Sustainnovation Challenge helping region’s young minds lead the way

March 1, 2022

This week we started rolling out the 2022 City of Newcastle Sustainnovation Challenge program. In today’s Newcastle Herald I had a quick look back at what has happened since we launched in 2021 and set the scene as to where we are heading in early 2022.

Opinion: Duncan Burck

Last year I outlined the launch of the Sustainnovation Challenge – a first-of-its-kind collaborative learning experience involving education, industry, community, and city leaders who volunteer their expertise in mentoring students to design a workable and sustainable future for the city.

The program aims to inspire and empower participants to come together to table big problems, and then task our region’s enthusiastic young minds to come up with smart ideas to solve them. Partnering with City of Newcastle, the first Sustainnovation Challenge virtual workshop held last October invited 10 high schools to look at how we could make Newcastle more inclusive.

Using problem analysis methods, students were supported by disability sector professionals and advocates and, importantly, were also able to question and talk to people with lived experience.

The collective takeaway was that most of us lacked basic knowledge of disability types and needs. When it came to designing or creating places and spaces, the end result was not an inclusive one.

Undeterred, students from Bishop Tyrell Anglican College and Merewether High School continued working on their winning solution during the Christmas break.

Their approach is to increase understanding by developing learning programs and experiences for teachers to use when delivering the existing health, wellbeing, and relationship studies; include disability education and awareness as part of the school curriculum.

A pilot project is underway with eight schools trialling the idea before the end of term one. Metrics designed to measure success include: have we made the teacher’s job easier; have students’ perceptions changed towards people with a disability?

The region has many wonderful, smart, and committed young people who think beyond barriers. To ensure more of them explore and engage with our communities Sustainnovation Challenge will continue to create a platform where they can feel supported and confident to share and build on their problem-solving ideas.

Students will tackle two more important issues during the second Sustainnovation Challenge being held on March 2-3.

They’ll delve into uncovering and solving recycling obstacles increasingly faced by businesses, organisations, and industries. They’ll also be working on what we need and how to best prepare the city for ‘the future of work’ during the third challenge, which will be held on March 23-24.

Duncan Burck is the founder and program director of the Sustainnovation Challenge 

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