Highlighted Contributions

Contributions are reviewed and accepted on a rolling basis. Here we highlight stellar accepted panels, symposia, and workshops.

Session Panels

Preparing a Green and Blue Workforce 

Andres Henriquez, Josephine Louie, Jackie Delisi, Education Development Center

EDC will be giving a progress report on a convening held in early in 2024 entitled Preparing a Green and Blue Workforce (greenblueworkforce.edc.org/). The initiative engaged 100+ economists, scientists, K-12 formal and informal education leaders, STEM industry leaders, community leaders, government leaders, and philanthropic leaders in collective action to address inequities and ensure all youth are ready to thrive in STEM-rich sustainability careers in green and blue economies. EDC is leading cross-sector mobilization efforts, developing new resources, raising visibility via media outreach and social media campaigns, and forming strategic partnerships with industry, K-12 education, career-tech, and community colleges to advance collaborative work to ensure youth from groups that are underrepresented in STEM careers are prepared to benefit from new opportunities emerging from both the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act.  The panel will discuss the proceedings from the Preparing a Green and Blue Workforce convening and presenters will also give updates on regional workshops that will be held throughout 2024-2025.

Research Frontiers for Industrial Decarbonization 

Benjamin Sovacool, Boston University, and colleagues.

This session will be organized around the following research gaps for industrial decarbonization: 

1.        Develop theories and conceptual frameworks specific to industrial decarbonization. It is difficult to find conceptual approaches or frameworks specifically created for net-zero industry. Therefore, new heuristics may be warranted to help guide research, analysis, and policy. 

2.        Broaden consideration of co-benefits. Existing research focuses mostly on air pollution, health, and carbon emissions, but may miss other co-impacts across political, social, and economic dimensions. 

3.        Utilize representative national or local surveys specific to industrial decarbonization, rather than decarbonization generally. This can include sector-specific surveys covering various modes of industry, or specific forms of transport such as carbon pipelines. 

4.        Move beyond models and surveys to a stronger evidence base. Other forms of evidence include stated preference techniques such as community interviews, household diaries, or focus groups, or revealed preference techniques such as embedded ethnography, naturalistic observation, or spatial analysis. 

5.        Better understand the portfolio aspects of technical industrial decarbonization options and crosscutting trade-off risks. Options differ in their risk, uncertainty, investment needs, intersections across sectors, and timing.

6.        Appreciate the stakeholder networks and regional governance dynamics of industrial decarbonization. This may be done via a multi-actor, multi-technological, multi-scalar approach via hubs and clusters. 

Institutional Innovation for Municipal Green Infrastructure 

Wendy Jepson, Texas A&M University, Lauren Fischer, University of North Texas, Bardia Heidari, Texas Water Resources Institute, Joni Palmer, University of New Mexico, Heidi Himmelberger, Southwest Environmental Finance Center and University of New Mexico.

Rapid urbanization under climate change conditions accelerates stormwater flooding, often beyond the capacity of traditional gray infrastructure. One commonly acknowledged solution to this capacity deficit is Blue-Green Infrastructure (BGI). BGI offers an array of environmental co-benefits. Although acceptance is growing, BGI faces socio-cultural, financial, and institutional path dependencies that limit the production, restoration, enhancement, maintenance, and efficacy of nature-based solutions. A major challenge of community resilience and an unacknowledged opportunity to enhance sustainable stormwater adaptation is found in municipal management practices. This panel will discuss strategies for institutional innovation to support the adoption and scaling of blue-green infrastructure in the United States. 

Sustainability Careers 

Moderator: Chris Boone, Arizona State University. Panelists: Peggy Brannigan, Business Council on Climate Change; Ed Chu, EPA Deputy Administrator Region 7; Wes Herche, Senior Product Manager, Worldwide Sustainability at Amazon;  Alice Reznickova, University of Colorado-Boulder; Ellen Weinreb, Weinreb Group Sustainability and ESG Recruiting.

The number of sustainability jobs is growing rapidly and there are not enough qualified people to fill those positions. At the same time, the nature of sustainability careers is changing rapidly, making it challenging to prepare students and others seeking jobs and building careers in this quickly evolving field. This session will bring together sustainability experts from higher education and private, public, and non-profit organizations to discuss trends in job requirements and responsibilities, and the training and preparation necessary to succeed. 

