Education for Sustainability Leadership : Supporting and empowering agents for sustainability transformations

Abstract: The global challenges of our time are unprecedented and urgent action for transformation is needed of our systems, policies, institutions and ways of thinking. Education of sustainability leaders is one of the key leverage points to achieve this and many claim that learning on an individual, organisational and societal scale is required for society’s successful transitioning towards sustainability. In this relatively new field, practitioners and scholars grapple with what best promotes development of sustainability leadership, and with what competencies, capacities and transformative outcomes educators should be aiming to develop. The aim of this work was therefore to establish an improved understanding of this and to find recommendations for educators with ambitions to create systems change for sustainability by building the capacity of people to be sustainability leaders. As an educator and facilitator of sustainability work for over a decade, working at the crossroads of education for sustainability leadership; organisational  and community change, lecturing on leadership for sustainability in Australia and currently being Co-Director of the Master’s in Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability (MSLS) program in Sweden, I have rested this thesis firmly within an action-oriented transformation research paradigm in which the only way to understand a system is through a comprehensive attempt to change it. Seven cases of sustainability leadership education are presented. Methods include surveys with open questions; workshops; interviews; document analysis; and, ethnographic field work. The thesis provides support for design of sustainability leadership education through the following outcomes: Recommendations and improvements on a Typology for Transformative Learning to guide educators in designing and assessing transformative sustainability leadership education; Eight Intrapersonal Capacities that may provide a map of the Intrapersonal Competence. These are: Hold complexity, Foster a learners mindset, Deeply value others, Let be, Show up as one’s full self, Regulate and manage the self, Persist with lightness and Ensure one’s wellbeing;Suggestions that the integration of the components of community, place, content, pedagogy and disorientation with hope and agency can provide synergistic reinforcement of the sustainability transformation required;Examples of reflection and dialogue as well as creativity and the arts as pedagogies and skills for sustainability leaders;Added evidence that learning can be a key leverage point for sustainability transformations by presenting outcomes and impacts of sustainability education programs where students attempted to make change in their work or world through creativity projects;Outcomes and impacts of an organisation change program within a local government which used education to empower sustainability leaders who then themselves created sustainability outcomes and impacts;Identified challenges of education for sustainability leadership from the perspective of students, learning designers and facilitators of the studied education programs.Challenges within sustainability education more broadly are also presented.With those outcomes, the thesis contributes to the body of knowledge concerned with building capacity of human beings to facilitate strategic sustainable development work. 

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