The “Leaders who Transform” project is an initiative of University of Fortaleza in its Post-Graduate programs (Pós-Unifor) that adopt the SDGs as a guideline to every stundent’s final project. Therefore, throughout their Post-Graduate program, students are encouraged to design final projects that make an impact on one of the SDGs. As a Higher Education Institution, we believe we have the potential to spread the SDGs amongst our students and to strengthen the partnerships for sustainable development in the Northeast Region of Brazil, thus contributing to the accomplishment of Goals by 2030.
The “Leaders who Transform” project was designed and implemented on 2013 at the Post Graduate Programs of University of Fortaleza (Pós-Unifor). The main goal of the project was to develop more socially conscious professionals while making a positive impact on our Region. To that end, we realised it was important to develop on the students the most important skills to the job market of the 21st century, which are mostly behavioural skills, but also to engage them in activities that would show them how important it is to have a global perspective and the power they have to change the surroundings for the better, thus thinking global while acting local.
Therefore, we started presenting the SDGs to every class and encouraging the students to design final projects that would make an impact direct or indirectly on one of the global challenges the SDGs aim to overcome. Thus, we began training every student, regardless of the postgraduate program they were enrolled, in the 21st century skills, such as complex problem solving, creativity, team work and conflict, while also preparing them on the specific skills needed on the chosen fieald of study, thereby preparing the students to be in influential positions on the job market. Then, we encourage them to design and develop final projects that are guided by the SDGs.
In the meantime, we also realised it was important to provide opportunities to improve and spread the work they made. So we sought to establish partnerships with global institutions with similar purpose as ours. Then we partnered with the Clinton Foundation in 2015 and with the program SOLVE, from MIT, in 2018. Since 2015, every year, students’ projects have been invited to take part on the Clinton Global Initiative University Meeting (CGI U Meeting) and to present their ideas and commitments to address global challenges.
Thus the “Leaders who Transform” project is an institutional change on the University that contributes to the 2030 Agenda by not only spreading the SDGs but also by preparing and training professionals with a sustainable mindset.
The key stakeholders for this projects are the University itself, that had to adapt and change many of their previous procedures and also infrastructure to comply to the “Leaders who Transform” project. Also, obviously the students who are both target and implementers. Target to the “Leaders who Tranform” project and implementers on their own final projects that will contribute to the accomplishment of the 2030 Agenda. The professors and final project advisors are also key stakeholders once they are ones who actually train the students and advise them on the best paths while developing their projects.
The “Leaders who Transform” project as a Higher Education Institution project has been designed by the President for Post Graduate Programs of University of Fortaleza, professor Lilia Sales, who has been leading this project from the beginning. The main goal of the project was to develop more socially conscious professionals while making a positive impact on our Region. Thus the “Leaders who Transform” project is an institutional change on the University that contributes to the 2030 Agenda by not only spreading the SDGs but also by preparing and training professionals with a sustainable mindset, empowering them with their potential to contribute to overcoming global challenges such is poverty and gender inequality.
In order to achieve this goal, first we researched and drawned on the most needed skills to the 21st century job market and how we could combine and leverage these skills with the SDGs. Then, we figured out that the SDGs had to be a guideline, a north, to all students’ final projects, so we would be not only training professionals that would be prepared to face and overcome the challenges of contemporaneity, they would also ideally be driven by a sustainable mindset.
Then we started addressing their final projects. To that end it was fundamental to first engage and prepare the professors who manage each program, to make them aware of the importance of the “Leaders who Transform” project and to engage them on the actual preparation and advisement of the students’ final projects, that could be delivered as not only written thesis but ideally actual work developed in a chosen community, to address one or multiple SDGs.
In order to encourage the students to create innovative solutions, we began searching for opportunities to spread their work. So we partnered up with Clinton Foundation and the program SOLVE, from MIT, to promote a global network of people acting towards the SDGs.
To monitor the success of the “Leaders who Transform” initiative, we keep track of the projects developed by our students, both as written thesis and as actual “hands on” project to which they are recquired to hand in a final report. We also keep track of the projects invited to take part on the CGI U Meeting every year.
The “Leaders who Transform” project has been active for 6 years. During its implementation and execution, we could collect a few great results, both quantitative and qualitative.
First of all, regarding the awareness of the students on the SDGs, we have successfully included the theme in our courses and all of our four thousand students end their programs aware of the importance of sustainable development.
Regarding the projects submitted and accepted by the CGI/Unifor partnership we have had in 2015 one project represented by 3 students; in 2016, 14 projects represented by 16 students; in 2017 we had 15 projects represented by 21 students; and last year, 2018, we had 12 projects represented by 17 students.
One of the projects developed at Pós-Unifor was “Eyes that see with the heart”, which took eleven blind children to watch a classic soccer match at Fortaleza’s stadium with an audio description of what was happening on the pitch. Added to that, the students’ team called up to all the parties that could be interested in that action, such as health insurance companies, soccer teams, the Prosecution Office and the stadium administration. That ended up with a public policy that compels the stadium to have soccer matches accessible to visually disable people, at least a few times a month.
Another project was named “Throwback Technology (TBT)”, which equipped a room in a nursing home at Fortaleza, Brazil, with computers and technological gadgets to promote digital inclusion to elderly people that live there. Every month, the students promote events and workshops to teach the residents how to deal with those gadgets. One of the events they promoted was a virtual reality “trip” to Fortaleza in the 1960s.
As a Higher Education Institution, we believe the long term results we will achieve is to spread the SDGs amongst our students and to strengthen the partnerships for sustainable development in the Northeast Region of Brazil, thus contributing to the accomplishment of Goals by 2030.
This is a project that was born sustainable, once it is an institutional realignment. The budget was merely reorganized but there was no need for an external investment. We intend to strengthen the implementation of the project by assigning a specific team to carry it on, aiming to spread awareness on the SDGs, training professors on the development of social impact projects and supporting students’ projects by connecting them to possible investors and partners.
We believe the relevance of the “Leaders who Transform” initiative resides on its potential for sharing and spreading awareness on the SDGs, and mostly on connecting and preparing people to work towards those global goals. We believe that the University, by willingly choosing to strengthen the partnerships for a sustainable development, has the potential and the duty to to contribute to global evolution, by encouraging both students and professors to develop a global-oriented and socially responsible mindset. The University as an environment of developing and sharing knowledge and action is a fruitful environment to strengthen the partnerships towards the SDGs.