Education for Sustainable Development

Bildung für nachhaltige Entwicklung
Bildung für nachhaltige Entwicklung (Image: C. Zingerli)
Bildung für nachhaltige Entwicklung
Bildung für nachhaltige Entwicklung (Image: C. Zingerli)

Lead: Ruth Förster (STRIDE & dr. ruth förster training & beratung; E-Mail:

Members: Clemens Mader (Universität ZH & Empa St. Gallen), Helene Sironi (Silviva & SironiWeiss), Lukas Weiss (SironiWeiss), Sandra Wilhelm (Education21 & anders kompetent), Anne Zimmermann (CDE, Universität Bern)

Goals and focus

The working group Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) contributes to the implementation of the UNESCO "World Action Programme Education for Sustainable Development" (Global Action Programme, GAP). The aim is to implement ESD in all areas of learning.The focus of the ESD WG is on the implementation of ESD in universities. As "reflective practitioners", we work on the following questions in interdisciplinary exchange with other experts and practitioners:

  • Which competencies are central with regard to sustainable development and social transformation?
  • How should/can these be promoted at universities? This concerns didactics, various stakeholders and organisation.
  • How can "transformative learning" be used for ESD?

Our aim is to generate theoretically founded and practical contributions on the basis of a constructivist-systemic (educational) understanding and to give targeted impulses for the ESD discourse in Switzerland and Europe.

Current activities

How can "transformative learning" be used and operationalised for individual and collective learning processes in ESD at universities?
We have published a discussion paper on these questions in GAIA 4/2017 (Balsiger et al. 2017).
In September 2018 a two-day retreat took place: "Practising Transformative Learning - Significance for Higher Education for Sustainable Development". Experiences were discussed with invited practitioners and important framework conditions were worked out. As a guest from abroad, we welcomed Marilyn Mehlmann, who headed the Global Action Plan International for several years and received the Rachel Carson Prize 2011. The results of the retreat were presented at the conference "Science in Transition" in Vienna (November 2018) and will be published in 2019. The retreat was financially supported by the Copernicus Alliance.

Former members

  • Dr. Ueli Nagel bis 2018: Emeritus Lecturer & Researcher PH ZH, President Verbund Lebensraum Zürich
  • Prof. Dr. Jörg Balsiger bis 2017: Director Institute and Hub for Environmental Governance and Territorial Development, University of Geneva

Further Publications

  • Kläy, A. 2012. Nachhaltige Entwicklung an Schweizer Hochschulen: Zeit für Tritt- statt Stolpersteine. GAIA 21/4: 321-323. (pdf)
  • Stauffacher, M., Zingerli, C., Fry, P., Pohl, C., Krütli, P. 2012. Science meets practice: A Winter School offers new perspectives. GAIA 21/2: 145-147. (pdf)
  • Stauffacher, M., Kyburz-Graber, R., Spiess, H., Kägi, E., Roux, M., Nagel, U. 2010. Bildung für nachhaltige Entwicklung. Der Beitrag der Fachhochschulen und Pädagogischen Hochschulen. GAIA, 19/1: 72-74. (pdf)
  • Roux, M. 2009. Nachhaltige Entwicklung an Schweizer Fachhochschulen. GAIA 18/2: 175 (pdf)
  • Carabias-Hütter, V., Ulrich, M. 2008. Nachhaltige Entwicklung erfassen – KLARTEXT spielen. GAIA 17/2: 247-250. (pdf)


Ruth Förster, Training & Beratung

  • Publications

  • 2017

Transformative learning and education for sustainable development

Is higher education capable of
promoting learning for change?
Can transformative learning nurture spaces for
innovation in education for sustainable
development? A call to action from saguf.
Zukunft gestalten: Nachhaltigkeitskompetenzen in der Hochschulbildung
  • 2015

Zukunft gestalten: Nachhaltigkeitskompetenzen in der Hochschulbildung

Welche Kompetenzen erfordert eine nachhaltige Entwicklung? Wie können diese in der Hochschulbildung gefördert werden? Diesen Fragen widmete sich die saguf-Jahrestagung 2014 in Zürich.