Skip to main content

University of Exeter Business School

Future 17: Sustainable Development Goals Challenge

Module titleFuture 17: Sustainable Development Goals Challenge
Module codeBEP3172
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Edvard Glucksman (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks




Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Future17 is designed to develop the skills needed to collaboratively tackle 21st Century global challenges and to work with professionals to create pathways towards innovative solutions to real-world issues that relate to one or more of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Future17 enables students to collaborate with learners from a consortium of global partner universities in international, interdisciplinary and multicultural teams to tackle challenges through projects defined by third-party organisations (businesses, charities, NGOs etc.). Students will first undertake an online induction programme that will develop skills for collaborative, challenge-based and inter-cultural learning, which promotes forms of Design Thinking for tackling global challenges. They will then work with academic and third-party mentors to diagnose a sustainable development challenge and develop an approach for developing one or more solutions. They will be assessed on the basis of a 1500 project report and presentation to a panel including representatives of the third-party organisation that set the challenge and academic staff from the partner universities along with other student groups at a showcase event.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to develop the collaborative, inter-cultural and innovative skills sets required for tackling global interdisciplinary challenges in the 21st Century. Specifically, using the UN’s SDGs to define sustainable development challenges, the module aims to:

  • Promote skills for Design Thinking as a way of mobilising creative, visual, inter-personal, iterative and multi-configurational approaches to problem solving;
  • Enable students to appreciate the importance of interdisciplinary and inter-cultural exchange and learning for tackling sustainable development challenges;
  • Develop students’ critical thinking skills to question conventional assumptions about sustainable development challenges through Design Thinking approaches;
  • Developing employability skills by providing a space for students to work intensively with academic and third-party mentors on a sustainable development challenge of mutual interest;
  • Enable students to gain an appreciation of the sustainable development challenges facing third party organisations and how these can be responded to appropriately;
  • Develop skills for promoting change within organisational settings and developing systems and mechanisms to support such changes;
  • Develop professional presentation and report writing skills for external organisations;
  • Promote students’ awareness of and interest in applying academic knowledge to sustainable development challenges in a professional setting;
  • Providing students with an opportunity to generate non-academic impact for tackling sustainable development challenges.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Understand and demonstrate verbally your ability to apply Design Thinking approaches to a sustainable development challenge in a group learning context
  • 2. Understand the sustainable development needs of a third-party organisation through effectively communicating your project to them verbally and in writing

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Demonstrate your critical thinking abilities through evidentially questioning conventional assumptions and exploring a range of alternative perspectives
  • 4. Diagnose a sustainable development challenge through independent research
  • 5. Develop robust approaches and recommend appropriate solutions for tackling a sustainable development challenge

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Demonstrate your ability to work effectively in an interdisciplinary team
  • 7. Demonstrate your ability to understand the needs and requirements of a third-party organisation
  • 8. Demonstrate your ability to work in an online, inter-cultural context
  • 9. Work confidently and professionally with a third-party organisation
  • 10. Manage your time effectively and with minimal guidance
  • 11. Deliver a professional and articulate group presentation with circa 8 students to a third-party organisation
  • 12. Write a professional and succinct output for a third-party organisation

Syllabus plan

The module will comprise three components of learning and teaching:

Part 1: Module induction and skills for tackling sustainable development challenges (indicative up to four weeks)
This will comprise a series of online, flexibly available asynchronous learning activities to enable individual students to learn independently about the principles of Design Thinking that underpin the module, including collaborative learning, team work, working with external organizations and inter-cultural exchange. The induction program will also examine key elements of professional working and liaising with a client organization. The induction programme has been developed by the University of Exeter, with partner and contributor input.
This induction Program is available via the Future Learn online platform for students to use ‘anytime, anywhere’.
In advance of the induction program, students will be assigned to a team to work with other students and an academic and third-party mentor(s) to work on a specific challenge in parts 2 and 3 of the module. They will be encouraged to make contact with their fellow group members via back channels (such as e-mail or social media) and they will also be able to informally meet their academic mentor.

Part 2: Group collaboration on a sustainable development challenge (eight weeks plus one week for assessment preparation)
In this part of the module students will learn about the sustainability challenge and work as a team of students to design ways to diagnose the problem in collaboration with your academic mentor(s) and third-party organization and develop approaches for delivering solutions. This is the main part of the module and will comprise group work with students from partner universities, supported by academic mentor(s) and a mentor from the third-party organization. Students will collaborate in a range of ways, including synchronous online meetings as a team, synchronous online meetings as team with your academic and / or third-party mentors, and asynchronous team work using collaborative documents and online platforms. Student teams will be expected to meet weekly, with fortnightly structured support from mentors.
The collaboration software used for this phase will be MS Teams, enabling group discussions, meetings and sharing of collaborative documents.

Part 3: Future17 Solutions Showcase event (one week)
Students will attend an online showcase event(s), where each group of students working on a sustainability challenge will undertake an assessed presentation of their project for 25 minutes, plus time for questions and feedback. This will provide an opportunity to celebrate students’ work and that of other teams and provides a further space for collaborative learning.
Around one week after the showcase event, the written group assessment will be submitted.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Online, asynchronous induction activities (Part 1 of the module)12Individual online induction activities, undertaken via the Future Learn platform
Online, synchronous group meetings (Part 2 of the module)16Group meetings for teams and with academic and third-party mentors
Solutions Showcase (Part 3 of the module)4Team presentations and feedback to academic and third-party mentors
Guided independent study24Reading and note taking form induction activities
Guided independent study62Individual research and work for the challenge project
Guided independent study16Individual preparation and collaboration to prepare the assessed presentation
Guided independent study16Individual preparation and collaboration to prepare the assessed executive summary

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Team presentation of project proposal and approach20 minutes1-11Verbal
Team presentation of initial findings and proposed solution(s)20 minutes1-11Verbal

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation5025 minutes plus questions1-11Written
Group written output50Circa 2000 words2-10, 12Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Group presentationIndividual presentation with notes on a selected element of the sustainable development challenge (equivalent to 15 minutes)1-5, 7, 9-11August ref/def period
Group written reportIndividual 2000-word report on a selected element of the sustainable development challenge2-5, 7, 9-10, 12August ref/def period

Re-assessment notes

In cases where the student fails the module at their first attempt, they will be referred in the element(s) they have failed on an individual basis. In cases where the student is deferred, they will take the appropriate form of re-assessment (see above) on an individual basis.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Razzouk, R., & Shute, V. (2012). What is design thinking and why is it important?. Review of educational research, 82(3), 330-348.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

My Career Zone Resources– filter by CV, Applications, Assessment Centre etc
My Career Zone Digital– online videos and training to support skills development

Key words search

Sustainable development, UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), social justice, international development, health, energy, water, Education, innovation, gender quality. communities, environmental management, climate change, employability.

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

90 credits at RCF Level 4

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date