5 ways you create change with student data

SOS International is undertaking the biggest ever piece of research into student attitudes and opinions towards sustainability, climate change, their education and their jobs. Here’s five suggestions of how you can take local or global action using the data we’ll collect.

We’ll be collecting insights from students throughout the month of April 2020. After this period, we’ll analyse the data and publish a report that will summarise what we’ve found, highlight trends, and showcase the institutions and organisations who’ve helped create the information. If a university, college, student group or member body gets more than 100 students in their membership to complete the survey, we’ll also provide them with anonymised raw data about their students. Here’s some ways that the information gathered can be used…

1. Read students’ mind

OK so the survey won’t give you super powers, but it will give you insights into student opinions and attitudes. You’ll better understand the things they’re concerned about and their expectations. This will help you discover information that you can use to build common ground between you and students, so that you can develop communications, campaigns and projects that help meet their vision of what a sustainable and just future looks like.


2. Get buy-in

Building a case for action on sustainability often means proving a need for that action – why is it necessary. For those working in education who want to transform the curriculum, or those wanting to inspire and empower young people and students to take actions, or those in business and industry who want to adopt new ways of sustainable working, you’re going to need a strong rationale as to why this is worth the effort. This data will strengthen your argument.


3. Get cash and resources

If you’re asking for money or resources to support your sustainability work, whether you’re a sustainability manager at a university, or a student wanting to set up a new sustainability group, or a charity applying for grant funding to engage more youth in environmental issues, the person with the money is more likely to say yes if you have robust data that shows there’s a need for action. NUS-UK got £5m (!) of funding to initiate 25 transformational sustainability programs & campaigns across England, using data about student opinions and attitudes as the basis of their request for funding.


4. Know your impact

If you can’t measure it, you can’t monitor it. Use the data for your students to baseline student attitudes so you can monitor changes (by repeating the survey or waiting for the next iteration in 2022) as you deliver campaigns and projects. Similarly you can use it to benchmark your progress against others in your country or internationally.


5. Learn more

Thousands of academics and student researchers have used similar data, at a smaller scale than the research we’re undertaking now, to strengthen knowledge, understanding and thinking about sustainability and education. Check out Google Scholar to see the different disciplines citing research into student attitudes and opinions to sustainability to date.

So, how will you use the data to create change?

Will you help us create the biggest ever piece of research into students attitudes towards sustainability? Let us know on Twitter using @sos_dot_earth or via mail at contact@sos.earth. More information on the survey can be found here and you can sign up on behalf of your university, college or organisation here.