Sustainability Science

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 1105–1116 | Cite as

Scientific animations without borders (SAWBO): an innovative strategy for promoting education for sustainable development

  • María Angeles Rodriguez-DomenechEmail author
  • Julia Bello-Bravo
  • Barry R. Pittendrigh
Original Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Sustainability Science Innovation and Capacity Development


While the United Nations Millennium Declaration identified several key benchmarks for sustainable development, the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (ASD) now reaffirms, refines, and retools those sustainable development goals for the next 15 years. Specifically, the ASD calls for developing and extending opportunities for transitions to sustainable societies—a goal that necessarily includes more sustainable research practices capable of fostering the uptake of the values, behaviors, strategies, and lifestyles required to realize a sustainable future for all people and societies as well. This paper describes one such sustainable practice project: Scientific Animations Without Borders (SAWBO). Housed at Michigan State University in the United States, at all levels of its ESD project, SAWBO enacts a collaborative, flexible, adaptive, and resilient practice with global and local, scientific and indigenous, knowledge experts in order to transfer scientifically grounded knowledge about agricultural, public health, and socioeconomic issues of public concern to rural areas of Africa and other places affected by those concerns. SAWBO's principle medium of transfer uses animated, linguistically localized, educational videos, distributed free of cost, and intended to be both readily accessible and easily shared by all types of audiences, but especially by low-literate adult learners in developing regions. As such, SAWBO’s ESD approach addresses many of Agenda 2030’s 17 Global Goals and aligns with the global effort to develop educational approaches that are not only economically, but also socially and environmentally, sustainable. As a project, SAWBO also embodies a model of sustainability education practice adaptable to different methodologies across a variety of spaces and educational levels and is itself also methodologically sustainable.


Education for sustainability development (ESD) Scientific Animations Without Borders (SAWBO) Agenda for Sustainable Development (ASD) Global goals Sustainability 



This research was made possible by the Fulbright Commission in Spain and Fulbright Visiting Scholar Program Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES) and Institute of International Education (IIE).


