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Book Launch: Universities and the Sustainable Development Future

Join the APLU Knowledge Center for Advancing Development through Higher Education for an evening with Dr. Peter H. Koehn, Professor of Political Science from the University of Montana and Dr. Juha I. Uitto, Director of the Independent Evaluation Office of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to discuss their new book, Universities and the Sustainable Development Future.

About the book

Since the mid-1970s, a series of international declarations that link environment and sustainable development to all aspects of higher learning have been endorsed and signed by universities around the world. Although university involvement in sustainable-development research and outreach has increased substantially, systematic learning from higher-education engagements has been limited.

Universities and the Sustainable Development Future offers institutions of higher learning around the world practical guidelines that can be applied contextually to produce credible evidence regarding the outcome and impact of their teaching, research, and transnational-partnering activities. Drawing on innovative applications of lessons from experience with international-development cooperation, this book demonstrates the utility of a flexible framework that will inspire substantial improvements in the ways universities evaluate and improve their sustainable-development undertakings aimed at promoting Agenda 2030.

This book promotes an inclusive evaluation framework that will allow universities to illuminate sustainable-development outcomes, and it provides a cutting-edge resource for students, scholars, and policy makers with an interest in sustainable development, climate change, and evaluation challenges.

Speaker Bios

Dr. Peter H. Koehn is Professor of Political Science, a University of Montana Distinguished Scholar, a Fulbright New Century Scholar, and recipient of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU)’s 2011 Michael P. Malone award for international leadership and the 2012 George M. Dennison Presidential Faculty Award for Distinguished Accomplishment. Over the course of his career, he has taught and conducted research in Ethiopia, Nigeria, Eritrea, Namibia, China, Hong Kong, and Finland. From 1991 through 1996, he co-directed a USAID University Development Linkage Project designed to strengthen the capacity of The University College of Belize to contribute to the sustainable development of Belize, particularly in natural-resource management. Professor Koehn is the founding director of The University of Montana’s Office of International Programs and its academic programs in International Development Studies and Global Public Health. His most recent book is China Confronts Climate Change: A Bottom-up Perspective (Routledge Advances in Climate Change Research Series, 2016).

Dr. Juha I. Uitto is Director, Independent Evaluation Office of the Global Environment Facility (GEF). Since 1999, he has held various evaluation positions with the GEF and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and conducted and managed a large number of programmatic and thematic evaluations of international cooperation at the global, regional, and country levels. Dr. Uitto spent the 1990s in the United Nations University coordinating the university’s environment and sustainable-development research and training programs. His earlier work has included positions in the Nordic Africa Institute and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). He was educated at the Universities of Helsinki and Lund. Dr. Uitto has published widely on topics related to environment and natural resources management, sustainable development, environmental hazards, and evaluation. Routledge published his edited book Evaluating Environment in International Development in 2014. The book Evaluating Climate Change Action for Sustainable Development (co-edited with Jyotsna Puri and Rob D. van den Berg) has recently been published by Springer. He also serves as Visiting Professor of Global Practice at Rutgers University. In October 2012, the European Evaluation Society awarded him for “distinguished contribution to evaluation practice.”

To register to attend, visit the event page here.

Past Events

Join the APLU Knowledge Center for Advancing Development through Higher Education for a two-part dialogue on systems thinking and the role of higher education in sustaining local development. Day 1 will center on USAID’s Local Systems framework for supporting sustained development and the broader Local Solutions reform initiative within the Agency. Local Solutions grew out of one of the flagship initiatives under USAID Forward, and the Local Systems framework “contributes to the ongoing transformation of the way the Agency does business by defining steps toward realizing a vision of development that is locally owned, locally led and locally sustained.” The dialogue seeks to help the higher education community to understand how systems thinking is affecting USAID programming across all sectors and to discuss the role that higher education institutions play in “sustaining development.”

Day 2 builds upon this discussion, with perspectives from a variety of development actors who focus on the role of higher education in development. Panelists from the World Bank, USAID, Carnegie Corporation of New York, and others will discuss their views on the role of higher education in societal development and the priorities they see for investment in higher education institutions and educational systems in different parts of the world. The discussion will also address the role that external assistance (in all its forms) can most effectively play in supporting higher education transformation and development.

Day 1:

Introduction to Local Solutions and USAID’s Local Systems Framework. What does systems thinking mean for USAID programs moving forward?

Day 2:

What have been your organizations’ priorities/goals for your investments in higher education? Are they changing? What ideas/ assumptions underlie your strategy to support higher education? What kinds of changes in higher education are you trying to achieve through your investments? What have you learned about how to be an effective “external” source of support to higher education institutions and systems?

