As campus sustainability programs have developed and grown over the past decade, with some programs approaching relative maturity, we begin to ask an important question: how can these programs be objectively evaluated? This question was recently raised among NECSC members, and the response shows a high level of interest in and enthusiasm for the idea of an objective, external review process. An adaptable assessment process would provide a basis for programs to highlight successes, identify areas for improvement, and help to prioritize program initiatives and projects. Having a relatively standardized process for conducting the review would provide consistency and help to drive further growth and continual improvement in sustainability programs.
Some campuses have recently experimented with conducting an external review, roughly modeled on the long-established academic department external review process. The efficacy of that model provides a focus for this interactive, collaboration-driven workshop. The Workshop might feature:
• A review of the general process followed in academic external reviews
• Case study presentations by institutions that have conducted sustainability program reviews
• A discussion of other possible models that might provide guidance or be adapted for sustainability program review process
Questions that workshop participants could collectively consider include:
• Is there value in developing a general, high-level framework that can be used or adapted for designing and carrying out an external review?
• What is the scope of the self-study and outside review?
• Is there is (or should be) an identifiable process for sustainability program development that could form the basis for program evaluation?
• How can a sustainability plan provide a foundation for the review?
• For institutions without a sustainability plan, how do you determine which program components are appropriate for evaluation?
• Can a general framework be created that is both flexible (so that any institution at any stage of sustainability program development might utilize it) and iterative (to maintain its utility over the course of the sustainability program’s development)?
• What guidelines for the review committee would be appropriate?
• What is the role in the review process of existing STARS data (for STARS participants)?
This interactive Workshop would address these issues as well as others that participants raise. At the conclusion of the Workshop, interested participants would have an opportunity to form a small working group to take on the task of collaboratively creating a framework that can be presented to the NECSC membership for further discussion and development.