“In a digital age, much learning has moved online. The Global Goals are no exception. You can help achieve them, and have real impact, starting today. I hope that Coursera, Leiden University and its partners inspire many more universities to join this fantastic initiative.” Hunter Lovins – President, Natural Capitalism Solutions, Hero for the Planet, Time Magazine
What are the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
In 2015, 193 world leaders came together to set the UN Sustainable Development Goals. These goals are ambitious (ex. zero hunger, no poverty, stop climate change, save biodiversity). To achieve them, the world will have come together.
What is the SDG Initiative?
The SDG Initiative is a group of 17 Coursera partner universities, led by Leiden University’s Centre for Innovation, who have come together to create actionable courses that teach learners how to contribute to SDG’s. Each course tackles one or more of the SDGs, and connects our learners to a hands-on experience with an NGO, UN agency or public authority that has a challenge they can support. As universities, we are all about learning – we want people to become more knowledgeable, and successfully shape their own career paths. However, when it comes to achieving these goals, knowledge is not enough; actions matter, too.
What is the inspiration behind this idea? Why now?
The SDG’s are less than 2 years old, and we see a lot of interest in the topic from learners worldwide. We are seeing a shift from learners that want to know how to do well, to a growing number who want to learn how to do good and well at the same time. With the SDG initiative, we are bringing this concept to online learning, in cooperation with other universities that share the same outlook. Many organisations, local and international, are already working on achieving these goals. We can help amplify their work through our joint online learners community.
Who are the participating Coursera partners?
This initiative started with 11 universities (growing to 17 later this year) from 4 continents. These partners include Cape Town, London, Wesleyan, Taiwan, Copenhagen, Arizona, Geneva, Lund, Utrecht and others. They come from all over the world, aligning to the “global” approach of the SDGs. Over the Summer, they have been adding new actionable content with a project challenge to a variety of their courses. Besides Leiden University’s two courses (Demystifying Mindfulness and Political Economy of Institutions and Development), here are some examples of courses that have been updated for this initiative:
- University of Cape Town, Becoming a Changemaker: Introduction to Social Innovation – Offering additional resources to learners to help them take their ideas and prototypes further ; asking them to share their impact and progress with their community of changemakers and organisations such as RLabs
- University of Arizona, Introduction to the Orbital Perspective with Earthrise 2068 – Using the 50 and 100-year anniversaries of the first viewing of Earth from space to encourage a worldwide systems approach that regards our planet in a comprehensive way that can lead to healing interpersonal conflict, and yield a new conscience for the planet’s care and protection
- University of London, Global Diplomacy – Encouraging learners to write a policy paper about Education for the World starting in September
- National Taiwan University, Welfare and the Rights of Youth – Working together with local NGOs. The goal of the project is to facilitate action in the protection of children, and to create strategies in promoting their rights
- University of Copenhagen + UNFPA, An Introduction to Global Health – Challenging learners to spread the key message of UNFPA to help protect girls and women from female genital mutilation (FGM), child marriage, and to enable women to plan their pregnancies
Many other courses (from well-respected universities like McMaster, Wesleyan, Geneva, Utrecht and Lund) will be added to this list in the course of the next 6 months as we grow the initiative.
4) How does Leiden’s course, De-mystifying Mindfulness fit into this initiative?
De-mystifying Mindfulness was one of the early release projects of the SDG initiative. It has an honours track that invites students to create a project to impact their direct environment in someway with the practice of Mindfulness, something which contributes not only to a feeling of well being as well as a sense of peace and justice, but impacts many more SDGs like how to bring more green into urban environments for a variety of reasons. The course content was updated with an example created by the Mindfulness Lab at the Centre for Innovation, which built a Mindful Garden to show how to produce your own food and reduce your ecological footprint, as well as create healthy mindful habits that reduce stress. The Mindful Garden, which is collaborating with a variety of local The Hague NGO’s as well as the oldest European Botanical Garden, Leiden’s Hortus Botanicus, is a great example of how students and staff can impact their own living environment with a simple effort, turning a small stone desert into an area of repose, bursting with life.
READ MORE ABOUT THIS INITIATIVE: http://www.sdginitiative.org/