In mid-2021, we met virtually as faculty and instructors in our respective business departments of our university institutions and started discussing how to expose our students to a sustainability mindset, to sustainable innovations in practice, and to each other in a cross-cultural environment. This was the start of planning for our collaborative online international learning (COIL) experiential activity for our Spring 2022 semester students.
Our main goals were:
- Learn about the potential of businesses to move the UN Sustainable Development Goals forward.
- Provide students with experience working in a distributed multicultural team.
- Promote lasting change and allow students to leave a legacy.
We developed a 5-week experiential activity where over 120 students from three institutions from three continents were asked to meet in their teams of 5-6 students every week using a synchronous communication tool (we used Zoom) and analyze in the context of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), innovative flourishing stories from all over the world. These stories were the result of student interviews with flourishing businesses that were reported and recorded using the AIM2Flourish platform (an initiative of the Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University and is supported by the Principles for Responsible Management (PRME) UN Global Compact Initiative). Out of the thousands of stories, the 122 students (distributed in 23 teams) examined 572 stories of sustainable and flourishing innovations encompassing all 17 SDGs.
Students in this COIL experience had the following learning objectives:
- learn about the SDGs,
- explore examples of intersections between businesses and SDGs,
- draw conclusions based on real business examples,
- reflect about the role of businesses in a complex world using the lens of SDGs, and
- critically reflect on differences and similarities with a cross-cultural perspective
Over 5 weeks, the student teams reflected on sustainability, explored their sustainability mindset using a Sustainability Mindset Indicator (SMI)1, and analysed 20-30 stories per group. They were then asked to report on the SDG that was assigned to them, review the common elements among the stories, critically examine them, and then provide a group reflection of this activity. We gave general instructions but allowed the students the freedom to apply their own skills to generate the content. At a final meeting, we asked them for comments; of which we show a few examples below:
- It has been a very useful activity. At first glimpse, I didn’t expect it will be as interesting and entertaining as it has been. We’ve actually work a lot too, but there have been very grateful efforts to make. My bests parts have been our Zoom meetings, without a doubt.
- I think that the best parts were getting to meet new students across the globe and being open to learning about different cultures. Learning about the companies was very cool too and it made me realise the numerous amount of ways that business can be used for social good as opposed to for-profit purposes too.
- The best and more interesting part of the activity was to be able to work alongside different people with different cultures. I believe this is very powerful and it has for sure increased our knowledge and skills. It is very interesting because we were able to learn skills that we don’t usually learn in class.
The results of this COIL activity form this book, divided into sections for each of the 5 P’s (people, prosperity, planet, peace, and partnerships) and the SDGs belonging to each of those P’s. We each wrote an introduction to the different sections but the individual chapters belong to the students – it is their voice and it gives all of us hope that across a cross-cultural platform they have gained a greater understanding and appreciation for sustainability and carry hope and promise into the future.
Dr. Ir. Amelia Naim Indrajaya, MBA- IPMI IBS, Indonesia
Isabel Rodriguez Tejedo, PhD – University of Navarra, Spain
Ruben Burga, PhD – University of Guelph, Canada
1The Sustainability Mindset Indicator (SMI) is a survey instrument co-developed by Drs. Beate Klingenberg and Isabel Rimanoczy, Ed.D., convenor of the PRME Working Group on the Sustainability Mindset. It is a survey instrument meant to help promote reflection from a framework of ecological, systemic, spiritual, and emotional intelligence dimension (for more details visit https://smindicator.com/ ).