  1. Abbott E, Miiro R, Mazur R, Mocumbe S, Pittendrigh BR, Bello-Bravo J, Jafali M (2017) Comparative effectiveness of video animation delivered by smartphones versus printed images in communicating bean-growing recommended practices to farmers in Uganda and Mozambique [Abstract]. In: The Feed the Future Legume Innovation Lab: Grain Legume Research Conference. Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso: Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Grain Legumes (Feed the Future Legume Innovation Lab)Google Scholar
  2. Bakhtin MM (2006) The dialogic imagination: four essays. University of Texas Press, AustinGoogle Scholar
  3. Belay K, Abebaw D (2004) Challenges facing agricultural extension agents: a case study from South-western Ethiopia. Afr Dev Rev 16:139–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bello-Bravo J, Pittendrigh BR (2012) Scientific animations without borders: a new approach to capture, preserve and share indigenous knowledge. J World Univ Forum 5:11–20. Available:
  5. Bello-Bravo J, Pittendrigh BR (2014) Scientific animations without borders: how the need to spread entomological solutions has given rise to a new approach for international educational strategies for low-literate learners. Bull Entomol Soc Can 46:31–36. Available:
  6. Bello-Bravo J, Diaz R, Venugopal S, Viswanathan M, Pittendrigh BR (2010) Expanding the impact of practical scientific concepts for low-literate learners through an inclusive and participatory virtual knowledge ecosystem. J World Univ Forum 3(4):147–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bello-Bravo J, Seufferheld F, Steele LD, Agunbiade TA, Guillot D, Cutz G, Pittendrigh BR (2011). Scientific animations without borders: an international collaborative approach for building scientific educational materials for use on cell phones and the internet in developing nations. Int J Sci Soc 2:49–62. Available:
  8. Bello-Bravo J, Seufferheld F, Agunbiade T, Steele LD, Guillot D, Ba M, Binso-Dabiré C, Baoua I, N’Diaye M, Tamò M, Pittendrigh BR (2013) Scientific animations without borders™: cell-phone videos for cowpea farmers. In: Boukar O, Coulibaly O, Fatokun C, Lopez K, Tamò M (eds) Innovative research along the cowpea value chain. Proceedings of the 5th World Cowpea Research Conference. IITA, Saly, Senegal. Available:
  9. Bello-Bravo J, Lovett PN, Pittendrigh BR (2015) The evolution of Shea Butter’s “paradox of paradoxa” and the potential opportunity for information and communication technology (ICT) to improve quality, market access and women’s livelihoods across rural Africa. Sustainability 7:5752–5772CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bello-Bravo Julia, Tamò Manuele, Dannon Elie Ayitondji, Pittendrigh Barry Robert (2017a) An assessment of learning gains from educational animated videos versus traditional extension presentations among farmers in Benin. Inf Technol Dev. Google Scholar
  11. Bello-Bravo J, Lutomia AN, Abbott E, Mazur R, Mocumbe S, Pittendrigh BR (2017b) Making agricultural learning accessible: examining gender in the use of animations via mobile phones. In: Mills M, Wake D (eds) Empowering learners with mobile open-access learning initiatives. IGI Global, Hershey, pp 74–100.
  12. Bello-Bravo J, Zakari OA, Baoua I, Pittendrigh BR (2018) Facilitated discussions increase learning gains from dialectically localized animated educational videos in Niger. Inf Technol Dev 24(2):1–25. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Broman GI, Robèrt K-H (2017) A framework for strategic sustainable development. J Clean Prod 140(Part 1):17–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Buckler C, Creech H (2014) Shaping the future we want: UN decade of education for sustainable development; final report. UNESCO, Paris. Available:
  15. Cornwall A (2008) Unpacking 'Participation': models, meanings and practices. Commun Dev J 43(3):269–283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cornwall A, Brock K (2005) Beyond buzzwords “poverty reduction”, “participation” and “empowerment” in development policy (overarching concerns programme paper no. 10). UNRISD, Geneva, CHGoogle Scholar
  17. Dewey J (1944) Democracy and education. Free Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  18. FAO (2015) Building a common vision for sustainable food and agriculture. Principles and approaches. FAO, RomeGoogle Scholar
  19. Griggs D, Stafford-Smith M, Gaffney O, Rockström J, Öhman MC, Shyamsundar P, Steffen W, Glaser G, Kanie N, Noble I (2013) Policy: sustainable development goals for people and planet. Nature 495:305–307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Holling CS (2000) Theories for sustainable futures. Conserv Ecol 4(2):7.
  21. Jucker R (2014) Do we know what we are doing? Reflections on learning, knowledge, economics, community and sustainability. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle Upon TyneGoogle Scholar
  22. King K (2009) Education, skills, sustainability and growth: complex relations. Int J Educ Dev 29:175–181CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lambrechts W, Hindson J (2016) Research and innovation in education for sustainable development: exploring collaborative networks, critical characteristics and evaluation practices. Environment and School Initiatives (ENSI), ViennaGoogle Scholar
  24. Lambrechts W, Mulà I, Ceulemans K, Molderez I, Gaeremynck V (2013) The integration of competences for sustainable development in higher education: an analysis of bachelor programs in management. J Clean Prod 48:65–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Leeuwis C (2013) Communication for rural innovation: rethinking agricultural extension, 3rd edn. Blackwell, LondonGoogle Scholar
