Student from UP joins YES in Japan
By Sonja van der Waldt
Posted on 07 May 2012
The 34 YES students from 20 countries, including Cloete from UP on the far right.
Cloete Jansen van Vuuren, a postgraduate student of the Albert Luthuli Centre for Responsible Leadership (ALCRL) in the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, attended the 2012 Youth Encounter on Sustainability (YES) course in Japan during April.
A total of 34 students from 20 countries and 24 different fields of study
, including business management, engineering, dentistry and sustainability sciences attended the course. Cloete was the only student from South Africa to attend the course.
The members who were responsible for compiling the course content were a diverse group from different professional backgrounds. They frequently called on experts from other institutions, industry and non-governmental organisations to ensure that a broader perspective on sustainability was presented and that the level of experience and understanding being developed was more practical than theoretical. The course was built on an educational framework based on contents, collaboration and personal development as three equally balanced layers targeting specific learning impacts.
In order to develop a common understanding of the topic among the participants, the course content started with an introduction to the concept of sustainability and the issues related to sustainability from various disciplines including ecology, social science, economics, management and psychology.
Later in the course, the focus moved to topics such as water, food and Japan’s environment, with particular reference to the challenges brought about by the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on 11 March 2011. The options and solutions generated by science regarding the basic provision of water, food, energy, etc. were also considered and the human living models and social and institutional structures to support these systems were investigated.
A sustainability assessment of Sika Chemicals Inc. was conducted as part of the corporate case study module for the course, during which the results were discussed with representatives of the company on site. This helped to ensure a practical approach to the content.
To further enhance the practical approach, the final part of the course was focused on a group project in which the participants were expected to identify a sustainability issue that they would like to address and to formulate a solution to the problem. To present their findings, the participants had to craft a business plan including a value proposition, SWOT analysis, SMART targets, key activities and financial aspects. The proposed solution, together with a comprehensive report, was then presented to the plenary. The participants were then provided with feedback on how to improve their proposed project. In the past, many of these groups have continued to work on these projects and have formed very successful organisations that address sustainability issues.
Cloete’s personal opinion of the course is that “even though it was one of the most intensive courses I have attended, with classes starting at 08:45 in the morning and ending most evenings at 21:45 or later, it was an experience that I will never forget. If I had the opportunity, I would attend the YES course again”.