University of Washington Sustainability Action Network (UW-SAN)

Executive Summary:

UW Sustainability Action Network (UW-SAN) will be a campus wide sustainability resource center that provides online and in-person support for student driven projects. The online component of UW-SAN will consist of: 1) a blog and website with resources, events, updates on student projects, and archives of student organizations and projects, and 2) a networking website that connects student groups for coalition building and provides a space for projects to form. The in-person component will include student staff, volunteers, and faculty, based at the Center for Communication and Civic Engagement (CCCE). The UW-SAN team will provide in-person guidance, leadership, and support throughout the development and implementation process of student projects.

Our preliminary groundwork reveals a rich diversity of UW student activity around sustainability, environmentalism, democracy, and the economy. We plan to help students understand the interconnections among these areas, with the aim of broadening student engagement on sustainability issues. The goal of UW-SAN is to bring diverse groups together around a shared vision of learning through community building, research, and action. The Rethinking Prosperity project at CCCE started this engagement process, leading to a study on the feasibility of UW-SAN.

During the study we found strong consensus on the need for an institutionalized resource center to support student led initiatives on campus and in the community. We have contacted over 50 campus organizations, workshopped the technology needs, and tested the basic idea framework at the spring Next System Teach-In, which drew over 300 students and community members. The teach-in, supported by the Campus Sustainability Fund and seven UW departments, drew diverse organizations such as United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA), Academic Workers for a Democratic University (AWDU), Harambee: Association of Black Social Workers, Net Impact, Shift Change, Urban@UW, and Environmental Studies. At the teach-in students and community members identified the need for greater coalition building and deepening our understanding of sustainability. This is an investment in social capital at UW.

Similar to the origins of the Campus Sustainability Fund, UW-SAN seeks to become an institutionalized resource for student engagement, education, and sustainable coalitions built upon widespread grassroot support. The 2009 UW Climate Action Plan described the need for deepening academic engagement, environmental literacy and awareness, and for a central hub and web-based clearinghouse of scholarship (Sec. 2). UW-SAN would support student scholarship and engagement across disciplines and further help students see the path from research to action. A wide variety of campus groups have voiced their support for the efforts of Rethinking Prosperity and UW-SAN.

UW-SAN will be based in the CCCE office, located within the UW Department of Communication. Metrics for success will be based on coalition development, project success, platform usage, and ultimately the environmental metrics of the projects we support. UW-SAN will be run by three teams (Platform, Outreach, and Project Support), comprised of CCCE student staff, faculty, and volunteers. We are asking for $52,000 for platform development, student staffing, and material needs to support student coalition efforts over two years.

Student Involvement:

Several hundred students, community members, activists, and faculty attended the The UW 2016 Next System Teach-In in April 2016. It was an all day symposium to collectively imagine and seek ways to move towards the realignment of the environment, the economy, and democracy so that all three systems work better for people and the planet.  At the teach-in we identified the need to develop institutional support for student and community coalition building efforts.

UW-SAN will be run primarily by student staff and volunteers. Three UW-SAN student staff will be hired to create the network and provide support to projects, as well as maintain relationships with student organizations. It will bring together student activists with overlapping interests and goals, and ultimately benefit the student body as whole through supporting broad-based coalition building around issues of sustainability.

There are over 50 sustainability-focused groups and over 50 social justice focused groups currently at UW. UW-SAN will provide a space for collaboration and coalition building, bringing together traditionally siloed spheres of education, engagement, and activism. UW-SAN has the potential to reach thousands of campus students in meaningful discussions and activities that address today’s most pressing issues around the environment, sustainability and democracy.

