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Students of Erasmus University’s Honours Academy programme joined a creative brainstorming session about including sustainability in their curriculum, and in the university in general. Students were challenged to act out various stakeholder roles and engage in a dialogue so that different interests could be addressed. The event was organised by the Partnerships Research Centre (PrC) at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM).

Wicked Problems Plaza

As part of their programme, the students were invited to the Wicked Problems Plaza (WPP) in The Hague, a concept created by PrC at RSM and the New World Campus. This facilitated multi-stakeholder dialogue enables a diverse group of stakeholders to discuss a wicked problem – a problem that’s difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory or changing requirements. 

Sustainability in study programmes

A lack of integration of sustainability in current education programmes and in the university as a whole was the wicked problem that students addressed. The honours students acted out roles as deans, campus recruiters, parents, government officials, professors, and current and prospective students to explore the wickedness of the issue. Together, they envisaged their study programmes as if sustainability was fully integrated. Proposed solutions ranged from small sustainability side-projects, to a complete ban on cars on campus and a conversion of the university’s parking facilities into urban farms.

Partnering for solutions

The final phase of a WPP dialogue always includes use of a partnering space in which stakeholders consider how they can join forces. Here, different parties explore what they can contribute to the proposed solutions. Students continued to act out their roles as they suggested new ways of working together. How would all these stakeholders go about creating the change they said they wanted? One thing on which all stakeholders agreed was that a sustainable university cannot be achieved by technical solutions and financial instruments alone – human behaviour is an essential element.

Students and facilitators all enjoyed a lively and constructive discussion; the WPP said it hoped to welcome future cohorts of honours students again so they can learn how constructive discussion can be supported and maintained.

More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top-ranked business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who can become a force for positive change by carrying their innovative mindset into a sustainable future. Our first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes encourage them to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers.

For more information about RSM or this release, please contact Erika Harriford-McLaren, communications manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at

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