The Global Sustainability Fellows Program

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The Global Sustainability Fellows Program seeks to inspire, inform, mobilize, and prepare future generations of international leaders in all sectors of society by imparting the core competencies required to effectively tackle urgent sustainability challenges on a local, regional and planetary scale.

View the presentation below to learn more about the program components and structure:


The GSF Program is an educational initiative of The Sustainability Laboratory, developed with the participation of 12 research and education institutions from around the world. The curriculum is based on The Lab’s unique theoretical framework, combining 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 whole-system 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 real-world systems.

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 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 is a 501(c)(3) research, development, and educational organization, established in 2008 by Dr. Michael Ben-Eli to prototype breakthrough innovations for ensuring a more sustainable future.

To guide its activities, The Lab has developed its own unique conceptual framework, rooted in systems-thinking, a system-oriented design strategy, and integrating a rigorous definition of sustainability with a derived set of core sustainability principles.

medicinalplantsUsing 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. They will work collaboratively and mobilize global talent to address the most critical sustainability issues facing the planet.

EARTH University

EARTH_LimonThe pilot session of the GSF Program will be held at EARTH University’s two campuses, in Limon and Guanacaste, Costa Rica.

EARTH University’s innovative educational approach has been preparing young people from Latin America, the Caribbean and other regions, including Africa and Asia, to contribute to the sustainable development of their countries and construct a prosperous and just society. EARTH offers a rigorous four-year undergraduate program in agricultural sciences and natural resource management under the guidance of a prestigious, international faculty. The University provides a world-class scientific and technological education that emphasizes values, ethical entrepreneurship, and environmental and social commitment.

EARTH was established by Costa Rican law in 1986 as a private, non-profit, international university and was created thanks to the support of the Costa Rican Government, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The main campus of EARTH University is located in Guácimo, Limón. In 2004, the family of former Costa Rican President, Daniel Oduber Quiros, donated “Hacienda La Flor” to the University, to promote development in the Guanacaste region. Thus, EARTH’s second campus was created.

EARTH15EARTH University’s curriculum is based on four formative areas: technical and scientific knowledge; personal development, attitudes and values; ethical entrepreneurship; and social and environmental awareness and commitment. The program has been designed to imbue students with the competencies required to respond to the needs of today’s world.

EARTH has extensive experience searching for innovative solutions to challenges in sustainable agriculture, environmental conservation and natural resource management. Research at EARTH is applicable and actively involves both students and faculty. In 2011, more than 1,900 individuals in the communities surrounding EARTH benefited from the Institution’s Community Development Program, which includes a service-learning course where students work with small-scale, local producers on their farms, and with organized groups to promote sustainable community development.

Partner Institutions

The GSF’s institutional base is comprised of 12 academic institutions, invited to join the program in 2012. All of the following institutions responded enthusiastically to the concept, indicating their willingness to participate with a formal letter, and eleven of these institutions sent representatives to The GSF Design Workshop, hosted by The Cooper Union, in October of 2012.

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 partnering with the GSF, please contact us and let us know. We are happy to hear from you.