In addition to the nine student groups (identified in the executive summary) and seven UW departments that supported the Next System Teach-In, the UW-SAN grant development team has identified the following sustainability/environmental focused student groups as being potential project and coalition allies:

  1. Students Expressing Environmental Dedication (SEED)
  2. Earth Club UW Chapter
  3. Carbon Washington UW Chapter
  4. EcoReps
  5. Sea Dawgs
  6. Green Greeks
  7. Climate Change Working Group
  8. Divest UW/Confronting Climate Change
  9. SAGE (Student Association for Green Environments)
  10. Student Conservation Association, UW Chapter
  11. Green Husky Coalition
  12. Husky Real Food Challenge
  13. UW Shellfish Farm
  14. UW Farm Care
  15. Society for Ecological Restoration University of Washington Student Guild
  16. International Forestry Students' Association - UW Chapter
  17. American Water Resources Association
  18. Fish and Turtle Club
  19. Climate Justice Forum

The development and maintenance of UW-SAN will rely on continued involvement and outreach to campus groups, students leaders, and faculty, and will grow as campus coalitions gain momentum. Because UW-SAN will be maintained by students involved in student activism and network building, UW-SAN can evolve as needed, and remain flexible, accountable, and ultimately productive for years to come.

Student involvement will consist of three overlapping types of engagement:

  • Cross group and campus networking
  • Project collaboration and development
  • Project launch and student involvement

Cross Group and Campus Networking:

Many students will learn about and start to become engaged through events proposed by campus groups. We envision a fall launch event and spring showcase as our large events. Other students may first learn of our efforts through our social media or through a link to our website (see the Education and Outreach section for more information). On our website students will be encouraged to understand the breadth of sustainability issues and the history and landscape of student sustainability action. Students looking to go beyond simply understanding the landscape will be encouraged to explore our networking platform where projects are actively emerging and create a profile. Everyone on campus is invited to contribute material and student staff will build the resource archive.

Project Collaboration and Development:

UW-SAN’s network site will provide a centralized location for student announcements and student projects alerts, which create opportunities for connections and network building. In- person assistance through project workshops will be hosted by hired and volunteer student project support staff. This in-person engagement will help students develop their projects from conception to fruition, utilizing CCCE’s community support network, and resources.

UW-SAN will hire student outreach coordinators to maintain strong relationships between UW-SAN, student groups, and community organizations. Continuing to host events and working closely with diverse student organizations, coalition support will be relationship based, and drive continued interest and utilization of UW-SAN – bringing in group support, funding opportunities, and activists to fill volunteer and staff positions.

Already RPH-UW, a social justice and health focused registered student organization has approached the UW-SAN team to support their interdisciplinary investigation on the environmental and health impacts of corporate donors to the UW School of Public Health. UW-SAN can offer support by connecting RPH members to appropriate faculty and researchers, assist RPH in obtaining departmental resources and support, identify campus and community groups with similar/overlapping interests, connect RPH with relevant historical archives, and assist in finding creative ways to share the findings of their investigation. This is just one small example of how UW-SAN can amplify student work.

"As co-founder and officer of the registered student organizations Radical Public Health and Climate Justice Forum, I’ve had difficulty identifying and building relationships with other like-minded activist groups on campus and the broader Seattle community. UW-SAN would be a great resource for RSO’s and other student groups seeking to expand their reach and develop long-lasting coalitions on campus, particularly for those groups led by students new to Seattle activism."

~ Jerzy Eisenberg-Guyot

Project Launch and Student Involvement:

Both the information website and the networking site will be spaces for students to further develop their thinking and project concepts. In addition to being consumers of the site content, UW-SAN will bring students into content and network curation and management for the online platform development and maintenance. Students will be able to access key resources and models on which to base their projects. UW-SAN’s development team identified student turnover (either from graduation and/or fluctuation in school work-load) as being a form of brain drain and reduced capacity for campus sustainability organizations. Project support, publicity and on and off line networking offers 24/7 continuity for student initiatives.  The project archive both honors student work and provides models for incoming student cohorts. Online network development will be complemented by collaboration workshops hosted by UW-SAN staff (see education section for more information).

Education & Outreach:

Outreach & Education Goals:

  1. To initiate and facilitate meaningful relationships between campus groups and individuals.
  2. To spread the vision of UW-SAN as a way for previously isolated projects and initiatives to come together and realize large-scale change.
  3. To offer opportunities to individuals searching for ways to apply their passion and talent to a meaningful project that will have tangible results. 