Case Study: Using Academia and Sustainable Open Innovation

Moderator: Ryan Johnson, ASU College of Global Futures. Panelists may include: George Basile, ASU School of Sustainability; Satoshi Shimono, Mitsubishi Chemical Group (MCG); Kevin Dooley,  ASU W. P. Carey School of Business; April Deckert,  ASU College of Global Futures; Ryan Mores, ASU College of Global Futures; Stormy Light, ASU College of Global Futures

Making progress on global sustainability challenges within global business requires a wide variety of coordinated technologies and actions and reframing sustainability as a strategic decision making and innovation opportunity. A single organization is often not able to make such transformative change by itself. Is it therefore possible for an academic institution to simultaneously transform a corporate sustainability innovation culture and help people and planet through workforce education? The Global KAITEKI Center (TGKC) at Arizona State University (ASU) was established as a collaboration between ASU and Mitsubishi Chemical Group (MCG) to explore how this type of joint engagement could succeed. TGKC focuses on combining natural and social sciences, integrating academics and corporations, and scaling from local to global. TGKC is endeavoring, in part, to transform the workforce through focusing on re-skilling company employees and providing education in three unique modalities: individual learning for sustainable open innovation; workshops for teams developing market-informed sustainable innovation; developing a Sustainable Innovation Academy.  Within Japan-based MCG, a unique culture of sustainability and open innovation has been steadily taking root and growing since the terms were defined. However, challenges have arisen. Indeed, sometimes organizations have difficulty thinking beyond short-term profit maximization. Organizations may feel they have no choice but to retrench or become temporarily less sustainable. We will share our case lesson on how these seemingly irresistible dynamics can be mitigated and even reversed through workforce empowerment and engagement. 

Sustainability Spark Sessions

Maximizing the Impact of Sustainability Research 

Benjamin Sovacool, Boston University

Researchers today need to secure funding, collaborate, share data, publish results, commercialize research, and demonstrate impact. Early career researchers in particular are faced with multiple pressures around these challenges.  This spark session will help scholars, especially early career researchers, gain an understanding of how to design their research more effectively, and how to improve your chances to get your work published.  Using examples from the energy and climate social sciences field, it will bring attention to the importance of clearly articulating research questions, objectives, and designs. It will provide a framework for conceptualizing novelty. It will suggest codes of practice to improve the quality and rigor of research. It will provide guidelines for improving the style and communication of results. It will lastly discuss what academic (and non-academic) impact are and propose ways to enhance it.  In doing so, the presentation will give you first-hand insights into successful research methodologies, what journal editors (and reviewers) look for, as well as advice on how to successfully promote your work. 

Session Symposia


The Key Competencies in Sustainability Framework

Krista Hiser, Global Council for Science and the Environment

Sustainability Education includes academic degrees as well as training, retraining, and upskilling in many contexts: professional development in the workplace; technical training programs; academic credentialing; community development; activist groups; high schools; home schools; independent learning. Even within higher education settings, sustainability education occurs across multiple institutional types (community colleges, public and private universities including Minority Serving Institutions and tribal colleges; levels (associates, bachelors, and graduate) and domains including general education, Sustainability across the Curriculum, Discipline-focused Sustainability-Related, and Sustainability Education. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) 2020 report, "Strengthening Sustainability Programs and Curricula at the Undergraduate and Graduate Levels," emphasized the need for a consolidated set of key competencies in sustainability to facilitated program design and evaluation – as well as learning outcomes in these multiple contexts.

The Key Competencies in Sustainability Framework (KCSF) is an interconnected set of eight clusters of competencies in systems-thinking, futures-thinking, values-thinking, strategic-thinking, intrapersonal and interpersonal competency, implementation, and integrated problem-solving competency. Justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion are integrated throughout the framework as values-thinking plays a leading role. The KCSF framework has been developed over two decades, with contributions from many academic scholars (Arnim Wiek, Aaron Redman, Marco Rieckmann, Katja Brundiers and Jordan King, among others. In 2022-2023 the Global Council for Science and the Environment assessed convergence across academic practitioners and researchers, and developed a Convergence Statement and professional resources for the KCSF including a FREE learning module, “Thinking through Sustainability Challenges with Key Competencies in Sustainability.”

