Text by: Jorulf B. Silde
Take the global challenges related to environmental sustainability. Pick the universities from the Nordic countries, starting with one from each country already facing them. Identify some committed professionals – university sustainability experts- working to make their own universities meet the global – and local – challenges. Bring these people together and let them work. Make sure you have a commitment from the leadership team at each university. There – Voila! – you have created a network.
Since the steps above were taken almost two years ago we have seen a rapid development in what is now known as the Nordic Sustainable Campus Network. An invitation (still open!) to the rectors at all the nordic universities resulted in a total of 25 universities joining. At the first open NSCN conference taking place at Aalto University we explored how student involvement can have and actually has an effect on how universities approach global challengens and how solutions to solve the local challenges are being accelerated. Have a look at the presentations and videos! Being a network of Nordic universities it has been natural to search for other networks for collaboration. One of those networks is NUAS –The Nordic Association of University Administrators. The next NUAS conference taking place in Oslo is a collaborative event with NSCN: A Sustainable University – Why and How?
So why do we think a network of Nordic universities working together to strengthen each others sustainability work is such a good idea? Well, imagine the opposite: Some (actually quite a lot) individuals working alone to make some of the most conservative institutions (some would say the universities compete with the church on that matter) to react and act on the new and rapidly developing knowledge (yes, you probably see the opportunities and some paradoxes – the knowledge is to be found among researchers and practitioners within the universities) on sustainability issues. The network approach is about creating synergy effects. Is is about sharing practices – best, good and bad practices – not to show off, but to learn. It is also about joining forces in common projects and it is about getting and giving inspiration.
By the way – there is even one more reason for a Nordic network. Let us have a look at the international level and the visibility of the Nordic results within campus sustainability: This year in Singapore at the annual conference for the International Sustainable Campus Network two NSCN-universities were awarded Sustainable Campus Excellence Awards: Congratulations to University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and Lappeenranta University of Technology, Finland! And there is more Nordic flavour to come: After having the next year ISCN annual conference at Harvard, USA, the venue of the 2015 conference is planned to be organized at Aalto University, Finland. The Nordic approach to campus sustainability will be made visible on the international stage. The NSCN-network could be the place to be, to work and to share. So feel welcome to share your practices, initiate collaborative projects and tap into the inspiration!
Jorulf is the Project Director for Green UiO – Sustainability in Research, Education and Operation at University of Oslo and a member of the NSCN Steering Group. The coming year he will be on a leave doing sustainability work in other parts of the world.