Students learn to think and act sustainably in new research project

Today’s youth is very aware of contemporary climate issues and demonstrates a desire to change our society to become more sustainable. To meet this global movement, university education must be adapted and developed. Halmstad University is part of the newly started EU project Active8 Planet, which aims to integrate sustainability issues and interdisciplinary collaboration in higher education.

A hand holding up a sign saying ”There is no Planet B”. Photo.

”We must respond to the power and will to change that exists in young people today. Integrating sustainability issues into higher education requires collaboration on several different levels – between universities and companies, interdisciplinary and across generational boundaries.”

Vaike Fors, Professor of Design Ethnography 

Active8 Planet is a newly launched European research and development project involving students, industry partners, researchers and teachers. Four European universities, three companies and two organisations are collaborating in the project which runs for three years and is funded by EU Erasmus+.

“The purpose of the Active8 Planet project is to re-organise higher education so that students learn to not only think but also act sustainably in their future professions. However, the goal is not only to activate the students in sustainability issues, but also ourselves – the teachers and researchers”, says Vaike Fors, Professor of Design Ethnography at the School of Information Technology and project manager for Halmstad University's part of Active8 Planet.

’The Greta Thunberg Effect’

Since the summer of 2018, Greta Thunberg has been on a climate and school strike every Friday. Her commitment has inspired many youths around the world. What is usually called the ’The Greta Thunberg Effect’ is profound and the interest in sustainability issues among youths has increased in recent years.

“We must respond to the power and will to change that exists in young people today. Integrating sustainability issues into higher education requires collaboration on several different levels – between universities and companies, interdisciplinary and across generational boundaries”, says Vaike Fors.

In Active8 Planet, not only methods for the best possible collaboration will be developed, but also how education should be changed to become more action-oriented when it comes to sustainability issues.

“The ambition is to not only teach about change but also contribute to real change”, says Vaike Fors.

About Active8 Planet

In addition to Halmstad University, three other universities participate in Active8 Planet: Hasselt University (Belgium), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (the Netherlands) and University of Ljubljana (Slovenia). The participating companies are Volvo, Voyego and HIA. The Institute for Innovation and Development of University of Ljubljana and the International Center for New Media are also partners in the project.

The project is divided into four groups, where Halmstad University forms a group together with Volvo. Each group works with one of three themes: Urban Mobility, Circularity in Built Environment and Health and Wellbeing in future communities.

The Active8 Planet project rests on four pillars:

  • Planet-centered design
  • Interdisciplinary and intergenerational co-creating
  • Environmental ambition and action
  • University-business collaboration

The project is funded by the EU Erasmus + and runs from January 2021 to December 2023.

Active8 Planet website External link, opens in new window.

More information about Active 8 Planet on Halmstad University website

Halmstad University students will collaborate with Volvo

The project group for Active8 Planet at Halmstad University consists of researchers and teachers in informatics. The group will work closely with Volvo Cars in the area of urban mobility, that is, transport of goods and people in an urban environment. The students at Halmstad University who will participate in the project are enrolled in the Bachelor's programme Digital Design and Innovation (DDI). Susanne Lindberg is programme manager for DDI and is, together with Vaike Fors, project manager for the University's part of Active8 Planet where she leads the work of producing a methodology resource book that is to be developed in the project.

“A group of four students will after the summer be part of a team with teachers and researchers at DDI and developers at Volvo Cars. The task of the team within the project is to define a challenge in urban mobility and work out a concept based on user studies and concrete design work”, says Susanne Lindberg, Associate Senior Lecturer in Informatics.

Samuel Palm works with innovations for urban mobility at Volvo Cars and will be part of the team:

“Volvo Cars wants to offer mobility that is personal, safe and sustainable, which is why it is fun and important for us to collaborate on sustainability issues within Active8 Planet. We look forward to being part of the team and working closely with students, teachers and researchers in the creation of sustainable mobility solutions”, says Samuel Palm.

Black and white photos of four people. Photos.

Vaike Fors, Susanne Lindberg, Samuel Palm and Dimitrios Gkouskos.

Students should be able to suggest sustainable solutions

The project is integrated with the students’ studies during their third and last year, including the final design studio course. The design studio is an already established element in Digital Design and Innovation. The goal is that the Active8 Planet project will develop the studio concept and the programme.

”We want the students to be even more independent. They should be trained in proposing sustainable solutions themselves and not only follow the client's assignment and ideas. It is important to see the big picture, a sustainable entirety, says Susanne Lindberg.

Dimitrios Gkouskos is an Associate Senior Lecturer in Informatics and Digital Design and will lead the team with students, teachers and researchers from the University and the developers from Volvo:

“My hope for the students that participate in Activ8 Planet is that they can develop their critical thinking and understanding of the complex challenge of sustainability and climate change, as well as the immense opportunities we have to improve as a sustainable society by working together”, says Dimitrios Gkouskos.

Internationally and interdisciplinary

The project groups from the other European universities that participate in Active8 Planet include students, teachers and researchers from several different disciplines, for example architects, anthropologists, engineers and economists, as well as other industry partners

“During the project, our students will meet the other groups for collaboration and exchange of experience. In order to achieve a real change, we need an interdisciplinary exchange, as well as cross-border collaboration. Our hope is that all groups will meet in Ljubljana next spring says Susanne Lindberg.

Text: Louise Wandel
Top illustration: Markus Spiske, Unsplash
Photo: Magnus Karlsson and private

Two logotypes. One for Active8 Planet and one EU logo.

The Active8 Planet project is funded by the EU Erasmus+ and runs from January 2021 to December 2023.