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How to Introduce Sustainability on a Whole-School Approach: the story of a Global Schools Advocate

Written by Rafi Cristobal, Global Schools Advocate from Hong Kong

As a Global Schools Program (GSP) Advocate and Director of the Social Impact and Sustainability Program (SISP) at The Harbour School (THS) in Hong Kong, I aspire to my passion and experience in leading a long-term school-wide movement and program on community service and sustainability. Furthermore, it would give insight and inspiration to other educators that an action-oriented plan for social impact and sustainability in a school set-up is feasible and can bring about meaningful change.

Following the steps of my colleague and former GSP Advocate, Mr. Handrich Hernando, I was grateful to be accepted as an Advocate last September 2021 as part of the 2021-22 cohort. Being part of this program inspired me to lead, advocate and promote UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) to the next generation and the wider community.

As a recent graduate, I am more than happy to share my story on how to introduce sustainability on a whole-school approach to inspire anyone who shares my ambition.

Launching Sustainability Program in a School

Back in 2019, as a co-teacher, I started Project Hope (with two equally community service-oriented co-teachers), which aimed to cultivate interest in community service and inspire volunteerism at THS. It began as a small school club and later received a lot of support from the school community - students, teachers, and parents were asking to be volunteers, and it became a school-wide movement. Project Hope mobilized the school community to engage in community service events through simple classroom activities that are naturally occurring, part of the school, and integral to students' learning process.

With the support of school management, I led THS to join as a member school under the GSP network back in 2021. Building on Project Hope, under my leadership, we launched the Social Impact and Sustainability Program (SISP) in August 2021. Demonstrating the humble start of Project Hope, which grew into a school-wide community service movement. Finally, it evolved into SISP - a full-blown, institutionalized project introducing young students to SDGs.

Sustainability on a Whole-School Approach

The Harbour School's SISP continues Project Hope's tradition of serving the ethnic minorities and elderly locally and those in need overseas (covering SDGs 2, 3, 4, 10, and 17), and in addition introducing and guiding students through school-wide green movements (covering SDGs 12 and 13). SISP is carefully planned and structured for its first-year launch, which could be benchmarked and referenced for other schools' sustainability programs:

(a) Pre-phase, including design of a Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) framework to measure the young students' learning and behavioral change before and after their participation in SISP; Conduct training sessions for SISP staff members on SDG 4.7 (Education for Sustainable Development, Global Citizenship Education),

(b) Program-launching phase, by exposing students to SDG-related activities following the framework: Term 1 – Awareness, Term 2 – Exposure (Reflection, Planning), and Term 3 – Take Responsibility (Initiate Project, Participation),

(c) Post-phase, including sustainability reporting to stakeholders.

With two full-time staff in SISP, it allowed it to expand its scope beyond teaching and learning in the classroom into a multi-role interdisciplinary project. All while ensuring the implementation of sustainability in both curricula and school operations while partnering with other organizations to promote sustainability in the community.

Both Project Hope and SISP have been recognized in the UNSDGs Achievement Awards organized by the Green Council Hong Kong for 2021 and 2022, respectively, amongst other established organizations. In particular, SISP was honored to receive three major awards in 2022 as follows:

· Project Award - Silver

· Project Award - Best Approach

· Project Award - High Replicability

The Creation of the Education for Sustainable Development Report

In November 2022, I presented The Harbour School Hong Kong's very first Sustainability Report (THS Education for Sustainable Development Report) for the academic year 2021/22, which is GRI-referenced and prepared by the internal members from scratch. Find it here.

Through data collection, impact measurement, and sustainability reporting, I wanted to demonstrate how seemingly small initiatives, when done together and consistently, have the potential to scale up and inspire young students and the larger community.

The Way Forward

I'll continue my passion for sharing my experience as a Global School Advocate with other schools in Hong Kong and overseas, such as Singapore and Malaysia. Most recently, for example, I was appointed as one of the speakers on behalf of THS at the Asia-Pacific International Schools Conference covering Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) for schools.

My hope is to inspire and empower K-12 schools around the globe to play a more active role in contributing to sustainable development, which could be the potential long-term solution for every country to achieve sustainability.

1 Comment

Melissa Pritchard
Melissa Pritchard
Feb 25, 2023

A really inspiration story, that has impacted so many. I enjoyed learning about your initiative! Thanks for sharing.

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