Nearly ten years ago, SCI Co-Directors Marc Schlossberg and Nico Larco had a groundbreaking idea: what if a city could harness the creativity of university students at a larger than normal scale and apply the fresh thinking, creativity, idealism, and passion to helping local communities accelerate their capacity to meet pressing societal issues, and figure out an effective means to put knowledge into action.
This idea inspired the Sustainable City Year Program (SCYP), one of SCI’s most vital components in creating tangible and applicable sustainable progress in cities. The program’s flexibility, effectiveness and ability to work within administrative structures of universities and local governments fostered its adoptable and adaptable nature; it translated to a variety of university and community contexts across the United States. As the number of institutions running “the Oregon Model” grew, they collectively created EPIC-N, the Educational Partnership for Innovation in Communities Network, a coalition of nearly 30 universities running the SCYP (or EPIC) Framework. The upside across the U.S. remains large, as demonstrated by an extremely successful 6th Annual EPIC Workshop and Conference this past March at Texas A&M.
The opportunities around the world may be even larger. In early May, Schlossberg and Larco, along with Springfield’s (OR) Economic Development Manager, Courtney Griesel and San Diego State University’s Sage Project Director Jessica Barlow, traveled to Bonn, Germany to lead a United Nations, EPA, NSF, ICMA, and ICLEI sponsored workshop. The event targeted university-community pairs from lower income economies across the globe. Participants from sub-saharan Africa, south and central America and southeast Asia quickly transitioned from learning the EPIC Framework, to working on custom application. Though local governing structures, university culture and community issues differ from typical U.S. programs, the flexible framework allowed participants to quickly make progress in planning the implementation of their own EPIC program.
To say the workshop was a success would be an understatement. Because the conference was hands-on and action-oriented, several participants have already estimated program launch in the coming few months. Additionally, others are already organizing regional trainings to share the EPIC Framework with more universities and communities worldwide. SCI’s goal is to help lead those regional workshops and initial follow-up site visits, to then allow for local adopters to become the leaders of regional EPIC Networks.
SCI is extremely excited about this work, all of it based in proven, replicable protocols that embody one core theme: putting knowledge into action by leveraging the resources that universities can harness.
At its roots, the Sustainable City Year Program aimed to reshape the way Oregon tackled community application. We once joked that perhaps, we would change the way higher education was delivered throughout the world. Following the workshop in Germany, it looks like that may actually be true. The future of sustainability is totally EPIC.
SCI is looking for three-year bridge investment to ensure that both the quality of existing programs excels and opportunities for new program development continue. If you would like to help make this happen, please contact Marc Schlossberg or Nico Larco at SCI.