RCE Greater Atlanta - 2023

RCE Greater Atlanta’s Multi-Institutional Network Coordination Team
Basic Information
Title of project : 
RCE Greater Atlanta’s Multi-Institutional Network Coordination Team
Submitting RCE: 
RCE Greater Atlanta
Contributing organization(s) : 
Kennesaw State University
Georgia Gwinnett College
Georgia Institute of Technology
Georgia State University
University of Georgia
Focal point(s) and affiliation(s)
Center for Sustainable Communities Research and Education
Organizational Affiliation: 
Brook Byers Institute for Sustainable Systems, Georgia Institute of Technology
Format of project: 
Language of project: 
Date of submission:
Monday, August 28, 2023
Geographical & Education Information
United States
Greater Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Address of focal point institution for project: 
Center for Sustainable Communities Research and Education
Brook Byers Institute for Sustainable Systems, Georgia Institute of Technology
760 Spring Street NW, Atlanta, GA 30308
Target Audience:
Socioeconomic and environmental characteristics of the area : 
Atlanta is currently a city riddled with wealth and income inequality, particularly affecting communities of color, where 80% of African-American children reside in high-poverty areas compared to only 6% of their white peers. Historical divisions in housing, schools, and zoning perpetuate these disparities. The city's rapid development can also affect the environment, causing potential issues with reduced greenery, increased pollution, flooding, and soil erosion. Despite being an economic hub, Atlanta is marked by racial segregation, concentrated poverty, gentrification, and displacement, and has one of the lowest social mobility rates for its poorest population. It also ranks poorly in terms of income inequality, energy burden, gentrification, traffic, and air quality.
Description of sustainable development challenge(s) in the area the project addresses: 
Coordination addresses the sustainable development challenges of the area by running a connected RCE network, supporting projects that advance sustainable development goals, and connecting members across a large region, both in physical area and population, across multiple institutions. The Coordination Team focuses on advancing ESD in the Greater Atlanta region, which in turn supports progress on sustainable development challenges in the area.
January, 2022
The RCE Greater Atlanta Network brings together 10 higher education institutions across the Greater Atlanta Region to collaborate with government agencies, businesses, schools, nonprofit organizations, and community-based organizations to advance ESD. Running the network literally takes a village. The multi-institutional Coordination Team was founded to collectively manage core network functions and shared educational programs. Under the direction of a Lead Coordinator housed at Georgia Tech, the team brings together staff and students from multiple universities and colleges to implement the core functions of the network (e.g., marketing and communication, membership, global RCE network engagement), plan or support the network’s signature events (e.g., quarterly meetings) and youth engagement programs (e.g., SDG Futures Fellows Program, Mentorship Program), and build community among institutional and individual members. As of Fall 2023, the team includes nine staff and nine student coordinators from six higher education institutions plus one community volunteer. Students are hired by staff coordinators as student workers, paid by their institutions, and work as part of a team under the co-supervision of their supervisor and a graduate student at Georgia Tech who serves as the Student Coordination Manager. Implemented in 2022, this structure allows us to collectively take responsibility for running the network and results in a strong sense of camaraderie, shared ownership, and new ideas, all of which increases the impact of the SDGs across our region.
The objective of the Coordination Team is to establish and manage a shared structure responsible for running the foundational activities of the RCE Greater Atlanta network, including core network functions as well as signature programs, all of which advance ESD across the Greater Atlanta region. This structure decentralizes responsibilities across multiple higher education institutions, while giving students from these institutions paid leadership opportunities, including opportunities to learn what it means to create social and environmental change via a loose network structure. Knowledge and leadership are retained and deepened over time with staff from different institutions assuming ownership of specific functions and programs.
Activities and/or practices employed: 
The Coordination Team manages network functions, including communications, global network engagement, membership, and data collection, and runs signature programs, including quarterly meetings and two student leadership development programs: SDG Futures Fellows and Mentorship. The team is coordinated by a staff person at Georgia Tech and includes staff/student coordinators from multiple HEIs. Each HEI has an administrative unit housing the RCE and uses a common job description to hire student coordinators. Under the supervision of a graduate student, these coordinators work together to run the network and increase RCE engagement among students at their own institutions. The students meet virtually every week, and the full team meets a few times per semester. In addition to managing their own responsibilities, the students help each other problem-solve and innovate. Coordination operates in multi-directional ways, and students and staff learn to navigate and appreciate the advantages and challenges of lateral movements for social change.
Size of academic audience: 
Approximately 20 students and staff have worked as staff and student coordinators since 2022. Their work impacts approximately 400 people each year, who are engaged in network events, programs, and activities.
The network coordination structure ensures that the network runs smoothly, across multiple institutions and partners in a large region, with projects being supported and members staying connected over time. In addition, student coordinators that are part of the coordination structure become educated and active in their campus community and the RCE overall. They take on leadership roles and become well-versed in the SDGs and ESD topics. Finally, this structure results in shared ownership, rather than coordination and ownership being siloed in one primary institution.
Lessons learned: 
This coordination structure was developed in 2022 after three years of trial and error with other coordination and leadership structures, including a traditional steering committee and then what we called a “leadership circle.” What we learned from these experiences was that we didn’t need leadership as much as coordination of what one founding member termed “core network functions,” along with strong support of core activities and a group of people with strong skills and interest in “network weaving,” or connecting people and projects to each other. The coordination structure has allowed us to focus on these activities, rather than on “leadership.” Coordinators support members to become leaders in their own projects and to advance their own goals for learning about and implementing ESD and the SDGs. Additionally, this structure supports each HEI and other RCE member organizations to approach ESD and the SDGs according to their own culture.
Key messages: 
Greater Atlanta is a diverse place, and each HEI in the region has a unique approach to advancing the SDGs through ESD. The multi-institutional coordination structure allows each university and college to contribute its own expertise and resources to our movement for a more sustainable future.
Relationship to other RCE activities: 
The Coordination Team is responsible for carrying out the network’s core functions, including marketing and communication, membership, global RCE network engagement, and data collection. Coordinators are also the backbone of the RCE, helping to plan our Quarterly meetings and programs and nurturing participation in RCE projects. Additionally, they run and/or support the network’s youth engagement programs, including the SDG Futures Fellows Program and the Mentorship Program.
Each university and college funds their own student coordinators. Staff and volunteers contribute their time in-kind. There is no outside funding sought or provided for this activity.


File Name Caption for picture Photo Credit
Image icon Morehouse x GT.jpeg (8.28 MB) Cross-institutional meeting between Georgia Tech student coordinators and Morehouse School of Medicine, on the MSM campus, Summer 2023. Mark Lannaman
Image icon RCE coordinators Spring 2023.png (525.46 KB) RCE Greater Atlanta student and staff coordinators meeting, Spring 2023. Coordinators represent 4 higher education institutions and include one long-time volunteer. Jennifer Hirsch
Image icon XL t-shirts 4.jpg (2.63 MB) RCE student coordinators from Georgia Institute of Technology have fun in the office, Summer 2022. Aditya Desai
UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
(https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs) and other themes of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)
SDG 4 - Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all 
SDG 8 - Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all 
SDG 10 - Reduce inequality within and among countries 
SDG 11 - Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable 
SDG 16 - Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels 
SDG 17 - Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development 
Traditional Knowledge  
Curriculum Development 
ESD for 2030-Priority Action Areas
Priority Action Area 2 - Transforming learning and training environments 
Priority Action Area 3 - Developing capacities of educators and trainers 
Priority Action Area 4 - Mobilizing youth 
I acknowledge the above: