Designing Innovations for Sustainability

Academic year2020-2021                                                               
Day(s)Tuesday and Thursday
Number of meetings        13
Dates of all meetings2, 4, 9, 11, 16, 18, 23, 25 February, 2, 4, 9, 11, 16 March 2021
LocationVrije Universiteit, De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam
  • Dr. P.J.H. van Beukering (FALW, dep. Environmental Economics)
    [email protected] (lecturer & course coordinator)
  • Erik Verhoef (Spatial Economics, SBE)
  • Astrid van Teeffelen (Environmental Geography, FALW)
  • Julia Blasch (Institute for Environmental Studies, FALW)
  • Frans Oosterhuis (Institute for Environmental Studies, FALW)
  • Wouter Botzen (Institute for Environmental Studies, FALW)
  • Harry Aiking (Institute for Environmental Studies, FALW)

Course Description

This interdisciplinary course aims at designing innovative solutions for a more sustainable university through creative team work, solid theoretical and practical knowledge exchange and intensive coaching by experts in sustainability.

Main course elements and concepts
This course intends to give you the chance to come into contact with the (practical) themes of sustainability by searching for innovative solutions. Besides gaining a sound understanding of sustainability challenges, you will develop crucial professional competences and work together in diverse teams. You will design practical and innovative solutions for sustainability that can be implemented within the university (i.e. VU, UvA, AUC). The main challenge addressed in this course is:

How to make the university more sustainable?

To answer this main question each group of students will work within a specific sustainability domain related to the university. These domains are:

  • Energy 
  • Water
  • Food 
  • Waste
  • Mobility

The ultimate goal of this course is for you to learn to collaborate with experts, stakeholders and peers towards a more sustainable university and develop skills on how to apply the gained knowledge in a practical and professional setting.

Working formats and activities

The course starts with a general introduction on sustainability and transition. In this first week, you will be asked to choose one of the themes mentioned above (i.e. energy, water, waste, food) and teams will be assembled. The subjects addressed in short guest lectures will specifically address these different domains. Once the main sustainability challenge of the university in one of these domains has been defined and analyzed you will start a comprehensive process of designing possible solutions. The student will receive guidance from a practical coach who is an expert in one of the themes and a theoretical coach who is a researcher within a discipline focused on sustainability. The coaches, lecturers and fellow students will provide feedback on the possible solutions you come up with. You will work towards a final presentation in which you will present an elaborate advice to the universities (i.e. VU, UvA and AUC). These presentations are targeted to relevant people within and outside the VU who are in a position to implement the solutions you provide. By activity designing real solutions for sustainability at the campus, you will learn more about the complex and interdisciplinary nature of sustainability while grasping professional skills such as co-creation, communication and team work.

Assessment Methods

  • Project presentation and report
  • Theoretical examination

(these criteria will weigh equally: 50:50)


Downloadable journal articles, reports and papers.