Communicating Sustainability

An International Conversation for Sustainability Activists

Made possible with support from The Dill Fund, The Smith Fund, and the Stimson Fund

Save the Date!

Communicating Sustainability 2024 will be help the thrid week of July 2024! Check back for more details. 

Communicating Sustainability 2022 was a two day event, held in-person and online on September 6 - 7. View the schedule and recordings for Day One and Day Two



In September 2022, Goucher College, in collaboration with the University of Glasgow in Scotland and the Universidade Federal de Sergipe in Brazil, invited participants to a 2-day international conversation featuring case studies, round table discussions, and papers that contributed to a deeper understanding of sustainability work across sectors. The gathering included in-person and virtual interactions with colleagues in three hubs: Scotland, Brazil, and the United States.

This two-day gathering offered opportunities for attendees to collectively explore this important topic and develop some strategies for collaborative solutions and next steps within the cultural, environmental, economic, or social spheres. Attendees shared their experiences, challenges, solutions, and stories. 

On Day One, each hub hosted its own event with speakers addressing the theme from their perspectives. The US gathering at Goucher College was a hybrid event, allowing participants to attend in-person on our 287-acre campus north of Baltimore or online. 

Questions explored during our gathering at Goucher College included:

  • How is sustainability interpreted and represented in multiple sectors?
  • Who are the principal voices in the discussion?
  • What are the main obstacles in communicating their understandings and needs to others?
  • What innovative solutions can we offer to address those obstacles?

The consecutive sessions at each hub encouraged engaging dialogue across sectors and framed the international conversation on Day Two.

Day Two drew on the summaries from Day One, especially each hub’s responses to the above questions. The Goucher audience gathered with participants from the hubs in Scotland and Brazil for an international, multi-disciplinary discussion to explore cross-cutting issues and develop strategies and next steps for communication and negotiation between sectors.

About Sustainability

Sustainability is often understood as the ability to persist and thrive over a long period of time. Jon Hawkes has framed sustainability around four pillars; social equity, economic development, environmental protection, and cultural sustainability.[1] In 2015, the United Nations adopted 17 interlinked Sustainable Development Goals designed to be a "blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all". The goals identify actions for issues that cut across multiple sectors of society (poverty, hunger, education, climate action, cultural equity, gender equality, social justice, and more) and are intended to be achieved by the year 2030. In the US, resistance to sustainability goals has risen, often perceived as a conspiracy for taking away freedoms and property rights. One of its most outspoken critics, American Policy Center president Tom DeWeese, describes a sustainability agenda as “a new kind of tyranny that, if not stopped, will surely lead us to a new Dark Ages of pain and misery yet unknown to mankind.” Others see sustainability efforts as critical to our survival as a species.

A chasm exists; no one desires mutual destruction, and we must find a way to build bridges between such divergent perspectives. Our gathering posed these questions: What is it about the concept of “sustainability” that is confusing to people and creates concern? Is there a way for people who work towards sustainability goals to develop solid connections for mutual success rather than build walls?

[1] Hawkes, Jon. 2001. The Fourth Pillar of Sustainability: Culture's Essential Role in Public Planning, Common Ground Publishing Pty Ltd in association with the Cultural Development Network, Melbourne, Australia.