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Author's note
What is E S D?
Reorienting Education
Localizing the Global Initiative
Challenges and Barriers to E S D
Community Sustainability Goals
Case Study: Toronto, Canada Board of Education
Managing Change
Public Participation
Concluding remarks
Tools to Introduce the Concept of Sustainable Development
Tools to Create Community Goals
Tools to Reorient Education to Address Sustainability
Tools for Managing Change
Web resources

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This two-part exercise will help your community develop sustainability goals based on society, environment, and economy.


To discover and prioritize group objectives.


This public participation activity is for use after a community has already decided to create sustainability goals. Other community participation processes must first take place to bring the community to the point where it is ready to create sustainability goals.

The questionnaire portion of this exercise may be distributed to residents of the community and to community businesses. Have personnel ready to analyze the data once questionnaires are returned.

Time Needed: Questionnaire (20 minutes), stakeholder meeting (2 hours).


  • Self-adhesive labels/stickers (e.g., 1 to 2 cm. circles) in three colors.
  • Pencils.
  • A chalkboard and chalk.


Seeking Public Participation

  1. Prepare a questionnaire based on the sample provided with this exercise.
  2. Choose a return deadline for completed questionnaires (e.g., two weeks after mailing), as well as a date for the stakeholder meeting. Be sure to give yourself ample time between mailing the questionnaire and holding the stakeholder meeting to analyze and prepare the data you have collected.
  3. Write a cover letter based on the sample provided with this exercise. The cover letter should explain the purposes of the questionnaire and stakeholder meeting and encourage participation in both. Be sure to include information about the stakeholder meeting, including the date, place, and time, as well as the return deadline for the questionnaire.
  4. Mail the questionnaire along with a self-addressed, postage-paid return envelope.

Before the Meeting

  1. When the questionnaires have been returned, analyze the responses. Identify major topics of concern (e.g., conservation, education, public transportation) and place each topic in one of three categories: society, environment, or economy. List specific concerns under each major concern. Keep track of the number of duplicate concerns. Your participants may ask for this type of statistic.
  2. One week prior to the stakeholder meeting, place a reminder of the date, time, and place in the local newspaper. Announce the meeting on local television and radio broadcasts. Encourage the media to run a "public interest" story on the process.

During the Meeting

  1. In advance of the stakeholder meeting, write out all the vision statements in alphabetical order under the three headings Society, Economy, and Environment. [Note: Listing the statements alphabetically allow seach to be seen as equal to the others. Do not put the responses in order from most popular to least popular nor list the number of votes each received. However, you should have this information available in case it is requested.]
  2. Arrange the seats in a semi-circle, in order to facilitate a conversational atmosphere.
  3. At the appointed time, ask your participants to take seats. Thank them for their time and commitment to the community. Explain that the questionnaires drew many "vision statements" from the community, and that another term for "vision statements" is sustainability goals. Direct participants' attention to the lists of sustainability goals. Begin a discussion of each suggested sustainability goal, asking for explanations of the most unusual responses - some of these may give great insight (1 hour).
  4. Ask if anyone has any new sustainability goals to add. Add them to the list and discuss these (15 minutes).
  5. Revisit the list of sustainability goals. Combine similar goals; add new goals; delete those the group found not relevant.
  6. Designate one color label/sticker for environment, one for economy, and one for society. Distribute 3 labels/stickers of each color to each participant. Each participant should have 9 "markers".
  7. Instruct participants to place one sticker each next to three goals in each category (environment, economy, and society) that they view as most important (in other words, each participant should mark a total of nine goals, three in each category.)
  8. Give your participants a 10-minute break while you tally the responses. Reorder the goals according to the number of votes received, listing them in descending order.
  9. Review the results. Lead the group to discuss plans of action that might achieve the first 3 or 4 goals in each category. See the activity Making Your Ideas Fly!

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