Introducing: Aaron Redman

I joined Leuphana University in September 2016 as part of the Educating Future Change Agents (EFCA) project. I’d like to take a moment to introduce myself. You’ll hear from the rest of the team in the coming months, don’t you worry.

Some interesting facts about me:

  • I grew up a couple blocks from one of the partner universities for EFCA, Arizona State (ASU).
  • I dreamed of being an astronaut up until I was…in college.
  • While in Peace Corps El Salvador I ate raccoon, squirrel and iguana while also discovering that the work of creating a sustainable world was my calling.
  • I co-founded a small business which produced a re-usable produce bag called, FAVE Bags with an innovative production system which enabled over 20 poor rural women in El Salvador to work out of their homes earning money to support their families.
  • I was awarded a research grant based on a proposal I co-wrote entirely in Spanish (while getting no traction with the proposal I had been brought on in part to write).
  • I initially wooed my wife with talk of worm composting and kept her by my side by raising chickens together—sustainability isn’t just a field of study, it is a life.
I am most proud of:

  • My sustainability superstar wife Erin Redman and increasingly our two year old daughter.
  • The scholarship fund I helped to get started and continue to raise funds for, which is successfully graduating poor, rural El Salvadoran youths from university.
  • A master’s thesis on the adoption of improved cookstoves.
  • Bringing sustainability to a whole new audience in Mexico.
  • Launching a website to share blog posts focused on bridging the gap between academia and the public in discussions of Sustainability solutions and how we can achieve them.
But the best is yet to come as part of the Educating Future Change Agents Team!

You can reach me at redman[at]leuphana.de or aaron.redman[at]asu.edu.


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Using Focus Groups of Sustainability Professionals to Validate the Key Competencies—Our Approach

The principal focus of this research project is how the key competencies in sustainability1)Wiek, A., Withycombe, L., & Redman, C. L. (2011). Key competencies in Sustainability: A reference framework for academic program development. Sustainability Science, 6(2), 203–218. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11625-011-0132-6 can best be attained2)Keeping in mind employability as well., but first we are seeking to validate our competence framework through various dialogues with stakeholders. These dialogues are taking place in parallel between the USA and Germany in line with the overall approach of this project to look at Sustainability programs both at Arizona State University (ASU) and Leuphana University (LUL). Interviews with exemplary Sustainability professionals and alumni of both programs are ongoing but given the format and time limitations do not enable a meaningful discussion of the key competencies in Sustainability with the stakeholders. Therefore, building off of what is being learned from the interviews, we carried out a focus group with a new set of Sustainability professionals and alumni at ASU on December 2, 2016. This effort was guided by the following questions:

  1. What are examples of tasks carried out by Sustainability professionals and how can those be linked to the key competencies?
  2. How was competence attained by the participants in the key competencies?
  3. Is there a gap between current sustainability professionals and the requirement for future professionals?
  4. Does having demonstrated attainment of the key competency support the employability of an individual and in what ways?

What We Did–In Brief

We selected an exemplary sample of Sustainability professionals who lived in the metropolitan area surrounding ASU and ended up with fourteen participants who could speak to the wide range of jobs a Sustainability professional might have to tackle. There was a mix of more senior personnel and fresh graduates, eight of them having gotten some type of degree from ASU’s School of Sustainability. The participants joined us for an hour and a half session on December 2, 2016.

Two groups of seven were created with a balanced mix of experience and job types in each one. Each group was led by a facilitator with a note taker and additional helper on hand. The session began with a welcome and a brief presentation explaining the key competencies in sustainability. Participants also had two page handouts on the key competencies as an additional reference source throughout the day. On a provided worksheet, participants were asked to write their three main Sustainability-related tasks and then to connect them to the key competence most relevant to that task.

From here on out the two groups ran independently, guided by facilitators working from the same script. The participants wrote their tasks on sticky notes and placed them on a poster under the key competence they believed to be most relevant for that particular task. This visual display of the group’s tasks and relevant key competencies was the focus of the first discussion. One or two tasks were picked out for each competence and the person who posted it was asked to explain the tasks and their reason for picking that particular competence. Probing follow-up questions were asked to explore the key competencies a bit deeper. Competencies with fewer tasks were the final discussion point for this first part.

Next participants were asked to pick one competency and describe how they themselves acquired competence in this. Everyone was given a chance to answer and a facilitated discussion among the groups took place afterwards. Finally, a short narrative of a future scenario was read which called for the hiring of a change agent in their community3)Imagine the year is 2030, when the UN sustainable development goals expire. The U.S. still faces sustainability challenges in government, industry, and civil society. Yet, a new grass-roots organization has formed to address them across the country, on the local scale. After much discussion, organizations across the Phoenix metro area have decided to join this organization. The decades-long drought continues to have significant detrimental impacts, and has strained relations between various communities. Likewise, the moratorium on flights brought on by the fuel crisis has resulted in a wide-reaching economic fallout. As representatives of your organizations, this new organization has turned to you to develop a profile for their official representative in your local community – a change agent, so to speak. They are looking for a recent graduate from ASU who can be your contact and get work done on the ground. . Each group was asked to work together to write a job description for this position. The facilitator pushed the participants to think about what would be different about this job description for 2030 versus something that they might advertise for today.

All in all it was a great day. In a future post we analyze the discussions and summarizing the key results.

References   [ + ]

1. Wiek, A., Withycombe, L., & Redman, C. L. (2011). Key competencies in Sustainability: A reference framework for academic program development. Sustainability Science, 6(2), 203–218. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11625-011-0132-6
2. Keeping in mind employability as well.
3. Imagine the year is 2030, when the UN sustainable development goals expire. The U.S. still faces sustainability challenges in government, industry, and civil society. Yet, a new grass-roots organization has formed to address them across the country, on the local scale. After much discussion, organizations across the Phoenix metro area have decided to join this organization. The decades-long drought continues to have significant detrimental impacts, and has strained relations between various communities. Likewise, the moratorium on flights brought on by the fuel crisis has resulted in a wide-reaching economic fallout. As representatives of your organizations, this new organization has turned to you to develop a profile for their official representative in your local community – a change agent, so to speak. They are looking for a recent graduate from ASU who can be your contact and get work done on the ground.