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Co-designing sustainability solutions in the education sector

ECF4CLIM has significantly advanced sustainability education, enriching the curriculum across multiple European educational institutions. 

By embedding a participatory approach and co-designing interventions with the educational community, the project has facilitated a deeper understanding of sustainability challenges, while also empowering students and educators to take actionable steps towards sustainability. 

Chaildren raising hand in classroom



ECF4CLIM is focused on developing and implementing a European Competence Framework (ECF) for sustainability in education. Through participatory methods, it involves educational communities from four countries (Finland, Portugal, Romania, and Spain) in designing sustainability interventions. The project operates in 13 educational institutions, aiming to empower both educators and students to take action against climate change.

The project encompasses two main initiatives:

  • Participatory approach: This involves creating Sustainability Competence Teams (SCTs) and Committees (SCCs) within each institution. The SCTs and SCCs work together to design specific sustainability interventions that cater to their institution's needs.
  • Roadmap for sustainability: ECF4CLIM has also developed a roadmap for sustainability education that outlines key competences and strategies for integrating sustainability into educational institutions.

Description of success

The success of the ECF4CLIM project is underscored by its hybrid participatory approach, which has led to significant achievements in co-designing sustainability interventions within educational settings.

This approach facilitated the establishment of SCTs and SCCs across participating institutions, involving a wide range of stakeholders from the educational community, including students, teachers, staff, and external members like experts and NGO representatives. These groups have collaboratively crafted 159 interventions, each carefully tailored to the specific needs and contexts of their educational communities, thereby promoting sustainability competences. These initiatives fall into three categories:

  • 73 measures improving environmental conditions through enhancements in infrastructure and monitoring systems;
  • 52 measures targeting systemic change by integrating sustainability into educational content and institutional cultures;
  • 34 measures aimed at developing individual competences via information campaigns and training for students and teachers.

Complementing this participatory model is the development of a roadmap for sustainability education, another pivotal success of the project. This roadmap outlines essential competences needed for environmental improvement in schools and universities and offers a four-step strategy for stakeholders to enhance sustainability:

  1. Engagement: The first step focuses on raising awareness about sustainability and its importance for ecosystem well-being. It aims to create a shared understanding among all stakeholders through reflective discussions, considering diverse needs, values, and perspectives.
  2. Understanding complexity: This step delves into the intricate nature of sustainability, urging the educational community to explore relevant sustainability questions and develop effective strategies. It emphasises the importance of recognising the organisational context, identifying key actors, and understanding cultural influences on sustainability perspectives.
  3. Envisioning futures: Here, the roadmap sets out possible future scenarios and the actions required to achieve them. It challenges participants to think about the desired future, acknowledging the uncertainty of outcomes but stressing the importance of hopeful, collective action towards sustainability.
  4. Taking action: The final step translates the values, understanding, and visions from previous steps into actionable strategies. It involves considering the agents of change, available resources, and how to effectively implement and maintain sustainability initiatives within the educational context.


  • The creation of 21 SCTs and SCCs across 13 educational institutions in four countries represents a significant achievement in fostering participatory engagement and collaboration within the educational sector.
  • The co-design of 159 interventions by the SCTs and SCCs, tailored to the unique needs of each educational community, demonstrates the project's commitment to context-specific sustainability solutions.
  • The SCTs and SCCs are designed to be long-lasting structures, intended to operate for at least three years, embedding a culture of sustainability within the institutions and potentially continuing as permanent sustainability commissions after the project.
  • The participatory development of a roadmap for sustainability education, through imaginative workshops and crowdsourcing, showcases the project's dedication to providing practical and actionable guidance to educational institutions.
  • The widespread engagement of 364 students, teachers, administrative staff, and other community representatives in the co-design of sustainability interventions highlights the project's extensive reach and impact across the educational community.


The SCT and SCC groups that have been set up at the educational institutions can extend beyond the three-year lifetime of the project and continue to promote sustainability into the institutions' daily activities. A report that describes how ECF4CLIM designed and set up these groups, as well as how their activities are monitored, has been produced.

The Roadmap for Sustainability is available for use outside the project via the ECF4CLIM learning platform and its own dedicated website. The roadmap will be disseminated to teachers and schools around the world to encourage sustainability education globally and bring about transformational change.


The ECF4CLIM project has significantly advanced sustainability education, enriching the curriculum across multiple European educational institutions. By embedding a participatory approach and co-designing interventions with the educational community, the project has facilitated a deeper understanding of sustainability challenges, while also empowering students and educators to take actionable steps towards sustainability. This innovative framework has provided a replicable model for integrating sustainability competencies into education, setting a new standard for how educational institutions can contribute to sustainable development goals.

ECF4Clim Roadmap for Sustainability Education: Engagement>Connectinos>Visions>Action


Educational institutions are not uniform, meaning that varying factors need to be considered in the implementation of participatory tools.

The effectiveness of sustainability education does not only rely on the individuals involved, but also the structure of the educational organisation. This structure needs to be designed in a way that enables sustainability norms and values to be created and shared. On top of this, educational institutions do not necessarily have the financial and time resources available to prioritise sustainability education. External events also had an impact on the prioritisation of sustainability education, such as the war in Ukraine and associated energy costs in Finland.

To overcome these problems, the methodology of participatory tools needed to be inherently flexible and was adapted for each educational institution. Overall, a participatory approach encourages engagement and is enjoyed by participants, which increases the likelihood of successful transformational change.  

The Roadmap was created through working in an interdisciplinary manner, which presented the challenge of combining many perspectives. ECF4CLIM saw this as an opportunity to develop new outlooks, which added to the usefulness of the roadmap.

Infrastructure varies between educational institutions and between countries, but socio-cultural structures have many similarities that allow for the roadmap to be integrated. As the roadmap will be used by educational institutions ranging from primary schools to universities, it needs to be adapted to different audiences. As such, different versions of roadmap sessions were organised to cater to this.

Other information

A visualisation of the roadmap is pictured below. More information can be found on the ECF4CLIM website. The project hopes to spread the roadmap to teachers and schools across the globe to maximise the reach of the project and promote sustainability competencies.

A visualisation of the ECF4Clim roadmap


Project details

Project name
Working group
Knowledge and citizens

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