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The power of collaboration

Studenten planten bomen (1)
On April 15, 17 sustainability coordinators from the SustainaBul MBO network came together for the 2nd knowledge-sharing meeting of this year. This meeting discussed the importance of collaboration with students and student organizations in achieving sustainable goals. Four speakers shared their insights and challenges in this area, after which participants went deeper into this topic in subgroups.

Annika Morrice, project leader of the Green Office at ROC van Amsterdam Flevoland, emphasized the importance of student engagement in sustainability. The initiative to set up a Green Office within the ROC van Amsterdam contributes enormously to achieving strategic goals, such as increasing awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and integrating sustainability into the curriculum. The Green Office offers an officially recognized internship to 8 students on an ongoing basis, allowing them to build a great deal of expertise in the field of sustainability. At the same time, these students work intensively to make the ROC more sustainable in various projects. Since 2022, a peer education program has been established, in which students give lessons on sustainability to their fellow students. 

However, bringing students and staff together in pursuit of a sustainable future requires careful planning and commitment. There are challenges of measurability of impact, temporary budgets and staffing, and a recurring "brain-drain" as students change every six months. 

Joost Blanken shared his experiences from a smaller perspective. He works as a sustainability teacher at the ROC of Flevoland and usually works with 1 student supporting in their program Circular Regional Economy. In doing so, he offers customized support. By focusing on opportunities for growth and development, with the help of students even small initiatives such as waste campaigns and clothing exchanges can have a significant impact.

Isabella van Eijk, who works at Yuverta, explains that students work under supervision on sustainable challenges within their own course or location, or, conversely, collaborate with the industry on larger sustainable issues. This requires good guidance from teachers, which needs to be well organized and funded. Fragmentation due to the large number of locations poses a practical challenge, as does the fact that not all disciplines are in-house. While there are many students in green and blue courses, students and courses in communication or management are often lacking, and these are also needed in sustainability initiatives. At the ROC van Amsterdam they are therefore opening up their Green Office to students from other MBO courses, so that they have more disciplines in-house.

Han Savelkoel, working at RijnIJssel, collaborates with students from the student council, for example in taking stock of the state of sustainability for the SustainaBul. He would like to expand this cooperation, but this goes step by step. 

All participants see great importance, and also great potential, in working with students on sustainability within the institution, but how do you organize this in a structural way? Establishing a Green Office is a very powerful way to do this, but it also requires constant attention on funding, mentoring and transfer at student exchange. 

If you want to strengthen your clout on sustainability as an institution, you can also start smaller by approaching enthusiastic students personally or asking them to play a role. Help them make the work part of their education where possible (as an elective, internship or otherwise). Recruit students with a video, not pieces of text. Work out together how they can make a concrete, manageable contribution, in hours that suit them (and so do not conflict with work, caregiving or otherwise). Offer good guidance and make it fun: doing something concrete together with others for a better world creates a sense of belonging and meaning.

Curious about Annika Morrice's presentation? Download this here. 

Interested in participating in the SustainaBul knowledge network? Please contact sustainabul@lerenvoormorgen.org (for schools). Or check out our website.

Want to learn more about sustainability in MBO? Join the MBO network To stay updated on knowledge, events and inspiration.

To inspire students to take sustainable steps, we created a flyer for student councils. You can download and share it below.

Download Flyer
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