click to skip navigation Education for Sustainable Development Toolkit, version 2 point o
E S D Toolkit logo -
back to E S D Toolkit home  

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

powered by FreeFind

Chapter 36 of Agenda 21 calls for reorienting education to address sustainable development. Reorienting education can appear as an insurmountable task that requires reform at every level of education - reform that would require more funding than is currently available in national budgets. However, if the strengths model is applied beyond curriculum to administration, the efforts of existing ministries, departments, universities, etc. can contribute greatly toward reorienting education to address sustainability.

Donella Meadows, in her book The Global Citizen, talks about changing the status quo.

[T]he most effective way you can intervene in a system is to shift its goals. You don't need to fire everyone, or replace all the machinery, or spend more money, or even make new laws—if you can just change the goals of the feedback loops. Then all the old people, machinery, money, and laws will start serving new functions, falling into new configurations, behaving in new ways, and producing new results.

Meadows, 1991, p 250.

Those of us who work in ESD would be wise to ponder Meadows' words. We could accomplish more by working to shift institutional goals to further sustainability.

Shifting goals in isolation is usually insufficient for sustained systemic change. Studies of management systems show that a number of steps must be taken together for a new idea to go from vision to self-sustaining reality. Although each institution has its own way of bringing about change, three general starting points are common - the three Ps: program, policy, and practice. For ESD or any other innovation to become an integral part of an institution, these three areas must be addressed simultaneously or in short succession.

Programs, Practices, and Policies

Institutions of all kinds tend to resist change; formal education is no exception. In the following sections on program, policy, and practice, the theme of cultural diversity illustrates possible ESD activities. Real-life examples from teacher-education institutions illustrate recent ESD activities in program, policy, and practice.

Program. Program changes evolve from local responses to specific problems or needs. Innovators use their expertise to develop a programmatic change within their own institutions to address this need. Others hear about the innovation and adapt it or develop their own versions to fit the needs of their institutional settings. For example, a large urban North American school district wanted cultural diversity within its staff so that pupils would see their ethnic groups reflected in the professionals who taught them. To this end, the school district worked with a university to alter admission requirements, which allowed a broader ethnic base of applicants into the pre-service teacher-education program. The students admitted through the program were given additional counseling and support to help them become successful academically. This cultural diversity program was implemented in the faculty of education at one university. Professors reported the success of the program at conferences and in the media. Word spread about the success of the program dealing with this prominent issue. Other institutions developed programs with similar intent but with different programmatic components specific to the needs of their universities and local school districts. Within a few years, the ethnic composition of teaching staffs in local schools began to change.

Innovative Program Example

Infusing ESD into Caribbean Literature, Mico Teachers' College, Jamaica
By Dr. Lorna Down, Head, Department of Languages

Infusing Education for Sustainable Development into Caribbean Literature has been a stimulating and refreshing learning experience for both students and teachers, even as it proved a challenging task.

The Subject

Caribbean Literature is a 90-hour, two-semester course. The texts studied included Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea and Dennis Scott's An Echo in the Bone.

The Students

These were Year 1 English Option students (i.e., students specialising in English) at Mico Teachers' College.

The Programme

I began the programme by providing students with an overview of Education for Sustainable Development using the UNESCO literature - I focused on the quality of human life in regard to relations/relationships. Specifically I explored with students themes of Violence, Power Relations, Women's Rights, Racism & Violence.

These themes were first introduced by engaging students in a project - Global Pictures of Human Relationships. Here in groups they were expected to make a collage of pictures, headlines, and articles on one of the themes. These they presented with a brief discussion to the rest of the class.

In addition to exploring the texts in terms of their literary elements, I had students examine the high level of violence in Jamaica. This began with a journal entry and was followed by a discussion on violence. The exercise proved extremely useful: it was cathartic as it revealed how all of us in different ways were affected by the violence. Students spoke openly about their fears, obsessions, and plans for dealing with violence.