General Outreach Strategy:

UW-SAN will be publicized to the student body several different ways. Our primary form of advertising will be through direct outreach to organizations and other Registered Student Organizations (RSOs). Every year there are over 800 RSOs, and we will make UW-SAN a well known resource to them. We will do so by drafting an informative email to be sent to all RSO presidents, as well as any other organizations that would fit well in the Student Action Network.

In order to reach the campus beyond RSOs, we will table in Red Square with informational flyers for the general student population. This will be an opportunity to share our projects with students and provide information regarding upcoming events and ways to get involved. Since UW-SAN is positioning itself as a resource center and project facilitator, opportunities for individual (rather than group) student engagement would be on a per-project basis. Depending on what collaborative projects are going on, there may be opportunities for third party individuals to get involved. Tabling will be an opportunity to let students know what projects we’re working on, share the vision of UW-SAN, and offer ways to get involved.

Beyond direct outreach and tabling promotion, we hope to have the link to our website published on official University of Washington pages that will attract others browsing the internet looking for ways to get involved. We also help to publicize UW-SAN with brief information sessions at courses of faculty affiliated with UW-SAN.

Fall Launch Event:

To kickoff UW-SAN, we will host a launch event each fall that will gather UW campus groups for a formal introduction to the network. In this launch, we will touch on the broad issues of sustainability, environment, economy, and democracy and communicate the importance of collaborating to gain momentum in reducing environmental impacts. Speakers will explain the online resource center and project support program, and announce upcoming events and workshops for groups to immediately become involved. Beyond the first year, this will serve as a school year kickoff, recapping previous projects, unveiling new opportunities and resources, and familiarizing people with UW-SAN’s platform.

Collaboration Workshops:

Workshops will be held to explore collaboration between campus organizations. A facilitator will meet with select groups that have coalition potential and guide them through an ideation session in which they ask the question: what types of opportunities for collaboration are there between us? Most campus groups have only worked in isolation, so this will be an chance to discover the potential of a coalition. If opportunities are identified, the facilitator will work with the team to identify next steps and give a preview of the resources that UW-SAN has to offer.

Project Workshops:

Workshops will be held for more concrete project concepts. Groups with a collaborative idea can arrange for a project workshop where a trained facilitator will guide the team through a project launch plan. The workshop will identify the primary goals of the project, outline a tentative timeline, and connect the team with relevant resources in the UW-SAN resource center. This will be an opportunity for coalitions to develop their idea, create a plan, and get access to the people and resources that can help them succeed.

Spring Showcase / Outreach Events:

Each Spring UW-SAN will partner on a large-scale outreach/showcase event to which the the student body is invited. The event will feature live entertainment and other activities to draw interest. The showcase will communicate the mission of UW-SAN and feature several projects it has been working on throughout the year with opportunities for students to become involved. The key to effective organizing is public support, so this event will be a way to gain widespread awareness and interest amongst the student body and extended community.

This event will merge artistic expression with social engagement, as art and music are a means for people of varying backgrounds and perspectives to come together. It will be an opportunity people to enjoy themselves in a setting that has valuable meaning attached to it.

Entertainers will be mindfully selected based on their brand image to ensure that their values are in alignment with those of UW-SAN. UW-SAN PR and Social Media will plug into this event for promotion and documentation, exploring creative ways of generating campus interest before and after the event.

Potential collaborators for this event are Rainy Dawg Radio and UW Arts & Entertainment. Both of these organizations are well-integrated into the UW student community and host art and music events on campus throughout the year. To plug UW-SAN’s network into the artistic community on campus would open up new opportunities for generating student interest and exploring the possibilities of media development.

