Ecoversity put out an initial call for expressions of interest that were screened (eg. is there someone else already working on this that the applicants should be speaking to?) and that met the evaluation criteria:
- Feasibility: Is the project likely to succeed? Have contingencies and major obstacles been well accounted for? Does it use funding efficiently and effectively?
- Environmental Impact: Does the project measurably reduce waste, pollution or other aspects? Does it improve environmental performance or result in positive impacts?
- Community Impact: Does the project lead to increased understanding, greater engagement, or sustainable behaviour change in the university community?
- Economic Impact: What are the financial benefits? What is the cost-savings, return on investment, or payback over time?
- Institutionalisation/Scalability: Can the project become embedded in the University’s routine operation? Does it need only start-up funding to then sustain itself over time? Can it be expanded campus wide, if successful? Will it yield valuable regional, national, or global results?
Here’s what The University did next:
- they asked applicants (individuals and teams) to ‘pitch’ their idea in person, to present their concept and its benefits at a showcase event
- they invited people from beyond the University, with sustainability expertise in one or more areas, to provide immediate feedback as members of a panel during the showcase
- they included the wider University community and gave out ‘voting cards’ to the audience, who could then cast a vote for their favourite idea
Add in some nibbles, drinks and networking time, and all of a sudden you’ve transformed what is usually a very dry process into something dynamic, a story that can be captured and disseminated.
What are the benefits of going to all this effort?
- the applicants’ proposals can be strengthened in response to feedback from the panel, which may include offers of further contacts and resources; everyone is witness to, and learns from, the feedback given
- all of the applicants are made aware of other efforts being pursued across the campus, which builds the ‘sustainability circuitry’ of the campus brain – knowing who is doing what helps strengthen everyone’s efforts, and also contributes to realising this as a collaborative effort of many
- shows the University community that the initiative has interest from beyond the campus, and also feeds the story of the initiative back out into panel members’ workplaces and professional networks
The power lies in broadening the base of involvement and buy-in – now the effort belongs to a bigger group of people than the ‘sustainability tribe’.