The Global Sustainability Fellows Program


2018 Summer Session

Held from June 16th through July 7th, 2018

2018 GSF fellows

The 2018 GSF session was held over three weeks during the summer of 2018 at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, located at Kibbutz Ketura in Israel’s Arava Valley. The program welcomed 17 fellows from 15 different countries, who represented a broad range of disciplines, including economics, environmental science, education, psychology, engineering, politics, agriculture, art, and more. Faculty consisted of a diverse team of experts in the fields of systems thinking, sustainability, and sustainable development. Notably, three faculty members were alumni of previous GSF programs.

Prior to the start of the program, fellows completed six weeks of online coursework and modules, consisting of an introduction to core topics that were to be covered in greater detail during the program itself. Additionally, fellows were tasked with developing in-depth presentations about their own interests and work, to be shared later with the group as a whole.

Upon arrival at Kibbutz Ketura, the cohort hit the ground running with an intensive program that included class work, group assignments, site visits, fieldwork, and more. During Week 1, the fellows were given an in-depth exposure to The Lab’s signature approach, including The Lab’s sustainability principles, an overview of systems thinking, and an introduction to a theory of change and the management of change processes. Fellows also began gaining exposure to systems modeling.

GSF 2018 Field Trip

Class work was reinforced by field trips to sites of innovative, sustainability relevant technology, including a trip to the Arava Institute off-grid village and Renewable Energy lab, the wind energy systems at Kibbutz Elifaz, and the low-tech approaches to housing, waste management, and energy generation at Kibbutz Yotvata. Fellows also shared their personal presentations, showcasing their backgrounds, expertise, and areas of concern, which allowed them to explore their individual interests as a group. A special Culture Night event provided fellows with an opportunity to present aspects of their respective cultures. Week 1 ended with a day of recreation in Eilat, at the shore of the Red Sea.

During Week 2, the program delved more deeply into the theory and practice of systems modeling, as well as the management of development projects, peace studies, conflict resolution, and the role of civil societies in development work. The cohort also studied specific regional issues, such as transboundary water management in the area, and results of research on arid agriculture in the Arava region.

GSF 2018 fellows Project Wadi Attir

The GSF cohort spent one day at Project Wadi Attir, The Lab’s flagship project with a Bedouin community in the Negev. The visit exposed fellows to an actual implementation of The Lab’s sustainability principles in a holistic development project. Fellows learned about the project’s many innovations, including the ecosystem restoration initiative that demonstrates a successful approach to combating desertification, the humane and economically viable approach to animal husbandry that is consistent with traditional practices, and the integrated infrastructure of green technologies. The cohort took a tour of the project site led by Dr. Stefan Leu, the leading research scientist behind the project’s ecosystem restoration initiative, and Amran Amarni, a 2018 fellow himself and the Director of Educational Services at Project Wadi Attir.

Week 2 wrapped up with an overnight camping experience in a remote location in the desert led by a group of Bedouin guides, providing for an immersive interaction with Bedouin culture and sustainable desert living. Fellows woke up at dawn to experience a desert sunrise, followed by a swim in the Dead Sea.

GSF 2018 Plenary Sessions

Week 3 was devoted primarily to fieldwork. The fellows divided into four different groups, tasked with applying whole-system analyses based on The Lab’s sustainability framework and the teachings of the workshops and modules. Three of these groups each analyzed a different local, intentional community, through extensive research, site visits, and interviews with key members of those communities. The fourth group was tasked with developing a strategic roadmap for future GSF sessions, exploring modalities for creating a formal alumni/ae network, and planning for the continual dissemination of the GSF curriculum to the general public. On the final day at Kibbutz Ketura, each group presented their findings in plenary sessions to the GSF fellows, faculty, and members of each respective community.

The GSF cohort then moved on to Jerusalem, where they received a comprehensive lecture on the history of the city from local GSF faculty member Avner Goren, a prominent archeologist. The following day, the fellows took a historical tour of the Old City, and then enjoyed a farewell dinner before the conclusion of the program.

2015 Summer Session (Pilot B)

Held from August 14th – August 31st, 2015

BSessionThe 2015 session served as an introduction to core theoretical concepts and the community of Martina Bustos. During this session, interested members from the Summer A Session cohort were invited back to Costa Rica to work with the community in developing and delivering a comprehensive sustainable development plan, thereby deepening the practice component that they began the previous summer.

The Martina Bustos community, which contains a large population of Nicaraguan migrants, is plagued by numerous challenges, including poor infrastructure, lack of land rights/titles, lack of opportunities for skill development and employment, and weak community organization. Over two weeks, the fellows engaged the community in building a common vision, mapping critical issues, and identifying leverage points for “transition.” Under the mentorship of program faculty, and with the benefit of substantial fieldwork and growing community ties, fellows synthesized the data of regional and community diagnostics and the aforementioned in-depth dialogue sessions into a comprehensive long-term initiative entitled “Project Transition,” which was presented to the greater community on the final day of the program. This will serve as the groundwork for a development project with the community that will be implemented through a partnership between The Lab, EARTH University, past fellows, community leaders, local NGOs and local and national government agencies.

2014 Summer Session (Pilot A)

Held from July 6th – July 23rd, 2014

The GSF Pilot, Summer A Session took place over two and a half weeks in July of 2014, at the EARTH University campuses in Costa Rica. Twenty students from 15 countries on five continents, representing a range of disciplines including System Dynamics, Ecology, Education, Health, Business, Architecture, Urban Planning and more, participated in the program.

Global Sustainability Fellows Program – Summer 2014

Following a welcome and orientation session, fellows were placed with a local family for a one-night/two-day Homestay. This experience exposed fellows to the challenges faced by local people in the areas of health, nutrition, education, public services, and infrastructure, and later provided invaluable context for fellows’ fieldwork experience.

Following the homestay, fellows were led through five days of rigorous Theoretical Modules aimed at imparting core concepts of sustainable development in a systems-thinking context. During this segment, students also worked and presented in groups around relevant topics.

As part of the Eco-Literacy/Eco- Leadership segment, students spent two days visiting sites of ecological importance and local businesses that have been successfully exhibiting environmentally sensitive economic progress. Activities were aimed at enhancing fellows’ sensitivity to ecological issues, while facilitating broader discussion on what effective, responsible leadership looks like in the context of sustainable development.

Thus began the weeklong design workshop. During the Fieldwork experience, fellows spent several days becoming acquainted with the community of Martina Bustos, applying the lessons from the theoretical modules to form hypotheses about the best strategies to addressing community challenges. Fellows were provided with the tools, skills, and resources necessary to collect data and analyze the community as a complex, holistic system. Fellows also led community workshops to further conversation and increase cooperation between fellows and community stakeholders.

Fellows then spent several days synthesizing lessons and experiences from previous weeks, the background of team member disciplines, and the needs and aspirations of the community, into a useful Presentation and Workshop with the community. At the end of the planning and design sessions, teams presented their hypotheses in a plenary session for faculty, peers, and community members. The fellows succeeded in creating a supportive and critical space for discussion of the project work, and identifying plans that could be implemented with the community in coming years. This segment presented a rare and valuable opportunity to turn theory into applied practice in a short period of time.