In this 90 minute workshop, learners, educators, and practitioners will gain an overview of the KCFS as well as how the framework is being used by educators and practitioners at different levels, contexts, and dimensions of education. While primarily oriented to higher education, the workshop would be relevant to anyone engaged in Sustainability Education. Participants will gain an overview of the Key Competencies in Sustainability Framework, its historical development and current applications. Participants will also preview the learning module and workbook, with opportunities to discuss how they teach, learn, and assess Key Competencies in their own work. All participants will gain early access to the beta test of the learning module for use in Fall 2024.

Facilitator Expertise: This workshop is facilitated by Dr. Krista Hiser, Program Director for the Pathways towards Accreditation initiative at the National Sustainability Society. Note: this workshop pairs well with the workshop that will follow it: Best Practices for Sustainability and Sustainability-Related Degree Programs in HIgher Education. 

Best Practices for Sustainability Degree Programs

Krista Hiser, Global Council for Science and the Environment, and Teri Balser, University of Calgary

The rapid evolution of academic sustainability degree programs, both in the U.S. and internationally, and at undergraduate and graduate levels, raises important questions for administrators, faculty, current and prospective students, and employers across all sectors. How can students find the best programs for their goals? How do employers know the value of sustainability degrees? How do sustainability degree programs differ from related fields of environmental studies and sciences, or emerging programs such as resilience or energy education? A 2020 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), entitled Strengthening Sustainability Programs and Curricula at the Undergraduate and Graduate Levels, articulated the necessity for defining a field:  "Academic institutions of higher education should embrace sustainability education as a vital field that requires specifically tailored educational experiences and the development of core sustainability-focused competencies and capacities delivered through courses, majors, minors, certifications, research, and graduate degrees in sustainability." (p. 5). In response to critiques of academic sustainability degree program preparation, a program-level accreditation is being designed by and for stakeholders in Sustainability Education. Through discussions, workshops, and roundtables with employers, students and recent alumni, higher education experts, administrators, faculty, and program directors, a synthesized set of Best Practices in eight grounded areas of program practice have been developed. The grounded areas include core areas of Unit Organization, Curriculum, Pedagogy, Assessment, and support areas of Leadership, Campus & Community, Faculty Support and Student Support.

This 90 minute workshop is designed for anyone with an interest in strengthening Sustainability Education programs in higher education. Participants will gain an overview of the Best Practices as part of a unique and context-sensitive process for program evaluation and accreditation. After understanding the full process, participants will have an opportunity to provide input on the Best Practices, further iterating these Best Practices as guidelines for program-level accreditation for Sustainability in Higher Education.

Participants will:

Facilitator Exerptise:  The workshop is facilitated by Dr. Krista Hiser, Program Director of the Pathways towards Accreditation initiative at the National Sustainability Society, and Dr. Teri Balser, co-chair of the Sustainability Education Community of Practice. (Note: This workshop pairs well with the workshop that will precede it: The Key Competencies in Sustainability Framework: an educational framework for use in multiple dimensions and domains for teaching and learning.) 

Hands-on How-to: Collaborate for Climate 

Mila Rosenthal,  International Science Reserve

From droughts to floods, scientists are warning that climate-related disasters will continue to get worse, even if there are emissions cuts. Collaboration is essential to help combat the most devastating and destructive impacts of climate change. And to ultimately succeed and meet our climate goals, the climate movement needs people with completely different backgrounds and skills who can quickly break down national and disciplinary borders to problem solve. COVID-19 showed that individuals and institutions that don’t normally collaborate can work successfully together in emergencies. But collaboration needs to be practiced and constant, during both shorter-term emergencies such as mega wildfires, heatwaves, new pathogens – and the ongoing larger crisis of climate change.  It is possible to architect a new normal for collaboration, that will help accelerate both mitigation AND adaptation: reduce emissions to meet ambitious climate goals; and respond faster to climate-linked disasters, saving lives and protecting ecosystems.  

