The Global Sustainability Fellows Program


The Global Sustainability Fellows Program seeks to inspire, prepare, and mobilize future international leaders to tackle urgent sustainability challenges facing the planet.

The GSF Program is an educational initiative of The Sustainability Laboratory, a thought-leader in the global transition to a sustainable future, and its curriculum is based on The Lab’s unique theoretical framework. This framework combines three key elements: a rigorous definition of sustainability and a derived set of five core sustainability principles; a perspective on evolution and a theory of change; and a systems-based design approach. Taken together, these elements provide an essential road map for developing model sustainability processes and guiding project planning, within a context that accounts for the complexity of the real world.

Integrating this rigorous theoretical orientation with hands-on, experience-based learning, international exposure, and cross-discipline work, The Lab offers a program with an uncommonly rigorous and comprehensive approach to addressing issues of sustainability, change processes, and development.

The next GSF Summer Session will be held from June 16 to July 7, 2018, at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in Israel. The pilot session of the program was delivered over two summer sessions at EARTH University in Costa Rica during July of 2014 and August of 2015.

The Lab

The Sustainability Laboratory works to address urgent sustainability challenges facing the planet by creating and demonstrating effective tools for catalyzing radical change. Founded on the belief that effective responses will not likely emerge from the same methods and mechanisms that perpetuate the existing crisis, The Lab is being organized to foster bold experimentation with untested ideas, approaches and technologies that transcend prevailing conventions.

medicinalplantsBased on the work of founder Dr. Michael Ben-Eli, The Lab has developed its own unique, action-oriented conceptual framework to guide its activities, taking a holistic perspective and featuring cross-sector and cross-disciplinary collaboration. Using this framework, The Lab’s initiatives focus on identifying key sustainability-related issues and developing a portfolio of cutting edge approaches and demonstration projects. All Lab projects apply this comprehensive framework to showcase radical innovations, as manifest by The Lab’s current flagship project, Project Wadi Attir, a Bedouin-led sustainable development project in the Negev Desert.

The Lab is being developed as a network linking advanced research centers mapped onto specific eco-zones around the world. The centers will subscribe to a common set of principles, values and operating practices. To this end, The Lab’s educational efforts—including The Global Sustainability Fellows Program, described below—are crucial to The Lab’s broader goals and to addressing the urgency of mobilizing global talent to work collaboratively towards a better world.

Arava Institute

This year’s GSF Program will be held at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, located on Kibbutz Ketura in Israel’s Negev Desert. The Arava Institute is a leading environmental studies and research program in the Middle East. It houses academic programs in partnership with Ben-Gurion University, research centers, and international cooperation initiatives focusing on a range of environmental concerns and challenges.

With a student body comprised of Jordanians, Palestinians, Israelis, and students from around the world, the Arava Institute offers students an exceptional opportunity to learn from leading professionals while forming friendships and developing skills that enable them to lead the region and the world in solving today’s most pressing environmental challenges.

The Arava’s mission is to advance cross-border environmental cooperation in the face of political conflict. At the Arava Institute, the idea that nature knows no political borders is more than a belief. It is a fact, a curriculum, and a way of life.

The Arava Institute was founded in 1996 in the wake of the Oslo agreements as an academic and research center for environmental leadership in the Middle East. The initial Arava Program, a two semester academic program, offered undergraduate or graduate credit through the Overseas Study Program of Tel Aviv University. In 2002, the Arava Program begun its Masters track in partnership Ben-Gurion University, giving students the opportunity to study at two leading environmental institutions and build upon the skills they developed at the Arava Institute. In 2012, AIES launched a Minor in Environmental Studies through Ben-Gurion University.

The location of the Arava Institute will also provide GSF Fellows an opportunity to explore not just the Arava and Kibbutz Ketura, but also The Lab’s flagship model sustainable development project, Project Wadi Attir.

Institutional Allies

The GSF’s institutional base is comprised of 12 academic institutions, invited to join the initial development of the program in 2012. Eleven of these institutions sent representatives to The GSF Design Workshop, hosted by The Cooper Union, in October of 2012. Many of our first crop of fellows came from these institutions.

The current group of participating institutions are as follows:

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Representatives from Partner Institutions at the GSF Design Workshop, Cooper Union in New York

If you are a professor at an accredited academic institution, and you are interested in participating in the GSF, please contact us and let us know. We are happy to hear from you.