In order to help students cope with these fears, anxieties, etc., I had them examine alternative responses to violence, specifically Peace Initiatives. This was later followed by a lecture on Conflict Resolution. The guest speaker was a conflict resolution practitioner, who provided the students with practical and meaningful ways to deal with conflict.

Policy. Policy is an overall plan embracing the general goals and acceptable procedures of a government body or authoritative group. Policy is the next step after innovative practices have proven worthy of the time, effort, and resources expended. As more and more individuals recognize that an innovative program fulfills educational or political goals, management begins to look at expansion. Key to expanding innovative programs is the creation of policy. Policy is the "blessing" of the upper administration and the creation of institutional infrastructure that accompanies the "blessing." Once the innovation becomes policy, those who have pioneered the change feel validated and those who have not been involved must either become involved or be prepared to explain why they are not following the policy. Because all teachers and administrators will encounter education policy in their careers, it is important that they graduate with a basic understanding of how and why policy is generated. By understanding how policy is generated educators may be able to contribute to ESD-compatible change in their school systems.

Policy by itself will not effect change. From years of observing change in policy brought about by elections and subsequent change in government administration, the public knows that policy often does not alter programs or practices, especially without funding or acceptance from those who would implement the policy.

In the cultural diversity program described previously, the school district cemented cultural diversity of the teaching staff as policy by including it in the official documents of the board (e.g., recruitment- and hiring-procedures manuals).

Innovative Policy Example

Florida Gulf Coast University, USA

Goal: Commit to environmental sustainability for the University's campus and beyond.

Goal Statement: Florida Gulf Coast University has identified a sustainable environment as a major center for excellence. The University will recognize its opportunities to serve as an academic and functional model of environmental sustainability. Located in the heart of rapidly-growing Southwest Florida, FGCU is uniquely representative of the balance achievable when the prevailing goal is sustainability. We will operate and manage University facilities and grounds as a model for ecological sustainability.


  1. The University will seek to develop environmental programs of national distinction.
  2. Environmental concepts and concerns will be integrated throughout FGCU curriculum.
  3. FGCU will build and operate attractive facilities and grounds on ecologically-sustainable principles and practices, where economically feasible. The Environmental Management Systems project will be initiated to sustain ecologically sound institutional practices.
  4. The University will establish an Environmental Stewardship Council which will develop a comprehensive plan for infusing ecological perspective and ecological responsibility into curriculum and research programs, as well as campus culture.

Source: Florida Gulf Coast University College of Business Handbook, Strategic Plan. Accessed 14 February 2004

Practice. For policy changes to become firmly entrenched, the changes must be supported in the standard practices of the system. In the previous example addressing cultural diversity, the program was solidified through changes in ongoing practices. For example, the university altered recruitment procedures of prospective teacher candidates and new faculty members and sent press releases to smaller ethnic newspapers in the city to spread the word regarding the changes. The university continued to send such press releases so ethnic communities would have ongoing access to news of university activities. Budgets for the cultural diversity programs were embedded in line items that were automatically renewed annually thereby removing the program from the yearly struggle for funding and the threat of possible cancellation. University reporting procedures made cultural diversity activities automatic by including them as required components of year-end reports. Promotion procedures changed to include evidence of leadership or compliance in the area of cultural diversity.

Practices related to ESD on campuses should be pointed out to teacher candidates. Ideally, teacher candidates would have the opportunity to observe a building in which environmentally sustainable practices are the norm. Observing recycling efforts, purchasing and using environmentally sustainable cleaning products, reusing paper, conserving energy, and conserving water will help teacher candidates think about practices that contribute to more sustainable classrooms and school buildings.

Innovative Practice Example

The Griffith University EcoCentre, Brisbane, Australia
By Professor John Fien, Director

The EcoCentre is a key element of the community outreach and partnership program of Griffith University. Located on a 640-hectare forest campus in the tropical city of Brisbane, Australia, it is a 600-square-metre building that has been designed as a model of eco-design and environmental responsibility. It provides space for the Toohey Forest Environmental Education Centre which is staffed and operated by Education Queensland; a conference and training centre (seating up to 90 people); a 200-square-metre display and exhibition gallery; a suite of iMac computers linked to the Internet to facilitate environmental research via the Griffith EcoHOTline - a dedicated portal for the public and school students; and a postgraduate research students' office.

