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​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Future17 Sustainable Development Goals Challenge

E_SDG_logo_without_UN_emblem_horizontal_RGB-1024x187.pngAre you interested in Sustainable Development? 

Would you like to help solve global sustainability challenges for international organisations? 

Do you want to acquire some transferable skills to increase your employability? 

Learn about the key aspect of the UN's SDGs (Sustain​able Development Goals) in this innovative new Short Course: The 17 SDGs were adopted by 195 UN member nations in 2015, to end poverty, protect the environment and planet, and ensure peace and prosperity for all citizens on earth by 2030. Each SDG balances social, economical, and environmental sustainability​.​

The Future17 SDG Challenge Short Course, launched at SU in March 2022 offers a unique opportunity to take part in a new global sustainability education programme across disciplines and cultures set by the SDG Challenge Partners. It will use the UN’s SDGs as a framework to help find solutions for the global, interdisciplinary challenges we are facing, while building participants’ key employability, critical thinking and presentation skills. Participants will use collaborative and innovative ways to approach challenges, working with the partner universities and mentors assigned by the different institutions.  You can read more about the UN's Agenda 2030 and the SDGs here.


The Institutions: This prestigious short course is presented by the University of Exeter (UK), QS World University Rankings and a consortium of universities. Stellenbosch University forms part of this consortium, alongside the Chinese University of Hong Kong and São Paulo (Brazil), and new partners that we will welcome shortly. The industry Challenge Partners include organisations like​ NGOs, institutions and companies that have conceptualised challenges. Challenges can range from creating a digital strategy to promote the SDGs to University students, doing market research for urban farms, or recycling soap from hotel chains to create jobs for communities.

Information session: The first cohort of 36 Students and 8 mentors finished the first offering of this prestigious programme in early June 2022: If you would like to know more about the programme and hear from former students, you can read more about the students' experiences in this news article​.

Short Course structure: This short course is part-time, and offered free of cost to participants as selected by the selection panel. It takes place in an online environment with the partner universities from early September to mid December 2022 during the 2nd offering. With this short course (presented virtually), we hope to transform how students at SU are educated on Sustainable Development, as they prepare to become the l​eaders and policy makers of tomorrow. Candidates that are accepted will learn and develop those skills needed to help solve real world problems and sustainability challenges.  

Eligibility: Undergraduate students from 3rd year onwards and postgraduates. Interested mentors should hold a PhD and have some teaching experience. Interested mentors and contact the SDG/2063 Impact Hub programme manager and academic lead for the Future17 Challenge directly:

Participants can expect the following from the Challenge

  • Promote skills for Design Thinking as a way of mobilising creative, visual, inter-personal, iterative and multi-configurational approaches to problem solving; 
  • Enable students to appreciate the importance of interdisciplinary, and inter-cultural exchange and learning for tackling sustainable development challenges; 
  • Develop students’ critical thinking skills to question conventional assumptions about sustainable development challenges through Design Thinking approaches; 
  • Develop employability skills by providing a space for students to work intensively with academic and SDG Challenge Partner mentors on a sustainable development challenge of mutual interest; 
  • Enable students to gain an appreciation of the sustainable development challenges facing SDG Challenge Partners and how these can be responded to appropriately; 
  • Develop skills for promoting change within organizational settings and developing systems and mechanisms to support such changes; 
  • Develop professional presentation and report writing skills for external organizations; 
  • Promote students’ awareness of and interest in applying academic knowledge to sustainable development challenges in a professional setting; 
  • Provide students with an opportunity to generate non-academic impact for tackling sustainable development challenges.  

Short Course phases: The Future17 Challenge will progress according to the following phases with diverse groups of 6-8 students from the various universities, you can expect to spend approximately 150 hours on the Short Course in total, including consultations with the company you are partnered with. 


Part 1: September 2022 Online program induction and skills for tackling sustainability challenges (self-paced learning over four weeks) 

  • Learn about design thinking, collaborative learning and teamwork, liaison with organisations and clients as well as intercultural exchange.  
  • ​​You will need approximately 12 hours to complete this phase
  • You will be assigned to your team and mentor during this phase and start getting to know each other. 

Part 2: October - November or early December: Group collaboration on a sustainability challenge (eight weeks plus one week for assessment preparation) 

  • Learn about your sustainability challenge and work with your team and mentor to develop solutions.  
  • You will primarily work on MS Teams as a meeting and document sharing platform.
  • You will need approximately 16 hours for this phase.

Part 3: Future17 Solutions Showcase event: early December (final week) 

  • Student group presentations online (25 minutes) to showcase work to offer further collaborative learning. 
  • You will need approximately ​4 hours for this phase.
  • Submit a final written assignment one week after the event.  

In addition to the hands-on time needed for the different phases as above, you might expect to spend another ​​90 hours on independent study and collaborating with your group to complete the project, presentation and final assignment. ​

Accreditation: You will be certified for this short course by QS University rankings on the successful completion of the project, as well as Stellenbosch University through our Short Course programmes. There will be both formative (group presentations on project progress) and summative (group presentation and written report).

You can apply now, until 3 August 2022 after which all applications will be considered by a selection panel.

- If you would like a link to the online information session held on 19 July between 13:00 and 13:45, please email the programme manger:​.

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