COVID 19 shook the entire world apart. For the many of us studying or working on educational establishments, the pandemic forced us to quickly adapt our studies and methodologies to this new world of social distancing, masks, travel restrictions and digital interaction. Those of us working on UWC Short Courses were faced with the decision of either cancelling the program, postponing it with the hopes of a quick solution to the pandemic, or translating our content and curriculum to the cloud. While the pandemic presented a threat to the lives of most people across the globe, it revealed some very important things about humanity’s way of doing things. On the one hand, the systems and structures that sustain societies, the global economy, international and national politics, etc; can be modified to adapt to the increasing challenges of living in a globalized and warming planet. On the other hand, the pandemic showed that existing inequalities in the world are also projected when global threats like COVID 19 spread across populations and leave those most vulnerable at higher risks. Lastly, the shut down of global markets, restrictions upon global travel, and some other of the impacts of the pandemic, gave us an opportunity to reactivate our economies putting sustainability at the center of our practices. For these, and many other reasons is that after careful consideration, we decided to make the efforts to translate UWC Building a Sustainable Future into an online program.
Along with the contributions of a group of 15 facilitators, we embarked on the journey to design a five-week-long program that elevated the importance of sustainability on our lives and for society. The program seeked to give our participants the possibility to collaboratively imagine a future that places sustainability at the center of societal activities. We divided the program into Environmental, Economic and Social Sustainability, in addition to a week for introductions and project management.
As our digital homebase we picked MightyNetworks, an online platform designed to connect communities centered around specific topics. Mighty Networks allowed us to communicate, post material, upload resources, calendarize events, and organize the content of our program, so that everyone in our community could have access to it at any given time. Throughout the five weeks of the course, participants, facilitators, and coordinators alike would use the platform to communicate, answer questions, share resources, organize workshops, and coordinate impromptu cooking, sports, language and all sorts of other meetups.
“Our destiny can only be changed if we allow ourselves to imagine one different than the one we’ve been given”Martin Weber
Our course was filled with enthusiasm, hope, and lots of imagination. Here are some of the highlights of UWC Building a Sustainable Future Online:
After the pandemic many of the facilitators we had selected for the course decided to postpone their participation until 2021. We were left with a team of 15 facilitators who were interested in imagining together how to translate the content of UWC BASF into a digital environment.
The facilitators were instrumental on ensuring the proper running of the program, before and during its implementation. Along with the coordinators, several working groups were created, on one working stream there were the thematic working groups (per thematic week e.g: Intro Week, Environmental Sustainability Week, etc) and on the other there were task driven working groups (logistics, public relations, participant relations, etc).
The facilitators team was international, intergenerational and interdisciplinary. It was composed by individuals from different walks of life including activists, students from all levels, and educators of different kinds. Below you can find charts representing the demographics of our team:
We received over a 100 direct applications for the 2020 Online session of Building a Sustainable Future. In collaboration with UWC National Committees from across the world, we selected a total of 75 participants who went through the 5 weeks of the program. Our participant were a group of diverse and enthusiastic young people. We were impressed by the quality of the discussions, conversations, and projects developed through the course. It is commonly said that UWCs are made up of their community, and for this unprecedented digital experience, we can attest that so we were. Over the five weeks of the program, our participant exceeded our expectations with regards to their commitment and engagement levels, participating in our online forums, weekly challenges, organizing their own meetups and clubs, and creating incredible collaborative projects that included websites, social media pages to raise awareness about sustainability, videos, interviews, among many others.
Here are some of the demographics of our participants:
Total Participants Selected: 75
Average Age Participants: 17
Maximum Age: 19
Minimum Age: 15
“I absolutely enjoyed communicating with other people and exchanging our personal experience. I can’t but mention extremely curious and insightful workshops that are forever in my heart”Anonymous Participant UWC Online BASF 2020
The online workshops were held via Zoom, and the discussions were many times continued in the Mighty Networks fora. Some of our workshops titles included: “Nature, Humans, and Society”; “The Danger of a Single Story”; “Food Sovereignty”; “The Amazon Under Threat”; “Let’s Talk about Structural Racism”, “The Anthropocene”, “Ecofeminism”, “Feminist Urban Design”, among many others.
Through our workshops we seeked to contribute to the development of personal, interpersonal and professional skills of our participants.
“I liked the fact that participants became more involved in the workshops/discussions and organization of sessions as a whole. I thought it would be more from facilitators side at first, but we also made our own contributions”Anonymous Participant UWC Online BASF 2020
As part of the main goals of the course, we hoped to connect our participants with people working on the different areas we were talking about. The UWC connection and the good will of UWC Alumns to continuously engage with the UWC movement allowed us to bring incredible guest speakers like Daniel Mittler, Debora Revoltella, Jordon Crawford, Njamba Koffi, among others. Their expertise and experience in their fields was an incredible opportunity for our participants to get to know how work in their areas of interest is like, and to ask questions to these incredible inspiring guests of ours.
To complement the content of the workshop, each week our participants had a series of optional challenges to complete. The challenges were designed for participants to interact in their own time, get to know each other, get to work with their hands, and complement the course with off-screen activities.
Impromptu Get Togethers!
Our participants were also encouraged to organize their own “get-togethers” on their own time and we were amazed by the amount of hangouts they ran on their own. Among those, there were movie nights, book clubs, cooking parties, workout sessions, zoomba!, amongst many other fun activities participant managed by themselves in the spirit of building community and getting to know one another.
Our participants were grouped into groups of 4 to 5 to work on a collaborative project throughout the online course. They were assisted by a facilitator who was in charge of directing them and provide the necessary resources for the project to flourish. Participants learned about project proposals, project management, and receive feedback on their ideas.