The EcoCentre opened in 2001 to provide environmental education and training programs for students, the general public, industry, business, and government. As such, the EcoCentre operates many programs. Teacher education is one of the most important and serves the needs of pre-service student teachers, experienced teachers who visit the EcoCentre with their classes or for a professional development workshop, and the university's large group of master's and doctoral students in environmental education. The EcoCentre contributes to these teacher education groups in two main ways.

The first is through the educational potential of the building itself. The EcoCentre has been designed and constructed according to strict "eco-design" principles, and features the use of recycled and recyclable construction materials, solar energy, ambient ventilation and lighting, rammed earth walls for temperature regulation, rainwater collection for "greywater" functions, and wet-composting toilets. Such features reflect domestic scale environmental technologies that can be used not only in the family home but also in school design. In addition, the EcoCentre manages a mobile Greenhouse Lab, a 5-metre-long caravan that may be borrowed for up to a week by schools. It contains resources for hands-on activities, displays, books and brochures, and audio-visual materials on the Greenhouse Effect and renewable energy. Teacher education students have access to the building and work-experience opportunities in the EcoCentre and in schools with the Greenhouse Lab.

The second way the EcoCentre contributes to teacher education is through the work of the teachers in the Toohey Forest Environmental Education Centre. Established as a partnership between the local Department of Education and the university, the school is staffed by two teachers and caters to classes of pre-school, elementary, and high school students who visit for daily programs. The themes of these programs include field studies of local history, indigenous studies, and forest and stream ecology. They also offer work in the teaching and research laboratories of university staff and in the university's environmental planning studios. Pre-service student teachers, teachers who accompany their classes, and the university's postgraduate students are integrated into the planning and facilitation of these activities with school students.

The following case study is an example of all three - program, practice, and policy - being carried out in conjunction to permanently change the nature of the teacher education program. Each of the three Ps played a key role in bringing about permanent change.

Case Study on Reorienting Teacher Education to Address Sustainability

York University, Canada
By Associate Dean Don Dippo

Remarks to the International Conference on Reorienting Teacher Education to Address Sustainability, Hockley Highlands, Ontario, Canada, October 2000.

York is Canada's third largest university with approximately 40,000 students. The Faculty of Education at York graduates just over 1000 students per year - 800 certified to teach at the elementary level, 200 certified to teach high school. For ten years, the Faculty has been involved in "re-orienting." In 1988, a group of faculty (under no particular authority) came together to ask how, as a Faculty, we could begin to address issues of racism in our schools and in our Faculty itself. In 1998, an external accreditation review panel recognized equity and social justice issues as constituting the core of our teacher education programmes. With respect to sustainability, we are probably just about where we were ten years ago with equity and social justice. This brief case study (in truth, one person's view) is about what we might learn from that experience in "re-orienting" and about how we might proceed in "re-orienting" again.

Since its inception in 1972, York's Faculty of Education could be described as "Progressive" in the Dewian sense of being committed to both individual growth and social development. The faculty distinguished itself from behaviourist approaches by embracing more liberal/humanist ideas about teaching and learning. Developmentalism was at the core of the curriculum. Students read Piaget, Kohlberg, and Vygotsky. We were child-centred, activity/inquiry based, and advocates of whole language. We were holistic, emphasizing the physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual development of children. This is the position, the vision of ourselves, we espoused, we proclaimed, and worked hard at.

