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The sustainability challenges we confront are marked by extreme complexity, urgency, conflicting demands, and often a paucity of resources or political will to address them. Transforming these challenges into powerful opportunities requires a new kind of leader – one who can design the practices and cultivate the partnerships essential to building that future.

This degree program will equip students with the knowledge, mindsets and practical skills needed to understand and intervene in complex systems in service of sustainability – the goal to secure human well-being around the world and across generations.

Three Core Elements of the Curriculum

Element 1: Understanding Complex Social-Environmental Systems

This element provides a framework for understanding and managing complex systems – systems that include ecological, resource and environmental, technological, economic and financial, and other social components.  Using a systems perspective, students will evaluate status and trends within each of five capital assets that fundamentally underlie wellbeing all around the world:

  • Social Capital: Laws, norms, rules, customs, institutions, and trust
  • Natural Capital: Ecosystems, climate, natural resources, and environmental concerns
  • Human Capital: ex: Size, demographics, culture, health, education,
  • Manufactured Capital: Technologies, buildings, and infrastructure
  • Knowledge Capital: Research and development, experiential and traditional knowledge

Element 2: Understanding Decision Making and Developing Strategies for Change

This element focuses on multi-attribute decision-making, psychological and behavioral aspects of decision making, organizational structures, and the implementation, and evaluation of strategies for influencing individual and organizational behavior. Students will examine the roles of diverse actors (individuals, groups and organizations) who influence change in social-environmental systems and explore strategies to align decision-making and behavior with sustainability goals. 

Element 3: Designing Innovations with Impact at Scale

This element establishes a framework and methodology of practice for innovation in the context of complex and systemic challenges. The innovation approach combines perspectives and theories from different disciplines, including design thinking, systems thinking, social cognitive theory, behavioral economics, technology strategy, and business model innovation.  This innovation approach helps students understand the most important system dynamics, envision future states, develop systems-based theories of change, make judicious decisions about where to intervene in the system, and generate creative interventions to bring about changes at the intervention points.


Students will complete a 120 hour practicum through which they will experience the challenges faced by decision makers working toward sustainability goals and collaborate with them.