  • What are the implications of systems thinking for investments in higher education?
  • What is the role of higher education in supporting sustained development?
  • What does a project proposal that takes a systems approach look like?
  • How does a systems approach affect project monitoring and evaluation?
  • How does systems thinking affect our understanding of “capacity building”?

As USAID adopts the principles of the Local Systems Framework, we will explore how US universities can become better facilitators of building local capacity for sustained results, rather than implementers of short-term development. In this session we will seek to answer the questions:  What does it mean to become facilitators of local capacity building? What does this mean for our universities capacity to be responsive this new approach? Where does higher education fit in building sustainable local institutions?

Moderator: Nosa Egiebor, University of Mississippi
Speakers: Barbara Schneeman, USAID Higher Education Coordinator; Ingrid Guerra-Lopez, Wayne State University 

Join us for other sessions organized by the APLU Commission on International Initiatives. See the full CII program here.

The Innovative Agricultural Research Initiative (iAGRI) is a comprehensive human and institutional capacity development (HICD) effort to improve food security in Tanzania through degree training, collaborative research, and organizational transformation.  The six-year, $25.5 million project is part of the Feed the Future portfolio of the USAID mission in Tanzania and is a partnership between the Ohio State University Consortium (six land grant universities), Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security, and Cooperatives.

iAGRI is inspired by the view that human capacity development (HCD) and institutional capacity development (ICD) are complements, not substitutes, and that both are vitally important for improving food security (as well as other social and economic improvements).  The webinar focuses on the ICD approach developed by iAGRI, including a model of organizational change, practical steps for implementing the model, lessons learned at SUA, and reflections on the applicability of the iAGRI model in other settings. Central to the iAGRI approach is a dynamic learning process in which strong and healthy interactions between the informal and formal systems of the university are nurtured. Participation by faculty, staff, and students in organizational experiments aimed at improving the university results in mindset changes that are self-reinforcing as the university transforms.  Lessons learned through the experiments are distilled by the participants into changes in policies, programs, and procedures that bring about sustainable organizational transformation. The presenters are David Kraybill, iAGRI Chief of Party and Professor at The Ohio State University and Laura Alexander, iAGRI’s Program Manager for Organizational Transformation. 
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In the context of USAID’s increasing focus on local solutions and other donors’ efforts to shift more resources toward local institutional capacity building, applying the science of organizational learning and behavior change is a growing imperative.  This one and a half day workshop was designed to help practitioners incorporate the USAID’s performance improvement methodology (aka: HICD Framework) into their international efforts. 


View this webinar on USAID’s Local Solutions (part of USAID Forward), which encourages sustainability through country ownership of the development agenda. During this webinar, we explore the Local Systems Framework, which provides a foundation for engaging local systems in ways that support local ownership, local entrepreneurship and local accountability and emphasizes the importance of this approach to the design and implementation of development programs. We also discuss the role of higher education institutions in light of the Local Systems Framework and where Local Systems and Human and Institutional Capacity Building (HICD) intersect.

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View this Town Hall webinar with newly appointed USAID Higher Education Coordinator Barbara Schneeman. This new coordinator role is intended to increase engagement between USAID and the higher education community. Barbara shares her vision for the position, provides information on where the agency is heading and invites APLU members to provide information on their work in developing countries.

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In this first webinar, focused on partnerships, Peter Koehn (University of Montana) and Milton Obamba (University of Central Lancashire) shared principal findings from their book The Transnationally Partnered University (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) on what does and does not work in creating and optimizing the mutual impact of research and development partnerships. Transnational partnerships fail as often as they succeed. Drawing on reports about actual collaborations, evaluation studies, critical reviews, field research, and personal insights that are focused on Africa but have broader applications, Koehn and Obama identified strengths and weaknesses in transnational higher-education partnership design, management, capacity development, sustainability, and evaluation. The recurring theme is attention to near symmetry and equity.

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This webinar focused on how to increase the impact of training programs on institutional performance after training is over. The webinar began with background information on institutional strengthening and performance improvement, and their importance in sustaining gains from investments in training. Participants then discussed strategies to increase the impact of training programs on trainees’ home-country institutions. The discussion revolved around actions that can be taken before training begins, during training, and after training ends in order to affect institutional change.

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This webinar focused on leveraging individual training for institutional capacity building. Topics included highlighting good practices for designing and structuring mentorship and the impact it can have and tailoring trainee action plans for maximum institutional impact.

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As the “gender gap” in the agricultural sector is particularly pronounced, this webinar focused on highlighting and discussing good practices that are used to identify and encourage female participants for long-term training and to design training programs that better support female participation and success.

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This webinar reviewed key issues related to monitoring the results of training on individual and institutional performance. The presentation discussed best practices for using knowledge about impact to improve programming.

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2022 APLU Annual Report