How did we develop our sustainability knowledge assessment (TASK™)?
TASK™ by Sulitest - How did we develop our sustainability knowledge assessment?
On March 1, Sulitest launched TASK™ - The Assessment of Sustainability Knowledge - with the ambition of transforming education, by (re)defining the standard of sustainability knowledge.
In short, TASK™ is a reliable, scientifically based assessment that grants an international certificate on sustainability knowledge.
Why is such an assessment necessary?
To build a sustainable future, it is essential to improve the level of knowledge, skills and thinking about sustainability around the world. While society needs experts who can solve problems specific to their field, we also need to massify sustainability acculturation to ensure that everyone understands it sufficiently and can integrate it into their personal and professional practices and decisions.
This leads to the question: when students graduate, do they enter the workforce with this knowledge? Furthermore, what was their level of knowledge when they entered the university, and how far did they progress?
Universities around the world are committed to teaching more sustainability courses, and they need information and indicators to guide their strategy, ensure progress, and realize the vision of a world where every graduate is a driver of change in sustainability.
With this in mind, we developed TASK to provide the relevant and comparable measures needed to track and guide sustainability education in any educational program.
The Development of Evaluation
The design of TASK™ involved the following steps:
Definition of the concept of sustainability knowledge
Creation of a database of questions
A pilot phase: sampling and in-depth analysis of the data for consistency, robustness, and validity.
This paper will focus on the first fundamental phase, namely the definition of our sustainability knowledge model.
Sustainability knowledge - what are we talking about?
We hear about sustainability all the time, whether in coffee shops or at UN meetings such as COPs. In short, it is now at the center of international concerns. However, sustainability remains a relatively contested concept. Its definitions encompass diverse and sometimes contradictory approaches.
To arrive at our definition of sustainability knowledge, one that would guide the content of the assessment, we drew on relevant scientific literature and existing sustainability frameworks with the help of many contributors.
We assembled a Task Force of sustainability experts and professionals, who provided extensive input to the project through their research and experience. In addition, we assembled a committee of diverse stakeholders, the "Fellows", whose members come from student, academic and business networks, NGOs, public institutions and universities, so as to be in tune with their needs. This has allowed us to make choices that have positioned our tools and actions in the field of sustainability and sustainability education, which has led us to our own model of sustainability knowledge.
We believe that this is a bold vision, based on an integration of earth systems, human well-being and all the levers of action. By basing our principle on the need to know and understand each dimension and their systemic linkages, this model is a call for radical systemic change to unite all people in building a sustainable future.
What were our main lines of thought?
Our model is based on three main sources of inspiration.
1. The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development:
Currently, the 17 SDGs are a well-known framework, so it was important for us to align with the concepts that are already in use.
2. The integrated conceptualization of sustainability within planetary boundaries.
This approach is based on the framework developed by the Stockholm Resilience Institute, which distinguishes the nine planetary boundaries that govern the stability and resilience of the Earth's ecosystem.
This approach is consistent with the perspective that the role of humanity, society and the economy should be embedded in the Earth's systems and its physical limits.
In the integrated view of sustainability, the SDGs can be seen as a "wedding cake" in which the economy is integrated with society, which in turn is integrated with the biosphere.
The 3rd main source of inspiration is Kate Raworth's (2017) "Doughnut Economics."
The Doughnut model is based on the notion of planetary boundaries and consists of two concentric rings:
A social floor, so that no one is deprived of the essentials of life.
An ecological ceiling, to ensure that collectively, humanity does not exceed the planetary boundaries that protect life support systems on Earth.
It leads us to rethink the economy as a system that should lie between these two sets of limits, in an intermediate space that is both ecologically safe and socially just; a space in which humanity can flourish.
Our sustainability knowledge model >>
Our premise is that every individual should know and understand the planetary limits, the social foundations of human well-being, and the levers of opportunity that affect our ability to build a sustainable future, as well as the links between these elements.
To put this into practice, we have three main themes that are included in the assessment:
Earth systems ; topics include fundamental planetary limits and regulatory planetary limits that provide safe operating space for humanity;
Human well-being; topics concern social foundations to ensure security and basic needs for all, social well-being and human flourishing;
Levers of opportunity; concerns levers such as governance, economics and finance, science and technology, individual and collective action.
While the transformation of curricula and pedagogy can take many forms in diverse contexts, TASK™ will change the game by making sustainability a common language for all, regardless of degree, specialization, profession or sector.
It is the common base of knowledge that will allow an engineer to exchange and build with a manager or even a biologist tomorrow. Of course, knowledge is not enough, and acculturation to sustainability also covers skills, mentalities and behaviors that will allow to take action.
However, we know that sharing a common knowledge base is essential to enable transformative actions and trigger systemic change.