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July 21, 2016

Reflections on SUSTAIN's Sustainable Cities Conference

Last week, SUSTAIN in collaboration with its sponsors welcomed academics, professionals and students to its Sustainable Cities Conference at the Erasmus University.

The two day conference aimed to discuss and debate what skills, competencies and tools are required to shape the cities of the future as well the responsibilities of educators, students and professionals in these circumstances. The symposium also intended to celebrate the inter-university facilitation of knowledge sharing and international collaboration initiated by SUSTAIN in this important and motivating field.

Day one of the conference concentrated upon the education of sustainable urban development, with a focus upon the SUSTAIN project and also the big questions surrounding future city development. Facilitated by Dr. Peter Scholten, assistant professor at IHS, the first morning session discussed the challenges, opportunities and model examples of future city making. The next session dived into what are the values, knowledge, skills, and competencies necessary for future city makers. The morning concluded with a thought-provoking panel discussion between the session’s speakers. This included the highlights of the SUSTAIN project so far, such as the promotional seminars in China and India in addition to one module being translated into Japanese and also the future of SUSTAIN.

In the afternoon, the sessions became fully interactive with Sustainability Boot Camps in nine different fields connected to the different modules available in the SUSTAIN project, concentrating on current problems in their areas. Next, the participants were invited to one of six learning expeditions presenting some of Rotterdam’s best environmental and social initiatives. Not only did the excursions allow participants to see new and progressive enterprises such as Blue City 101 and DakAkkers, they were also able to find out more about one of the world’s most sustainably advanced and architecturally innovative cities.

For day two, the opportunities for educational bursaries, research and careers in sustainable urban development were presented and discussed in four plenary sessions by a variety of institutions and companies within the field.  Each session provided time for a Q&A session, chaired by Garfield Hunter, visiting PhD researcher at the European Research Academy, allowing participants to ask for further guidance and information.

In addition to the plenary sessions, poster presentations related to the thematic areas of SUSTAIN took place, discussing innovative solutions to growing challenges in our cities. After these, conference participants had the opportunity to vote for their favourite presentation, awarding Dayana Al Alam the winner for her poster on Beirut citizens’ response to the city’s garbage crisis.

With 104 participants attending from over 40 countries, the two day conference provided sustainability enthusiasts at all levels in their career to connect, learn and engage in this important topic.

In addition to those who presented and participated in the conference, SUSTAIN would like to thank our sponsors for their support and allowing us to create this successful and collaborative event. Many thanks goes to EACEA, Erasmus Mundus, Trostfunds Erasmus and Erasmus University Rotterdam for their generosity. 

To see photos from the event, these can be found on SUSTAIN's Facebook page here.

For those who attended the conference, we would love to hear your feedback regarding the content and format of the conference. You can let us know by completing our short survey regarding the Sustainable Cities Conference.