RCE Greater Portland - 2020

Virtual Sustainability Symposium Series
Basic Information
Title of project : 
Virtual Sustainability Symposium Series
Submitting RCE: 
RCE Greater Portland
Contributing organization(s) : 
Greater Portland Sustainability Education Network
Portland Community College
Conscious Capitalism
B Local PDX
Green Living Journal
Focal point(s) and affiliation(s)
Kim Smith
Organizational Affiliation: 
RCE Greater Portland
Format of project: 
Recordings of Powerpoint presentations
Language of project: 
Date of submission:
Thursday, October 29, 2020
Geographical & Education Information
United States
Portland, Oregon
Socioeconomic and environmental characteristics of the area : 
The project is hosted for the diverse community stakeholders in Portland Metro and surrounding areas that are geographically included in GPSEN’s work. These include Clackamas, Clark, Multnomah, and Washington counties in Oregon State and Washington State.
Description of sustainable development challenge(s) in the area the project addresses: 
Our Sustainability Symposium focuses on environmental, economic, and social justice, plus local efforts to achieve the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and create resilience in our communities. Traditionally, this annual event is hosted on a college campus, but due to COVID-19, we had to convert the Symposium to a virtual series.
April, 2020
While our community has a variety of sustainability conferences, we want to host an annual event that celebrates community leaders and change agents and highlights sustainability work in our region that helps achieve the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The emphasis on the SDGs and collaboration across different sectors offers a unique educational opportunity for engagement. Our theme this year was "A Call for Action," emphasizing the social justice and equity activists in our region and was a kick-off for the 50th anniversary of Earth Week.
1) Celebrate sustainability leaders and change agents, including staff, students, non-profits, businesses, and community members
2) Highlight cutting-edge sustainability work in our region and beyond
3) Share lessons in environmental, economic, and social justice
4) Identify local efforts that help achieve the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
5) Foster conversations on how to create resilience in our communities
6) Transform traditional campus-based format to a meaningful virtual learning format
Activities and/or practices employed: 
Our original plan was to host a traditional campus-based conference, but we were forced to go virtual due to the pandemic. The speakers and workshops were transformed into a series of three Zoom webinars, based on common themes, including: Food Security and Permaculture; Arts and Activism; and Sustainable Businesses. Each session had a land acknowledgement, introduction to the RCEs and SDGs, and keynote speakers, who offered Powerpoint presentations, in addition to one moderated panel. Participants created resource lists for all of their topics. The sessions were recorded and are shared on our GPSEN Youtube Channel.
Size of academic audience: 
250 participants
Offering our Symposium as a series of monthly virtual webinars, rather than a single-day event, was a big success. We are grateful for the virtual tools that Zoom provides and the ability to convert the event in a short time frame. The majority of the speakers were able to adapt their presentation materials to an on-line format and appreciated the opportunity to have their presentations recorded for their portfolios. The themes allowed participants to choose which topics most interested them, so more people ended up registering than for the original event, although the numbers did drop with each successive webinar. We are glad that we could celebrate our award winners in our presentations and via blogs and podcasts, which we highlighted on our website, in our newsletter, and via social media.
Lessons learned: 
Converting a campus-based Symposium into a series of monthly virtual webinars was a crash course in virtual education for the organizers, presenters, and participants. The advanced Zoom features and IT support from Portland Community College was key. While the format worked well for presenters with traditional Powerpoint presentations, we were not able to accommodate the interactive workshops nor networking social. This event also is our biggest annual fundraiser, so we lost all of the registration fees. While we did save on event costs, few people offered donations and we only had a small number of sponsors.
Key messages: 
Having an annual event that celebrates sustainability leaders and change agents and highlights the cutting-edge sustainability education efforts in our region is key to increasing awareness and empowering participants by acknowledging the great work that is happening in our community.
Relationship to other RCE activities: 
Our Symposium is a compendium of many of our efforts throughout the year, through a collaboration across signature programs and key committees, including our College Network; Train-the-Trainer Workshops; Research & Curriculum Committee and GPSEN Fellows; Outreach & Communications; and Partnership Development.
Traditionally, this event is funded by partner funds, registration fees, sponsorships, and in-kind support. With the transition to a virtual format, many costs were cut, but we also lost most of our registration fees and sponsorships. This has had a significant impact on our annual budget, as this is our largest annual fundraiser.


File Name Caption for picture Photo Credit
Image icon Business as a Force for Good.jpg (145.45 KB) Business as a Force for Good Varies
Image icon A Call for Action.jpg (141.28 KB) A Call for Action Rick Rappaport
Image icon Arts and Activism.jpg (125.63 KB) Arts and Activism Varies
UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
(https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs) and other themes of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)
SDG 1 - End poverty in all its forms everywhere 
SDG 2 - End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture 
SDG 3 - Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages 
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 9 - Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation, and foster innovation 
SDG 11 - Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable 
SDG 12 - Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns 
SDG 13 - Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts 
SDG 15 - Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss 
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 
Curriculum Development 
Plants & Animals 
ESD for 2030-Priority Action Areas
Priority Action Area 3 - Developing capacities of educators and trainers 
Priority Action Area 4 - Mobilizing youth 
Priority Action Area 5 - Accelerating sustainable solutions at local level