UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose


UCL MPA programmes host first ever cross-faculty sustainability summit

23 May 2023

Students and special guests came together to exchange on the complexity of sustainability challenges, exploring the topics of biodiversity loss and climate change.

Students sit at tables in a large room listening to a lecture at the MPA summit

For the very first time, students from all UCL faculties teaching master of public administration (MPA) programmes – UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP), UCL Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP), and UCL’s Department of Political Science (DoPS) – came together to organise a summit on the theme of Sustainability in a complex world

The summit aimed to foster collaborative dynamics and connections between students, solidifying academic and industry relationships and reinforcing learning outcomes for students throughout their MPA journeys at UCL.

UCL teaching faculty expertise showcased at the summit

The summit opened with speeches from Professor Julienne Stroeve (UCL Earth Sciences) and Professor Richard Pearson (UCL Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research). Prof Stroeve asked participants which planet they hope to live on, warning participants about the danger of not acting on global warming in the worst-case scenario. Prof Pearson illustrated the importance of treating biodiversity and climate change as intertwined challenges, daring participants to think about win-win solutions as they prepared to enter a net-zero simulation game.

Climate net-zero simulation game to foster exchanges and collaboration between students

Students consider the viewpoint of indigenous people during the simulation

The second part of the event took the form of a climate action simulation, where students from all MPA programmes gathered at different tables roleplaying a different stakeholder in the negotiation. Global leaders from sectors across business, government, civil society and indigenous communities were represented to negotiate an agreement to limit global warming to less than 2°C, using the live En-ROADS Climate Solutions Simulator. Facilitators highlighted the benefits and trade-offs of choosing specific policies to illustrate the complexity of solving sustainability challenges. This interactive exercise allowed students to bring their specific knowledge and system perspectives from their MPA programme, while stimulating collaboration between various faculties.

Indy Johar speaks about structural problems in our relationship with the world

Indy Johar addresses the students

Keynote guest speaker Indy Johar, co-founder of Dark Matter Labs, gave a reflective talk on what is separating us from the world around us. Johar argued that dematerialisation of our economy was a must, pointing out that degrowth would be forced upon us given the scarcity of resources and material means. From a policy perspective, Johar warned participants of the importance of improving societal decision-making, for example what co-designing parliament would look like or having non-human representation.

‘‘The issue is not climate change, the problem is more structural with our relationship with the world. The problem is deeply buried in the worldview that we constructed. Our logic of gaining dominion of the world is constructed,’’ he said.

Cross-sector panel showcased diversity of practices and expertise

To conclude the summit, a panel exploring the prioritisation of solutions for effective policymaking brought together stakeholders from different sectors and industries. Dr Anna Bullen, Centre for Alternative Technologies (CAT), Yacob Muguletta (STEaPP), Carlota Ochoa Neven Du Mont, (Extantia) and Laura Homfray (WSP UK) discussed the importance of having a systemic perspective when designing policy for sustainability and offered participants a more hands-on approach to policy derived from practice.

Participants were then invited for a networking cocktail on the UCL Wilkins Building terrace to continue the discussion.

‘‘One of our biggest takeaways is that the summit presented a rare opportunity to work in unison with the rest of our MPA colleagues, and staff members, across UCL. In the context of solving grand complex challenges, collectively, by breaking silos between faculties, this summit was truly the first step towards a true collaboration between our academic institutions within UCL, as well as the industry and future policy- and decision-makers. We are proud to have set the path for future growing collaboration between faculties and future cohorts,’’ said the Organisational Committee.