Last Spring the Campus Sustainability Fund contributed $1,000 to the Next Systems Teach-in, which brought together more than 350 UW students, faculty, and community members interested in a sustainable campus, region and world. Over a series of discussions lasting eight hours we identified a key issue: many sustainability projects, initiatives, and groups, on campus and off, are not connecting messages and actions across projects, and therefore are not fully realizing their desired social and environmental impact. Better networking, coordination, and publicity would make a significant difference. By weaving sustainability projects into a campus network, we can grow student organizations, make them aware of each other, facilitate events that engage more students concerned about the environment, and help drive change at UW.
To create sustainable behavior change on campus at a meaningful scale we propose to build a network and resource center. The ‘SEED Center’ will offer resources to connect and catalyze sustainability groups and student activists to create collective impact beyond the sum of individual efforts. We request $50,000 for this two year social infrastructure project to support student staff in platform development, management, and organizational events. The funds will pay for development of a campus wide networking platform. The platform will have resources and contact information that link sustainability organizations, calendars of events, featured projects, news feeds, ways for students to become involved, and bridges between campus projects and the larger community. The center will provide a space to share and spread ideas, connect groups with overlapping interests, and create a living record of sustainability activities on campus. It will also host a social network map to assist groups in targeted outreach. The funds will also support convening and connecting promising leaders with other innovators working to improve social and environmental conditions,,connecting diverse student groups and departments in order to generate and share ideas across issue sectors.
The SEED Center will boost the impact of dispersed sustainability projects on campus by growing student-student and student-faculty cooperation, provide a platform for outreach and collaboration, educating community members about the importance and urgency of addressing the underlying connections between environmental and economic justice, and helping students develop paths for transformative action.
Environmental Impact: SEED offers a platform for student-led coalitions to amplify the message and actions of sustainability projects and groups, help them to be more effective in reaching their goals, and work with other groups that have overlapping interests. By combining policy with practice, the network has the potential to catalyze existing efforts and reach deeper goals in reducing the environmental footprint of UW.
Student Leadership & Involvement: There are over 50 sustainability-focused groups at UW, and over 50 social justice focused groups at UW. By providing an open access platform to bridge the gap between siloed groups, SEED will engage thousands of people in meaningful discussions and activities at the intersection of the economy, democracy, and the environment. The development and maintenance of the platform will rely on the continued involvement and outreach to campus groups, students leaders, and faculty, and will grow as campus movements gain momentum. Because SEED will be maintained by students involved in network building, SEED can evolve as needed, and remain flexible, accountable, and useful for years to come.
Education, Outreach, & Behavior Change: Similar to the grassroots campaign which created the campus sustainability fund, this project seeks to create meaningful large scale behavior change by empowering stakeholders to recognize the importance of intersectional networking and activity coordination as strategies to advance sustainability values on campus. Convenings, such as our spring teach-in, will bring together stakeholders to engage in meaningful dialogue around the intersections between issues of democracy, the environment, and the economy, with the aim of breaking silos and building interdisciplinary coalitions. The open access SEED platform will act as a vehicle for education, outreach, and behavior change, while building a living history of campus activities and their outcomes.
Feasibility, Accountability, & Sustainability: Rethinking Prosperity began as an undergraduate seminar and student blog aimed at understanding how to link environment, economy, and politics to create more effective understandings about sustainability. The project has already drawn a unique mix of undergraduate and graduates students, community leaders, and faculty. This team is well positioned to make SEED a success. The Next Systems Teach-In revealed the timeliness of these topics and the broad campus interest, as reflected in sponsorship and collaboration among many diverse student and community groups such as Radical Public Health UW, United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), Black Social Workers, MEChA, Urban@UW, Got Green, Women of Color Speak Out!, 350.org, Community to Community Development, and academic departments such as the department of History, Geography, Communications, Political Science, and Social Work. SEED will add new student leadership as funding permits, and continue to build community ties that promote accountability, grassroot support, and participation.
Nathaniel Matthews-Trigg is a graduate student in Public Health and has been working on the design for SEED as part of his practicum project. He is a founder of Radical Public Health, Climate Justice Forum, and South Campus Organizers groups, and has identified dozens of UW organizations that will be invited to join SEED.
Lance Bennett, director of CCCE and Rethinking Prosperity, is professor of political science and communication, and has received the James A. Clowes award for development of learning communities at UW. His ties with many campus departments will help SEED grow into a sustainable learning community.
Deric Gruen, a community leader and graduate of the UW Evans School, he is a project manager for Rethinking Prosperity, and has connections to environmental groups throughout the greater Seattle area.
Caterina Rost is a political science graduate student who is writing her dissertation on how ideas about sustainability travel in society. She will help develop the SEED platform and create a publishing format and templates for affiliated organizations to use.
Emily Tasaka is an undergraduate communication major who has begun archiving publications and related projects to create a resource base for the center.