The Global Sustainability Fellows Program

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Pilot Session, Summer 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.

Pilot Session, Summer B

Held from August 14th – August 31st, 2015

BSessionLast year’s session served as an introduction to core theoretical concepts and the community of Martina Bustos. Students were exposed to concepts and experiences that many had never encountered before. In August 2015, 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 last summer.

The Martina Bustos community, which has 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.