In the mid-80s, there were certainly faculty members who had taken note of how schools systematically disadvantaged women, the poor, racial and linguistic minorities, and Aboriginal people. Individual faculty members addressed systemic discrimination in their courses. But the commitment to take on these issues was not programmatic. It was not infused in our teacher-education curriculum. Then in 1987-88, amidst mounting research evidence and media reports about racism in schools (and, indeed, in faculties of education) a group of faculty members came together to begin to strategize about how to effect change in our teacher education programme. The plan was to meet regularly, to sit on Faculty committees, and to make proposals for curricular and programmatic changes to our Faculty Council. The Admissions Committee began to look at systemic barriers. The Curriculum Committee looked at issues of representation. The Hiring Committee looked at ways to diversify the faculty complement. Interest in the work of these committees grew. A new dean was appointed who was very supportive of these initiatives. The scope of the project expanded to include discrimination based on race, ethnicity, language, social class, gender, sexuality, and disability. There were heated discussions and debates within committees and within the faculty at large. Should we adopt the multiculturalist position being advanced by American theorists or should we embrace the Anti-Racist position being put forward by scholars in the United Kingdom? Should we create a single compulsory course, which addresses discrimination in all its forms, or should we insist that systemic discrimination and disadvantage be addressed in all of the courses we taught? In the midst of these debates, there came a kind of watershed moment when the faculty concluded that it was not necessary to resolve these issues before being able to declare in print (that is, in the University Calendar, in the Faculty Handbook, on the Faculty Web site) that we were, as a Faculty, committed to addressing equity issues in all our programmes. After all, in the course of time and as a result of all the discussion and debate, we had changed our admissions policies and procedures. We had made our curriculum more inclusive. And our faculty complement had become more diverse.

It wasn't long, however, before the limitations of this particular vision became the subject of debate. While there was widespread agreement that equity issues ought to be addressed by all of us in ways appropriate to the different courses that we taught, there were questions raised about whether we could be as truly progressive as we wanted to be while remaining largely silent about issues related to poverty, violence, militarism, globalization, eco-racism, and environmental degradation. The Faculty now describes itself as being committed to addressing equity and social justice issues in all its programmes. It is fair to say that, at this point, the Faculty still addresses equity more directly than social justice. But we've committed ourselves to finding ways to more adequately address both.

In the view of several faculty members, myself included, sustainability now offers the Faculty an opportunity to make good on its commitments to address equity and social justice. The challenge ahead is not unlike the challenge that faced equity advocates in our Faculty ten years ago. The task is to find ways to engender understanding and build commitment and enthusiasm for the conceptual framework and pedagogical imperatives that sustainability education implies. The social context in Ontario is, in many respects, more hostile than the context that supported the development of multicultural/anti-racist education initiatives in the past. The curriculum has become decidedly more narrow, focussing on basic and employability skills. Standardized and high-stakes testing have further marginalised many highly important but undervalued aspects of the curriculum. Yet, day by day, the need becomes greater as the effects of social and environmental neglect become more and more apparent.

A conference like this one on reorienting teacher education to address sustainability bolsters our hope that something can be done, and strengthens our resolve to do it.

Management during Change

All organizations in transition go through three stages that need to be managed in different manners - the present state, the transition state, and the future state. Reorienting education for sustainability will follow the same path and require different management techniques for each stage. Major administrative challenges face those who are orchestrating change on a major scale. Some of those who are in leadership positions in the reorienting effort have years of administrative experience; others are new to educational change or are outsiders to the educational community. Even those who have been in educational administration for years will be new to ESD because it is an emerging field.

Charles Hopkins, who was involved in Toronto's green schools program and the Toronto Board of Education's effort to create an outcome-based curriculum, recommends the following seven-step process for bringing about change in a school system:

(1) Make the decision to act.

Education is trendy; new ideas are always passing through the educational community. With each new trend, administrators and teachers must decide to adopt a new idea or let it pass. If administrators decide to adopt a new trend, they must be ready to commit funding and resources (e.g., classroom materials, release time for teachers to help plan and implement the new effort, inservice training of teachers). Administrators know that for teachers to adopt a new trend or method, it must meet at least one, preferably more, of the following four criteria: (a) the new trend is of interest to them, (b) it makes their job easier, (c) it makes a difference in their program (e.g., it makes a positive difference in the achievement, attitude, or behavior or their students), and (d) they are held accountable and are evaluated on it. Unfortunately, ESD will not be readily adopted because sustainability is not interesting to the general public and the teaching faculty.

