The success of SDG Week Canada leadership at the University of Waterloo
The University of Waterloo has illustrated how the “think local, act global” ideal could be realized across Canadian colleges and universities through its collaborative leadership of SDG Week Canada.
The Sustainable Development Solutions Network Canada (SDSN Canada), which is housed at the University of Waterloo, worked with the Sustainability Hub at the University of British Columbia and Colleges and Institutes Canada to co-lead the inaugural campaign that took place this March.
“Canada’s universities and colleges are natural leaders in this field,” says Dr. Bruce Frayne, dean of the Faculty of Environment and chair of SDSN Canada. “By advancing research, education and building new community partnerships, we can create the solutions needed to tackle our biggest sustainability challenges.”
The team was successful in supporting more than 100 events and activities across the country that engaged with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The #SDGWeekCanada hashtag generated buzz, with hundreds of posts tagged across each of the major social media platforms.
Two graduate students, Jacqueline Ouellette and Yawei (Selina) Han, chat during the SDG Week Canada networking session held on campus
Some events catered to more than 300 people, while others formed dialogue with more intimate groups of 50 or less. While most events were held in person on campuses, many events were also hosted online or took advantage of hybrid models to engage with broader communities in Canada and internationally.
Since 2016, post-secondary institutions worldwide have been finding ways to connect the SDGs to their fields. While the SDGs offer a top-down blueprint of what a better world could look like, post-secondary institutions are situated in communities filled with local expertise and essential place-based connections.
As an extension of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), Waterloo’s SDSN Canada built on the localization capacity of institutions through the co-leadership of SDG Week Canada. Efforts were unified across the country through shared goals and open resources, while also diversified through targeted activity suggestions and engagement tips.
SDSN Canada showcased the expertise within its communities of practice on teaching the SDGs and SDG localization in two of the events organized that week. The youth branch hosted a keynote and networking event featuring Brighton Kaoma, global director of SDSN Youth, in partnership with the Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association (WUSA) and the Impact Alliance, as well as an event on sustainability education at the post-secondary level with Environment and Climate Change Canada and Waterloo’s Sustainability Literacy Initiative.
Shreya Rao, Ridham Chadha and Jon Beale introduce Brighton Kaoma as the keynote speaker for an event hosted by SDSN Canada, WUSA and the Impact Alliance
While SDSN Canada was leading the charge with national and international opportunities, the Sustainability Office and other campus departments led events on the home front. In partnership with the Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion & Anti-Racism, the Office of Indigenous Relations and Campus Wellness, the Sustainability Office hosted a panel discussion on connections and collaboration opportunities across their four portfolios, which prompted important reflections among the panelists and participants.
For Waterloo student entrepreneurs and changemakers, GreenHouse hosted a networking and ideation workshop on sustainable cities and communities, while Co-operative Education, Impact Alliance and the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy (WISE) hosted a collaborative hackathon focused on clean energy solutions. Other groups hosted hands-on, informal activities to engage students, including a soap-making workshop by the Ecology Lab and a film screening of Climate Exodus by Climate Students.
As the first campaign of its kind, this year has shown organizers the diversity of ways in which members of the post-secondary educational community imagine their connections with the SDGs. Now that these new opportunities have been tested, the team plans to incorporate and share these ideas for more inspiration on what can be made possible on campuses across Canada.
SDSN Canada offers resources on how to engage with SDG Week Canada. To access more of the events suggested by the SDG Week Canada Team, follow @SDSNCanada on social media or view the social media kit.