Dies Oecologicus—How to Foster a Whole Institutional Change with a Student-Led Project as Tipping Point for Sustainable Development at Universities
The student-led project organizing the event Dies Oecologicus, which aims for a whole institutional change by initiating a bottom-up sustainable development process, is described. Driven by the need for a more prominent role of sustainability in the university’s curriculum, the daily lives of its members, and the governance and administration of the organisation, the initiative started off as an interdisciplinary student-led project. The university-wide event was realised based on an assessment of conducted interviews with change agents (at the University of Hamburg and other universities) at all levels of the university from several disciplines and faculties. The event Dies Oecologicus has been acknowledged as a single contribution to the UN Decade Education for Sustainable Development (DESD). During the event Dies Oecologicus participants from multiple backgrounds reflected on, discussed and created possible concepts of a curriculum on ESD, student-led projects and the reduction of the ecological footprint of universities. The possible concept(s) for a curriculum on ESD was based on sessions focusing on identifying essential content, adequate didactical methods and feasible curricular realisations and integrations. Results of the project were summarised in an evaluation booklet, distributed throughout the university. This participative process has proven to be a successful strategy to overcome resistance to change, influencing current reforms, empowering change agents and establishing a network. Several changes on a personal, personnel, institutional and regional level are described.
KeywordsStudent-led project Sustainable development Institutional change at university
The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support from the funding line for student-led projects by TP 27/STIF of the Universitätskolleg of the University of Hamburg. The authors would also like to thank everyone involved in running the project and the patrons, interview partners, session organisers and speakers as well as the Center for a Sustainable University (KNU) and everyone else who actively contributed to the success of the project and the event Dies Oecologicus.
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