(2) Back up the decision with a rationale.

After a school adopts a new trend, the administration must announce the decision internally and externally. The announcement should be accompanied by a rationale that is easy to convey and understand. The rationale must convince teachers, parents, and administrators that the change is worth the investment of time and effort. A successful rationale might be "The new math program raises student achievement and is cost effective" or "The safe substitutes program (replacing harsh cleaners and school-yard chemicals with non-toxic compounds) saves money for the schools and protects children from toxic chemicals."

The rationale should include an explanation on how the reform is better for the students and good for the community. The challenge is to craft a rationale that is credible, repeatable, and understandable. Writing a rationale for ESD presents a major challenge; sustainability is not easily described in one or two sentences.

(3) Prepare a communication strategy to share your vision with the stakeholders and community.

After writing the rationale, a school must create a communication strategy to announce the new program. The communication strategy must include both telling and listening. The plan should address a variety of audiences, how each audience will be reached, and what type of forum will be used for listening to the reactions of the various audiences (e.g., a memorandum to all teachers explaining the change, followed by staff meetings with the superintendent of curriculum or a media release followed by a town meeting).

The opportunity to dialog after the announcement reduces the number of unfounded rumors. For example, as part of a green schools program, one school decided to replace incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent tubes. A teacher was upset, noting that there was money for light bulbs, but not new textbooks, not realizing that the savings in energy costs of the new lighting would pay for installation and new textbooks within a few years.

Beyond the challenge of writing an easily communicated rationale, preparing a communication strategy for ESD will be complicated. Depending on their interests and needs, audiences respond better to some explanations of sustainability than to others. The diversity of stakeholders, the best message for each stakeholder, and the best methods to contact those stakeholders must be considered.

(4) Prepare goals and milestones.

After the new plan is revealed and the rationale announced, the work between the administration and the teaching staff should begin. Faculty and administrators must work together to figure out how to implement the overall goal within the settings of individual schools. Together, they decide what components to undertake and in what order. Using the strengths model is an excellent way to begin setting goals and priorities for ESD programs.

The administration and faculty will also set milestones or targets to assess progress. The form for a milestone is simple - by a specific date a specific task will be accomplished or adopted by X percent of those involved. For example, "By January of next year, recycle bins will be in 90 percent of the classrooms," or "By the end of the academic year, all fifth grade teachers will have received anti-bullying inservice training."

Responsibility for each task in a new program should be assigned when setting goals and milestones, and a reporting method for those with responsibility should be created. People with political power and genuine interest should be assigned to the most important tasks; the success of the program depends on these.

With large, multi-faceted efforts like reorienting education to address sustainability, many projects are possible. The champions of each project all clamor for attention and are eager to implement their ideas. The temptation is to start all the projects for which staff show interest; however, experience shows that starting small with a few successes and not spreading too thin the efforts and energy of your staff is wise. From small successes come larger successes.

(5) Establish accountability and methods of programmatic evaluation.

To assure that the new program becomes ingrained into the school system, methods of evaluation must change correspondingly. If evaluation is not changed, there will be little progress. For example, if a principal asks a teacher to instruct using a new method, but evaluates and bases retention and promotion on criteria from the old way, the teacher may become confused and frustrated or refuse to change. End-of-the-year reporting from individual schools should reflect the changes. Because ESD encompasses social, economic, and environmental concerns, sustainability will be woven into many aspects of the end-of-the-year reports.

(6) Review and revise goals and milestones.

As new educational trends are implemented, teachers and administrators usually find they need to make mid-course corrections to the program. An opportunity for program revision should be built into a new program from the beginning. Designing a new program is based both on professional experience and imagination, which adds imprecision and uncertainty to the process. Sometimes programs simply do not turn out as planned. Specific dates should be set for program revision (e.g., feedback after three months, minor revisions at six months and major revision after one cycle of instruction to prepare for the next cycle). Not only will the program improve with review and revision, but the anxiety of the faculty implementing the program will decrease with the knowledge that if things are not going well, there will be an opportunity to change. This opportunity for collaboration and change is especially important when implementing new pilot projects that have not been tested previously, as is the case with ESD.

