Sustainability – in the context of Engage – means ensuring that change agents have the right tools and competency in order to make conscious choices towards sustainable development.
By Kjersti B. Næss
In order to accommodate the goal of tackling the sustainability challenges that we face, Engage aims to connect sustainable development with entrepreneurial mindset. We do this within the three focus areas: Students, Educators and Research.
One example is the Expert in Teamwork village managed in collaboration with Engage: “Sustainable innovation in the industrial cluster Arctic Cluster Team”. Over the course of three weeks, a group of students investigated the possibility of operating a sustainable industrial vegetable production at Mo Industrial Park. Sustainability was the context, while the students learned and used entrepreneurial methods to develop the concepts and tackle the challenges.
The Journey is a example of a sustainable challenge for students.
Engage seeks to develop higher education to increase the number of students in Norway and around the world with entrepreneurial skills and mindset to become change agents and innovate for the better. Sustainability is therefore viewed as a natural part of Engage’s activity. The intention is to enhance the likelihood that students will identify and capture on the right opportunity at the right time for the right reason, even in uncertain and unknowable conditions.
Engage has a goal to contribute to ongoing efforts towards increased sustainable development, in which action is required to ensure that the planetary boundaries are not exceeded, and social equality is achieved. We are also working towards the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDG’s). All these four goals are examples of real-world problems that needs action.
Focus on methods and tools
To achieve its ambitions, Engage builds its educational foundation on the following five concepts, all important to include in Engage’s work within sustainability:
Act – Engage with doing
Interact – Engage with others, partners or stakeholders
Challenge – Engage with the world outside the university
Embrace – Engage with and handle uncertainty
Reflect – Engage with internalizing knowledge and skills.
The third concept, challenge, refers to the importance of letting students engage with real world situations. The practice of having students work on real problems from outside the university – problems that aren’t simplified or tailor-made. Real problems are often complex and uncertain. Students may be more motivated and enthusiastic about trying to solve them, and get a chance to act as professionals and challenge the established (Rule, 2006). These challenges may be introduced in several ways; challenges introduced by external businesses, organizations, practitioners or users, challenges in relevant research projects, self-observed issues that students want to solve, issues related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals etc. They get the experience, not only to understand professional contexts and activities, but also to have the relevant experience to be able to act as change agents and innovate for the better.
Engage aims at connecting sustainable development with entrepreneurial mindset. To increase students’ abilities to develop and pursue sustainable opportunities by providing them with both entrepreneurial and sustainability competencies and skills. Engage focuses on designing, developing and testing tools and methods that combine sustainability and entrepreneurship. In addition, to facilitate learning activities that increase students’ mindset to sense and pursue sustainable opportunities.
Within all three focus areas, Students, Educators and Research,
Engage works with sustainability.
Students arranges the Babson Student Challenge in collaboration with The Babson Collaborative; a business idea competition with ideas that contributes to one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Within Educators there has been developed a new cross-faculty course at Nord University called “Sustainability in Practice,” where novel methodology is developed and tested.
A project within Research is “Entrepreneurship meets Sustainability” which had a PDW at this year’s 3E conference where the aim was to discuss different approaches on how to (re)design tools and methods for entrepreneurship education.