Published on January 25, 2024

Is a fairer, healthier, more sustainable world closer than we think?

I keep seeing these AI generated images of what they call “realistic utopian” worlds. The sun is gently shining, it’s green, tranquil but industrious at the same time. It’s as if the ambitions of the Global Goals have been achieved. 

While I know these images aren’t real, at this Halftime moment for the goals, I do wonder what it will take to make it happen. Who will do it?  What skills or mindsets do they need? 

For sure everyone would need to really want to make life better, not just for themselves but for everyone. But it’s way more than that.

What does learning need to be like?

The builders of tomorrow need to believe that a better world is possible. They need to grow up with a deep connection to the natural world around them. They should be proud of their values but also appreciate the different values of others, recognise injustice immediately and be driven to do something about it. They need to know what change means and who must be involved. They should know their role in individual, collective and political action, whilst simultaneously being able to manage their own resilience and emotional well-being.

Their learning (both in and out of school or college) will help them see the world in systems, knowing where to intervene if they want to make a change. It will nurture scientific curiosity and creative expression at the same time, always in the context of developing solutions for the social and environmental problems they see around them. For them data, that they know to be true, can fuel an unstoppable stream of ideas and innovations. They should be comfortable knowing that change means compromise but will work through it, being adaptable when faced with setbacks. 

And they will always be thinking about the future – envisioning a world that is better and working together to make it happen. 

Perhaps bringing this AI-generated utopia to life is more realistic than we think? 

At the World’s Largest Lesson, we campaign for Quality Education as a driver of sustainable development, and we’ve been working with children and young people to inspire them to understand and take action for sustainability. Last year 37000 of them shared how they’d most like to see education change. Overwhelmingly they want it to give them real world skills. “Real world skills” is a pretty broad brief so as educators we’ve been exploring what this might mean.  

This week – as the world turns its attention to the International Day of Education – we’re publishing a think-piece. We’ve blended some of the great work of others with our own experience, to describe the sustainability competencies we believe young people need. Spoiler alert! – the mindsets and skills described in people above are the competencies. We’ve then reviewed how organisations, like our own, are doing because we know there is more we can do. 

Skills needed

Working with young people on this we’ve identified that we could all help by using a language for skills that is clear and common. In this way young people can start to identify and describe the skills they have as they move through their lives. We’ve also noticed that it’s unhelpful to isolate life from learning and work. Sustainability action doesn’t just happen in classrooms or university halls, it happens in the streets, at home, in our communities and in the workplace. It happens through everyday interactions, strategic intent and the development of solutions – so let’s not separate what and how to learn for it. 

If you’re interested in this conversation read the full report and connect with us to find out how you could help to develop these competencies in all young people.

Author: Alison Bellwood, Executive Director of World’s Largest Lesson, Project Everyone

Header Image Credit: Dall-E