(7) Rewards and celebrations.

Don't overlook the importance of saying thank you, rewarding effort, and celebrating successes during the busy academic year. In North American schools, athletic departments are excellent at rewards and celebration. At the end of each season, coaches and players are recognized with awards such as certificates, plaques, and patches for their participation and achievement. Unfortunately, teachers and students who run the school composting program or the community volunteer program most likely do not receive the same accolades. Academic departments and extra-curricular clubs should learn from athletics to reward and celebrate.

Hopkins recommends that school recognition programs (e.g., Earth Flag Schools, or Green Schools) reward all schools that meet or exceed previously set criteria - similar to the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides merit-badge programs - rather than selecting a few winners. He suggests that the awards be tangible, enduring past the moment of public recognition.

Success in Implementing Curricular Change

Toronto's former Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, Charles Hopkins, says that the interest and cooperation of teachers is essential to any curricular change. Therefore implementing curricular change, such as reorienting education to address sustainability, carries a price that cannot be paid simply with inkind contributions from teachers. Hopkins says, "To implement any new program I would have to take resources away from other programs. Those resources are money, time, and teacher goodwill. All three of these resources are in short supply." To assess the situation, Hopkins asked 10 questions of himself and other administrators. Do teachers:

  1. want this change? (E.g., Will it make their job easier?)
  2. have to change? (E.g., Will there be follow-up, supervision, and monitoring?)
  3. understand the change?
  4. have the time to learn and practice the change in a safe setting? (E.g., Is coaching available?)
  5. have the materials available? (E.g., Do they have to seek and read material in their spare time?)
  6. have support or pressure from parents?
  7. have support or pressure from fellow teachers?
  8. intuitively value the change? (E.g., Does it make sense and will it help my students or society? Am I doing the right thing?)
  9. see that everybody else has to do it too?
  10. get a sincere reward for doing it?

Hopkins says that if the answers to all ten questions are positive then the proposed curriculum reform has a good probability of success.

Other Considerations in Managing Change

The following sections on managing during change are for those who are new to educational administration and reform. The following sections contain major points for consideration. For more detailed descriptions and strategies, search the educational administration and the business management literature.

Mission and Vision

Many management strategies begin with examining and, often, rewriting the mission of the organization. However, the mission of the formal education sector is well defined, and in many cases any efforts to redefine the mission of primary, secondary, or higher education would meet with major, overwhelming resistance. A much better strategy for reorienting education is to cast ESD as a major player in achieving formal education's mission and goals while helping to achieve community and national sustainability goals.

Readiness and Capability of Change

As with many educational reform movements, the success of reorienting education to address sustainability will in part depend on the capability of those who lead the effort and the readiness of those who must help implement it. Realistically, the participation of the national leaders in the Earth Summit and the signing of Agenda 21 did not commit the participation of entire nations to implementing national sustainability plans, part of which should be reorienting education to address sustainability. One of the reasons that education has not already reoriented to address sustainability is that the need for change is not readily apparent. The central issue becomes whether to change rather than how to change. In the section on Challenges and Barriers to ESD, we state that the initial step in launching an ESD program is to develop awareness within the educational community and the public that reorienting education to achieve sustainability is essential. Without that awareness, those who lead the reorientation effort would have to work to prepare the educational community before moving into efforts to reorient.

Part of successfully involving others in any reform or change is to give them a sufficiently detailed description of the end point so that they will become involved in working to achieve it. When people can envision an agreeable future they can define a role for themselves in both the transition and future states. Uncertainty about the future can cause anxiety and result in behaviors that work against achieving the desired goal. A natural reaction to uncertainty is to talk with a small circle of other anxious and uninformed colleagues. Unfortunately, in such situations, speculation and rumors may grow, and erroneous assumptions and misinformation will slow or thwart the reform effort. Developing a scenario that allows people to see a role for themselves, while retaining sufficient flexibility for input from new converts, is vital to progress.

