Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy in three short days? Instead of the usual full semester at the university with weekly lectures, heavy reading, extensive class discussions, working papers, visiting speakers, tea with your professor, and the rest. With one full week between classes for all that extensive preparatory work to be done each time. But that is not our case here. It’s 2015 and the dynamics of life, learning and work are not standing still. We need a strategy for our time.
Our topic is not an easy one. The sustainability conundrum is many-sided and filled with complexity, interests, contradictions, time lags, rebound effects, willful blindness, disagreements, passions and, worst of all, a pretty miserable track record, as can be seen from just about all of the declining macro indicators
When originally approached for this course, as a long time university teacher I felt that it was not going to be possible to do well within these strict and to me quite unfamiliar constraints, at least in a university setting. And all the less so when the administrators informed me that most of you are working on a full time job at the same time. Impossible!
It was only when I took a few days to challenge my own preconceptions and break out of my traditional university mode, that I came to understand that it could be done. Of course it could, and with the right adjustments and preparation possibly very nicely indeed. But to get this job done required my breaking out of the usual academic mode — i.e., standing tall and sharing my infinite wisdom on the subject with you in long narrations from the podium. No, my role had to be something quite else: closer to that of a scout and a coach. I started to figure out how that might work.
But I was going to need more than those three short days to put my ambitious plans to work. I needed more of your brainspace than the 24 hours of the formal course allowed, quite a bit more in fact if we are to get the job done properly. So I set out to develop a supporting “curriculum” — in the shape of a butterfly, with the central event, our three days together, to be the equivalent of the body, with the whole thing lifted with the help of two strong wings .
1. Pre-seminar program
Supporting website and media tools:
As a vehicle to make this project work in a properly dynamic interactive way, we needed a website with a few bells and whistles that could help orient the students both during and in advance of the course itself. All of which you will now see at http://sustain.ecoplan.org. The key to the website is the top menu, but if you spend a few minutes playing around with it, you will quickly see how this wealth of materials, tools and references can be put to work.
Further in support of this learning process, the course offers a certain number of linked social media, including namely Facebook, Linked-In, Google + and Twitter, all of which specifically organized to the themes of the seminar and explained on the website.
Pre-seminar program content:
You will understand that we are looking at three basically very different but deeply complex and asymmetrically interrelated areas of human activity and environment, namely (1) Sustainable Development, (2) Economy & (3) Democracy. (You may wish to think of our approach as an example of the classic: Thesis, antithesis, synthesis, but more on that later.) Each of these subject areas is extremely dense and if you are going to work in the world of international business, you really do need to have more than a passing understanding of how these three different worlds work together. That truly is something that we cannot reasonably expect to deal with sufficiently for your career purposes in three short days. How to do it?
In this case by adding an informal pre-seminar program in which we would spend some available time in the weeks preceding the actual seminar in laying the groundwork for the course. The pre-seminar program is summarized on the top left column of the site, with a handful of preparatory tasks and a reasonable amount of reading clearly set out step by step.
The great advantage of this approach is that when you walk in the door for the first class on Thursday morning, our topic will be one on which you have already started to organize your thoughts. In short, you will be ready to learn and hit the ground running.
* Satisfactory completion all items of the preparatory program counts for 15% of final grade.
2. Class room sessions
This is the central core of the learning and organizational experience. Refer to the article here on Course Organization, and more generally the listing of contents that you will find under ISG START in the upper left column.
* Classroom presence and performance counts for 45% of final grade.
3. Final report
The second supporting wing and mechanism for extending the compact learning experience is the decision to stimulate each class member’s thinking about the topic and approach of their final report very early in the cycle, which is of courses very important since the report accounts for fully fifty percent of the class grade.
And in this way we suddenly have not just three short days but more than a month, during which time the assignment is going to be occupying a certain amount of your available brainspace, thus allowing you to make your own progress in organizing your thinking on our topic. And on your topic, that is the one you will be working on for your final report.
* The timely submittal of the final report with full attention to the guidelines given here counts for 40% of final grade.
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Workload: I am aware that you all have a heavy workload in your other courses and in many cases jobs. With this in mind I have thus tried to make this preparatory work something that you can do with interest and within the limits of your available time. It does require that you are able to read fast, assimilate the materials and then act fast to demonstrate your understanding (in the presentations and discussions). But that is exactly what you are going to find in the highly competitive world of international business.
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This is not, we can be sure, going to be an easy challenge for any of us. But no one ever said that the path to a sustainable world was going to be a free ride. I am confident that we all (and that includes me) will come out of this adventure all-knowing a lot more about our topic and more too about what happens when we put brains together on the economic and social challenges that we now face.
In the month following the processing and grading of the final written assignments, I will write up a short report on what I have learned from our shared experience and send it to all involved.
If in the meantime, you have questions or suggestions, you can find me at firstname.lastname@example.org of on Skype via newmobility.
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