MSDI partners with the prestigious SDG Academy to put behavioural science on the map for sustainable development

Monash Sustainable Development Institute (MSDI) is partnering with the prestigious SDG Academy to deliver the first course on behaviour change for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDG Academy is the flagship education platform of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), a global initiative for the United Nations.

Launched today, the free 7-week online course ‘Changing Behaviour for Sustainable Development by MSDI’s BehaviourWorks Australia, marks a significant shift in recognising behavioural science and behaviour change as a pivotal tool in tackling the SDGs.

It’s the first SDG Academy course to incorporate behaviour change science and covers topics ranging from systems thinking to behaviour prioritisation, drivers and barriers of behaviour, intervention design and evaluation, ethics, and more.

With financial support from Australian entrepreneur and philanthropist, Harold Mitchell AC, the course reaches out to practitioners of all backgrounds and industries, and professionals who work with others to achieve the SDGs.

Chaired by Professor John Thwaites AM, MSDI is recognised for having an embedded behaviour change unit in one of the world’s leading University Institutes for sustainable development. It joins Universities around the world and world leading experts on sustainable development like Professor Jeffrey Sachs, in its commitment to providing inclusive and equitable quality education for everyone, a key premise of SDG 4.

According to Professor Thwaites “we need to build capacity to understand what drives behaviour for scientists, policy makers, engineers and key decision makers in order to address the challenges facing society today.”

When we face big sustainability challenges, we focus on the technological or infrastructure solutions – and they are important – but we also need to look at the human perspective, the behaviours that will make a difference to whether we can successfully meet these challenges. We need to bring the two together.”

The course draws on many examples of behaviour change including during the COVID-19 pandemic where the world saw, first hand, the impact of large-scale behaviour change at an unprecedented rate. Out of urgency and necessity, a range of new and different behaviours were quickly adapted to slow the spread of the COVID -19 virus.

Wearing masks, keeping distances from others and getting vaccinated when vaccines were available were all important behaviours which helped reduce the spread of the virus.

Professor Liam Smith, Director of BehaviourWorks Australia and an instructor of the course, said the pandemic has shown that it is possible to come together and act urgently to create lasting and impactful change.

“In many ways behaviour change has been the main tool to address COVID – at a scale we really have not seen before. We have an opportunity to harness these behavioural insights, learnings and knowledge to prepare for future global crises, such as climate change,” Professor Smith said.

Deputy Director of Education at MSDI, Associate Professor Annette Bos, added that the course will share these insights and tools, along with case studies, to explore complex development problems.

“It demonstrates how a behaviour change approach can be used to shape effective policies and programs to help achieve the SDGs and see change at a local and global scale,” Professor Bos said.

Shannon Kobran, SDG Academy Lead in Kuala Lumpur, said the Academy was delighted to welcome ‘Changing Behaviour for Sustainable Development’ as a unique contribution to the platform’s catalogue of free online courses.

“While we know our learners are passionate about achieving sustainable development, we often hear from them that they are dismayed at the lack of change they see in the world around them,” she said.

“With its basis in behavioural science, the course will empower current and future changemakers, and provide them with insights into human behaviour and how to drive sustainable progress for a better world.”

Discover more about the Sustainable Development Goals

Find out more about the ‘Changing Behaviour for Sustainable Development’ course

Explore more courses by Behaviourworks Australia