Analyzing the Nature of Change Required for Reorienting Education

Reorienting education to address sustainability is a huge project. It will require activity on the national, regional, state/provincial, and local levels. It will probably involve a long list of government officials, legislators, administrators, teachers, unions, and nonprofit organizations. To begin the complexity of reorienting education to address sustainbility, analyze the nature of change needed. Of course, this analysis should be done at the level you work. If you work in a local high school, your analysis will be quite different than the analysis of the national minister of education. Start by asking: What must be changed? Will it require legislative action? Will it require amendment of the mandated national curriculum? Will it require the goodwill of teachers in your school? Planning for legislative change is very different than planning to cultivate the goodwill of a teaching faculty. Analyze the type of change necessary for your level of work. This type of analysis will help you clarify choices and alternative paths of action. The ESD Toolkit has several exercises on managing change (see Section XIV: Tools for Managing Change) and several exercises on types of change involved in a reoriention effort (see Section XIII: Tools to Reorient Education to Address Sustainability).

Reorienting education to address sustainability will involve identifying and dealing with barriers. Some barriers can be circumvented while others will require confrontation and change. Two tendencies for people who resist change are to invent barriers to new ideas or to identify barriers based on assumptions rather than fact. Statements like "The dean would never endorse that idea," or "The funding is not available," are typical barrier statements that may or may not have a legitimate basis. Rather than accepting that the dean will not endorse an idea, you can explore the reasoning behind the statement, or you personally can approach the dean. In addition, funding is always an issue and can be cited as a legitimate barrier. The nature of funding concerns are revealed by answering two questions: "Does this project require money or can it be accomplished with reallocation of staff time and other in-kind contributions? Is this project of higher priority than a currently funded project?"

Analyzing and Planning Commitment

Leaders of efforts to reorient education to address sustainability must determine who in the educational community must commit and implement the change for the reorienting process to actually take place. While many of us intuitively know who needs to "be brought on board," systematic analysis of individuals, groups, and institutions whose commitment to the effort (e.g., providing money, time, and human resources) to implement and persevere is essential. Systematic analysis by several people rather than the intuition of one person should result in a comprehensive picture of key change agents.

After analyzing the commitment necessary to succeed (see Section XIV: Commitment Charting exercise), leaders need to plan and strategize how to get the minimum commitment from the people who were identified as key to the success of the program.

Creating, Implementing, and Monitoring Plans

As with many multifaceted projects, a clear but revisable roadmap of how to move from the current state to the desired future state is necessary. Although some administrators can mentally depict the multiple steps involved in simultaneous tasks necessary to implement a major project, these talented administrators must be able to share the complexities with their colleagues and constituents. As a result, it is advisable to create a project plan. Simple tables that list tasks and milestones can quickly explain complex projects to a variety of audiences (see Section XIV: Sample Worksheet for Creating an Action Plan).

While planning, another thing to keep in mind is that it is difficult for stable organizations to change. Formal education is comprised of stable organizations. Lessons from business and industry show that rather than continuing to use the regular structure of the organization during the transition period, it is often necessary to create temporary systems and management structures to accomplish the desired change. This may mean temporarily hiring an expert in sustainability to advise a school system during the transition. The expert in sustainability would work with the administration to lay out a wide variety of potential sustainability projects and envision alternative pathways.

Summary Remarks on Managing Change

To become permanent, changes associated with reorienting education to address sustainability must occur throughout the programs, practices, and policies of a school system. Much of the success of reorienting education to address sustainability will hinge on the ability of the leadership to communicate. In fact, crafting and delivering clear messages that explain ESD, and then listening to the reactions and thoughts of those who have a vested interest in the educational system, are equally important components of communication associated with managing change.

Planning for change is an essential ingredient of success. Leadership that plans ahead to identify potential barriers, gain commitment, engage the public, prioritize projects, and implement tasks according to schedule will increase the chance of success. The investment in planning allows leaders to be reflective rather than reflexive to each new development or turn of events.

Return to Top | Next section: Public Participation