Led by an expert facilitator, participants from all disciplines are welcome in this hands-on workshop training. They will practice their collaborative problem-solving skills with a variety of realistic and engaging climate-related scenarios.  Participants will walk away with the confidence to reach across the aisle or discipline that they are in and build stronger networks to make their work more effective during crisis situations.

Facilitator Expertise: Dr. Rosenthal runs the ISR, a network of over 10,000 scientists in 100 countries worldwide who are working together to prepare for and act on the next major crisis, including climate-related disasters. 

Navigating Science-Policy Interface for Impact

Caitlin Grady, George Washington University

This is an engaging workshop designed to bridge the gap between sustainability science and public policy. Aimed at a diverse audience including students, scholars, practitioners, and policy-makers, this session will demystify the process of integrating academic research and expertise into the policymaking world. Whether you're a seasoned researcher or a student just beginning to explore the realm of sustainability, this workshop will offer valuable insights into how your work can contribute to meaningful policy changes and societal impacts.

The primary goal of this workshop is to equip participants with the tools and knowledge needed to effectively translate their research and expertise into actionable public policy.  Attendees will learn:

Participants will leave the workshop with a clear understanding of how to leverage their expertise for the greater good, ensuring their contributions to sustainability science have a lasting impact beyond the academic realm.

By the end of the workshop, participants will have:

This workshop promises a comprehensive toolkit for those looking to extend the impact of their sustainability science efforts into the public policy domain, fostering a future where research and expertise drive societal progress and equitable solutions.

Facilitator Expertise: Dr. Caitlin Grady has developed expertise at the intersection of science and policy over the course of 15 years having served in both academic and policy roles across the sustainability landscape. She will share real-world experiences from her roles with the U.S. House of Representatives, Department of Energy, Department of State, Penn State University, and her current institution, George Washington University. As a testament to her expertise, she has also founded a company which offers government relations advice to research and industry organizations. Finally, Dr. Grady is a trained and certified facilitator and mediator.

Participatory Modeling for Climate Justice 

Dr. Moira Zellner, Northeastern University

Participatory modeling (PM) is a collaborative approach to formalize shared representations of a problem and design and test solutions through a joint modeling process. PM is well-suited for addressing complex social and environmental problems (e.g., climate change, social and economic injustice, sustainable resource management), where interaction effects among multiple actors and factors make the causes and consequences of the problem unclear, and where a diversity of values and perspectives may lead to conflict about concrete pathways forward. Engaging in participatory modeling with different modeling techniques helps elicit diverse stakeholder knowledge (formal/informal, explicit/tacit, scientific/experiential) and harnesses this diversity to move from conflict to solutions as the collaboration strengthens relationship-building, empathy, trust, systems thinking, and collective agency for decision-making. 

This workshop will introduce and test an initial version of fora.ai, a new PM platform developed at Northeastern University. The platform is an intuitive digital environment that enables diverse stakeholder groups to collaboratively interact with embedded simulation models to understand real world socio-environmental problems and create novel and impactful solutions. Stakeholders interact with this digital representation and with each other, iteratively creating, revising and testing solutions until diverse needs are addressed. fora.ai provides quick results for data-driven proof of concepts that are ready to be presented, designed, and implemented in the real world, giving everyone in a team the power to share their unique perspective and build the world they want to live in together.

In this workshop, participants will have the opportunity to use an early version of fora.ai’s interactive game-board to collectively build green infrastructure solutions to flooding in a neighborhood in Chelsea, Massachusetts. The virtual environment allows for both in-person and online participation in a facilitated process in which users will: 1) input their individual priorities, 2) collaboratively run simulations to understand flooding issues in the neighborhood, 3) co-design green infrastructure scenarios to address these problems, 4) see how their changes affect the simulation, and 5) deliberate on the tradeoffs that arise from each solution due to competing priorities. Participants will, with facilitator assistance, engage in multiple iterations of the process of prioritization, solution-building, and reflection on results. This process will allow them to refine their proposed solutions towards a design they would jointly support for implementation, with an understanding of its benefits and drawbacks. 

Participants will need to bring in their own laptops or mobile tablets to the workshop.