Environmental Impact:
  • Energy Use
  • Food
  • Living Systems and Biodiversity
  • Transportation
  • Waste
  • Water
  • Environmental Justice
Project Longevity:

Funding from the Campus Sustainability Fund grant will get UW-SAN off the ground: hiring the staff needed for platform development and outreach/engagement of campus organizations. UW-SAN will continue to seek long-term funding to sustain the program. Unlike narrowly focused projects, UW-SAN has the ability to seek additional funding from a wide breath of funders (including but not limited to UW based funding organizations) once it is in motion. We plan to offer the developed project as a funding target to community donors. Successful coalition projects will be used as leverage for future grant funding. The broad base of support, as seen at the 2016 Rethinking Prosperity Teach-In, reflects the sweeping interest in intersectional coalition building and the potentiality for UW-SAN’s sustained support and influence. We will continue to support the project through technical support from communications department, and staff support from the Center for Communications and Civic engagement.

Environmental Problem:

The major environmental problems we face today, from climate change to species extinction, are driven by a set of integrated, systemic drivers in the economy that encourage constantly increasing extraction, consumption, and pollution of natural resources. But as environmental advocates we face barriers to reversing these trends because we are cornered into a narrow band of accepted solutions and lack a collective engagement strategy strong enough to make change. Through online platforms, outreach, and events, UW-SAN  will build a broader understanding of campus and community sustainability in terms of the technical, economic, and democratic challenges that must be bridged across campus organizations and with community groups. The many kinds of activities, events and projects that we envision will help promote broader understandings about solutions, and make UW a place where people find new ideas and models.

UW-SAN will join fragmented groups with ideas and passion for changing the nature of the current dig, burn, dump economy. We will revitalize civic engagement around the concept of sustainability. We will inspire and build bridges between student projects, and create a network of advocates strong enough to take on ambitious sustainability initiatives at a scale that can make a significant campus contribution to global environmental challenges. We envision UW students entering the world as ambassadors for positive change.

Working in coalition, students can advance ambitious changes in policy and practice that begin to shift the campus environmental impact.  The actual proposals that might come from students may vary.  One can imagine policy concepts like a university with an one-earth equivalent ecological footprint or that runs on 100% energy generated from democratically owned sources within 100 miles of campus.  Other programs might include cooperative fix-it centers and lending libraries.  All of these would require a significant ramp up in collaboration and engagement in thought and action that bridge environment, economy, and democracy.  In sum, by networking sustainability efforts on campus we will overcome hurdles and be able to achieve larger environmental goals required to restore a healthy environment.

Explain how the impacts will be measured:

The UW-SAN will amplify existing sustainability efforts through scaling up the impact of existing groups and engaging large numbers of currently unaffiliated students in learning and doing.  We will directly expand the capacity of groups participating and the environmental consciousness of the entire campus community.  While it is difficult to attribute specific energy or water metrics to the project, we will monitor and aggregate success metrics through the groups with whom we work. We believe the networking services we provide are vital to the ultimate success of campus sustainability efforts of all kinds. Our goal is to produce dramatic leaps in progress toward campus environmental goals.  

Specifically we will measure:

  • Number of students engaged in UW-SAN networks
  • Document understandings of sustainability on the part of  the groups we work with through how they describe themselves in their literature and their programming.
  • Measure the number and level of collaboration on projects between the groups.
  • Chart the levels of participation at our events and in affiliated group events.
  • Statistics of visits and engagement with our online platform.
  • Aggregated metrics of participating groups to show collective impact
Total amount requested from the CSF: $52,000
This funding request is a: Grant
If this is a loan, what is the estimated payback period?:


ItemCost per ItemQuantityTotal Cost
Faculty Advisor (in-kind)Lance Bennett1Personal contribution
Office Space (in-kind)Lance Bennett1CCCE offices
Platform Development and Maintenance100001$10000
Student Undergrad Hourly$15-17/hr2$21000
Student Grad Hourly$22/hr1$16000

Non-CSF Sources:

Project Completion Total: $52,000


TaskTimeframeEstimated Completion Date
Platform developmentMay 2017 through December 2017December 2017
OutreachOctober 2017 to June 2019June 2019
Project SupportJanuary 2018 to June 2019June 2019

Project Approval Forms: