skip to Main Content

Missions for Urban Sustainability Education: Insights from the 3rd SHAPE-ID Workshop

The third SHAPE-ID learning case workshop took place in Turin on 17-18 February and was a collaboration with the TrUST project (Transdisciplinarity for Urban Sustainability Transition) at Politecnico di Torino. Hosted at the beautiful Valentino Castle, the two-day event brought educators and researchers together to explore inter- and transdisciplinary educational approaches that support sustainable urban transition.

The workshop opened with a series of keynote presentations on new learning paradigms and best practice cases for sustainability education, from primary schools to third-level campuses, from Dr Jo-Anne Ferreira, Professor Julie Davis and Maria Garcia Alvarez.


Through individual writing sessions and co-design activities, we aimed to find more efficient and effective inter- and transdisciplinary educational methods and tools for a sustainable urban transition. Writing sessions explored the potential of education for urban sustainability; behaviours and organisational structures that obstruct or enable ID/TD education for sustainability; pathways to avoid; and best practices in approaching a sustainable urban transition.

The co-design dialogue activities, framed in the context of the emerging mission-oriented research paradigm being embedded in Horizon Europe, explored how concrete Missions for education for sustainability can be structured to trigger urban transitions.

A number of key insights characterise the three missions defined through a group brainstorming discussion:

  • Enabling just and resilient active urban communities. A multifaceted strategy for stakeholder engagement must address all scales of urban governance, from neighbourhood to national and European level, and involve political and municipal authorities, civil society organisations, students and teachers. A core recommendation was to create a toolbox, based on a review and synthesis of successful urban transition processes, to support the integration of universities, funding and projects. A programme for retraining and upskilling is needed to ensure the availability of essential skills, such as professional facilitation of advanced co-creation processes enabling the reorganisation of governance structures. To foster resilient urban communities in the context of sustainable transitions, investment is needed in pilot and experimental projects with and within communities.
  • Universities serving sustainable communities. Universities should provide a platform to bring together community organisations, such as cultural institutions, small local businesses and healthy cities organisations including activist networks and social entrepreneurs. Again, developing a toolbox and guidebook was recommended to chart ways of introducing more visionary mindsets into cities’ narratives about themselves, through storytelling, collaborative work and co-creation processes. To build capacity, recommendations included establishing new social innovation models and connecting innovation offices to universities, such that students can be encouraged to identify and pursue projects and missions within the community.
  • Empower a community of change to reorient HEIs towards sustainability. Universities need to build strong relationships with local communities and inspiring external leaders to inform their future development. Change agents within universities should be identified in a manner that is open to all members of the community, and not only academics. This ambitious mission is achievable through several simultaneous initiatives, such as defining new curricula based on challenges for sustainability, developing training for collaborative processes, deconstructing the mainstream green labelling and enabling new ways of measuring sustainability. What is essential is that HEIs adopt policies making sustainability transition measures mandatory, and recognise contributions from “TD champions” within and outside the HEI community.

We’ll be publishing a working paper synthesising the outputs of the first three workshops during the summer, so make sure you are following us on Twitter or Facebook and have signed up for our newsletter.

Back To Top