working with sustainability in business education, research and practice. We look forward to hearing more about your work and how our collaborations can help provide support for future projects.

This week’s discussion forum topic: What inspiring learning activities have you tried? Have you heard about an inspiring learning activity that you would like to try or share? What different experiential learning activities for ESD have worked well or not so well?


Berkes, F. (2018). Sacred Ecology (4th ed.). Routledge.

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