Challenge-Based Learning for the SDGs

University of Geneva

session 157 organizer(s) logo

Session 157

09:00–10:45, Monday, 19 March 2018 Room K1, ITU Montbrillant Thematic Workshop Speakers/Panellists  Link to WSIS Action Lines  Link to SDGs  Related Links 

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How should youth learn about the SDGs? Indeed, are the SDGs an appropriate topic of education, at all?

We think so, and in this session we will discuss a particular approach, challenge-based learning, which emphasizes interdisciplinary and team-based student projects, and focuses on solving real-world problems, often using ICTs, inspired by the experience of international organizations and NGOs. We will illustrate this approach with examples from China, Europe and the US.

In particular, we will introduce a novel e-coaching methodology, called the Open Seventeen Challenge, for online learning related to the 17 SDGs, which is being launched during WSIS Forum in collaboration with the Be He@lthy Be Mobile Initiative of ITU and WHO. 

By joining this session, you will gain knowledge and insights on new, ICT based ways of engaging youth with the SDGs, with a focus on practical outcomes through social and technical innovation. And you will be invited to share your own experiences and other examples you consider pertinent, in a wide-ranging discussion session. 


9:00 Start of Workshop, Introductions
9:15 Setting the Scene: GTI and Open Seventeen (Francois)
9:20 The SDG Solution Space (Thomas)
9:25 Example of Solution Space partner GHL (Elisabeth)
           Example of Solution Space Project (Anne-Pia)
9:30 Connection to Open Innovation in Geneva (Pierre)
9:35 Challenge based learning for SDGs in Paris, examples from CRI (Gaëll - REMOTE)
9:40 Challenge based learning for SDGs in Shenzhen, examples from OpenFIESTA (Luping -REMOTE)
9:45 Other forms of SDG Education (Yaniss)
9:50 UN perspective on SDG Education (Kali)
9:55 ITU perspective on SDG Education and Open Seventeen (Hani)
           WHO perspective on SDG Education and Open Seventeen (Surabhi)
10:00 Discussion Session
10:30 End of Workshop


Last year, University of Geneva and Tsinghua University in Beijing launched an ambitious set of  innovative education programmes that address in a practical, hands-on way the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Under the banner of the 'Geneva Tsinghua Initiative' the different programmes last from two-day hackathons to six-week online e-coaching courses (Open Seventeen Challenges) to two-month summer schools to a two-year Master programme.

The students spend part of their time at our newly established SDG Solution Space in Geneva, working directly with the International Organizations there, and part of their time on Tsinghua campuses in Beijing and Shenzhen, in two of China’s most dynamic and entrepreneurial environments. Students also have opportunities to exchange with other Universities and like-minded institutions such as Maker Spaces, through a network called the United Labs for the Global Goals, which includes the Governance Lab in New York and the Center for Research in Interdisciplinarity in Paris.

Successful Projects

We will briefly outline a number of student driven projects that have emerged from this initiative. These include: a haptic belt that enables blind people to move around outdoors, by combining open geo-data with low-cost sensors and actuators; a suitcase-sized 'pretotyping kit' suitable for enabling young people in refugee camps to make simple mock-ups of devices or apps to share with online teachers or collaborators; a cosmic-ray detector suitable for schools to help track data relevant to global cloud coverage and cloud formation; a low-cost scanner with artificial intelligence, to help digitisation of archives in developing regions. 

Vision for WSIS Beyond 2015, towards 2025

The SDG Solution Space and the United Labs for the Global Goals are elements in a vision of how labs around the world - in Universities, Maker Spaces, companies or schools - could unite to share resources and host student teams working on SDG projects. We hope these activities can provide useful inspiration to the WSIS 2025 vision. 



Francois Grey, UNIGE


Hanni Eskander, Be He@lthy Be Mobile Initiative, ITU

Yaniss Guigoz, UNEP GRID, University of Geneva

Surabhi Joshi, Be He@lthy Be Mobile Initiative, WHO

Thomas Maillart, SDG Solution Space, University of Geneva

Pierre Mirlesse, VP Public Sector, Healthcare & Pharma, Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Anne-Pia Marty, SDG Masters Programme, University of Geneva

Gaëll Mainguy, Center for Research and Interdisciplinarity, University Paris Descartes

Elisabeth Pfund, Global Humanitarian Lab

Kali Taylor, SDG Lab, UN Office Geneva

Luping Xu, OpenFIESTA, Tsinghua University




Session's link to WSIS Action Lines

  • AL C3 logo C3. Access to information and knowledge
  • AL C4 logo C4. Capacity building
  • AL C7 e-Lea logo C7. ICT Applications: E-learning
  • AL C7 e-Sci logo C7. ICT Applications: E-science
  • AL C11 logo C11. International and regional cooperation

SDG Education is by definition a new concept in education establishments, and the use of ICTs is essential to ensuring ACCESS TO INFORMATION AND KNOWLEDGE and CAPACITY BUILDING in this context. Challenge-based learning, a theme of this session, is a modern approach that involves E-LEARNING and E-SCIENCE. The Geneva Tsinghua initiative is an example of INTERNATIONAL AND REGIONAL COOPERATION that we hope can inspire others. 

Session's link to Sustainable Development Process

  • Goal 1: No poverty logo Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  • Goal 2: Zero hunger logo Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  • Goal 3: Good health and well-being logo Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all
  • Goal 4: Quality education logo Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  • Goal 5: Gender equality logo Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  • Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation logo Goal 6: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all
  • Goal 7: Affordable and clean energy logo Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  • Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth logo Goal 8: Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all
  • Goal 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure logo Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
  • Goal 10: Reduced inequalities logo Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries
  • Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities logo Goal 11: Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  • Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production logo Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  • Goal 13: Climate action logo Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
  • Goal 14: Life below water logo Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources
  • Goal 15: Life on land logo Goal 15: Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss
  • Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions logo Goal 16: Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies
  • Goal 17: Partnerships for the goals logo Goal 17: Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

The Geneva Tsinghua Initiative for the Sustainable Development Goals concerns challenge-based education for all 17 SDGs. 


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