  26. Lemon M, Jeffrey P, Snape JR (2014) Levels of abstraction and cross-cutting skills: making sense of context in pursuit of more sustainable futures. In: McGlade J, Strathern M (eds) The social face of complexity science: a Festschrift for Professor Peter M. Allen. Emergent, Litchfield Park, pp 27–48Google Scholar
  27. Lemon M, Lambrechts W, Fleming M, Lee S-K (2016) Reflections on ‘committed’research into education for sustainable development: challenges and responses. In: Lambrechts W, Hindson J (eds) Research and innovation in education for sustainable development: exploring collaborative networks, critical characteristics and evaluation practices. Environment and School Initiatives (ENSI), Vienna, pp 168–183Google Scholar
  28. Letseka M (2012) In defence of ubuntu. Stud Philos Educ 31:47–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Liarakou G, Gavrilakis C, Flogaitis E (2014). Profiles of isolated communities and ways into integration. In CoDeS: designing a sustainable future through school community collaboration. CoDeS, BarcelonaGoogle Scholar
  30. Maredia MK, Reyes B, Ba MN, Dabire CL, Pittendrigh BR, Bello-Bravo J (2017) Can mobile phone-based animated videos induce learning and technology adoption among lowliterate farmers? A field experiment in Burkina Faso. Inf Technol Dev. Google Scholar
  31. Morgan DL (1996) Focus groups as qualitative research, 2nd edn. Sage, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  32. Novo M (2009) La educación ambiental, una genuina educación para el desarrollo sostenible [Environmental education, a genuine education for sustainable development]. Revista de Educación 2009:195–217Google Scholar
  33. Pittendrigh BR, Bello-Bravo J (2010) Expanding the impact of practical scientific concepts in developing nations through cutting edge technologies. Presented at the World Universities Forum, Davos, Switzerland, 9-13 January 2010Google Scholar
  34. Ribot J, Peluso NL (2003) A theory of access. Rural Sociol 68(2):153–181CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Rockström J, Steffen W, Noone K, Persson Å, Chapin FS, Lambin EF, Lenton TM, Scheffer M, Folke C, Schellnhuber HJ (2009) A safe operating space for humanity. Nature 461:472–475CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Schmidt P, Stiefel J, Hürlimann M (1997) Extension of complex issues: success factors in integrated pest management. Swiss Centre for Development Cooperation in Technology and Management, St. Gallen, CHGoogle Scholar
  37. Sokame BM, Tounou AK, Datinon B, Dannon EA, Agboton C, Srinivasan R, Pittendrigh BRR, Tamò M (2015) Combined activity of Maruca vitrata multi-nucleopolyhedrovirus, MaviMNPV, and oil from neem, Azadirachta indica Juss and Jatropha curcas L., for the control of cowpea pests. Crop Prot 72:150–157CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Sterling S (2009) Sustainable education: re-visioning learning and change. Green Books, DartingtonGoogle Scholar
  39. Tillich P (1966) Critique and justification of Utopia. In: Manuel FE (ed) Utopias and utopian thought. Houghton, Boston, pp 25–49Google Scholar
  40. UNDESA (2017) SDG indicators: metadata repository. United Nations, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  41. UNESCO (2002) UN decade of education for sustainable development 2005–2014: the DESD at a glance. UNESCO, ParisGoogle Scholar
  42. UNESCO (2012) Education for sustainable development sourcebook (Learning and Training Tools no. 4). UNESCO, ParisGoogle Scholar
  43. UNESCO (2017a) Education for sustainable development goals: learning objectives. UNESCO, ParisGoogle Scholar
  44. UNESCO (2017b) SDG4.7. UNESCO, ParisGoogle Scholar
  45. United Nations (2016) La Agenda de Desarrollo Sostenible. United Nations, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  46. UNESCO (2000) The Dakar framework for action: education for all: meeting our collective commitments (adopted by the World Education Forum, Dakar, Senegal, 26–28 April 2000). UNESCO, ParisGoogle Scholar
  47. UNESCO (2015) Rethinking education. Towards a global common good? UNESCO, ParisGoogle Scholar
  48. Van Poeck K, Loones J (2011) Education for sustainable development: flag and cargo. Flemish government, Environment, Nature and Energy Department, LeuvenGoogle Scholar
  49. Verhulst E, Lambrechts W (2015) Fostering the incorporation of sustainable development in higher education. Lessons learned from a change management perspective. J Clean Prod 106:189–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Waas T, Hugé J, Ceulemans K, Lambrechts W, Vandenabeele J, Lozano R, Wright T (2012) Sustainable higher education. Understanding and moving forward. Flemish Government—Environment, Nature and Energy Department, Leuven.
  51. Wals AE (2015) Social learning-oriented capacity-building for critical transitions towards sustainability. In: Jucker R, Mathar R (eds) Schooling for sustainable development in Europe. Springer, Dordrecht, pp 87–107.
  52. WCED (1987) Our common future. Oxford University Press, New York.

Copyright information

© Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Castilla La Mancha Faculty of EducationCiudad RealSpain
  2. 2.Department of Food Science and Human NutritionMichigan State University (MSU)East LansingUSA
  3. 3.Department of EntomologyMichigan State University (MSU)East LansingUSA

Personalised recommendations