Overview for prospective Global Environments Summer Academy participants

Wednesday October 26, 2016

The Global Environments Summer Academy is an intensive course in which participants from around the world gather to learn from each other and from resource people. Its basic elements include:

  • Productive activities: field excursions, participant presentations, practical workshops, roundtable discussions, small group work and hands-on exercises
  • Inspiring participants: 18-21 activists, postgraduate students or professionals who will be future environmental leaders in academia, civil society, government or the private sector
  • Experienced resource people representatives of academia, civil society, government and the private sector who share insights drawn from diverse backgrounds and disciplines

MappingConvening outstanding scholars and expert practitioners with a shared concern about the human dimensions of global environmental change, GESA is highly conducive to rigorous and inspirational exchanges. GESA’s strength lies in its uniquely immersive and interactive approach. Throughout the course, participants are encouraged to engage actively with the curriculum and to experiment with innovative presentation and learning styles. Background readings assigned by diverse resource people range from classic academic articles to institutional reports and contemporary essays. Participant presentations, delivered in a dynamic initial conference, set the stage for continued mutual learning. The three week duration and features such as collaborative sessions offer further opportunities for deeply personal interactions amongst participants and resource persons that result in long-lasting, productive networks.

-> For more on the broader network, see the About GEN page.


DiscussionWhat can you expect at GESA?

(as captured by past participants)

  • “an excellent forum for networking and multidisciplinary discussion”
  • “open, interactive and flexible learning environment.”
  • “peer-to-peer learning”
  • “innovative and  unconventional approaches to solving problems”
  • “freedom of expression”
  • “A dynamic and impressive group of individuals representing a wide range of countries, professions, and studies.”

A typical day at GESA begins at the student housing in Bern where all participants have single rooms. The group gathers at the World Trade Insitute to start the day with a short session of yoga or music from a fellow participant’s community. The morning session of roundtable discussions, perhaps inspired by a resource person’s current work, also has an ‘ethnobotanical break’ featuring foodways of the home country of one of the participants. After lunch, the day might continue with a hands-on workshop on environmental policy or communication. In the evening, you might wander down to the Aare River for a float through town, or return to the dorm to continue an animated discussion over a homecooked dinner.

     -> The GESA 2015 schedule is available here, as a sample.


Alumni NetworkGESA 2013 was organised around a number of thematic roundtables, facilitated by one of the GESA faculty/resource persons. Each roundtable began with a 30-minute introduction (by a resource person or a participant) to ensure that all participants are acquainted with the topics, and related current debates, prior to the roundtable discussion. The following are some themes from 2013 roundtables:

  • Agrobiodiversity and Food Sovereignty: Transforming Cultures and Landscapes to Feed the World
  • The Politics of Difference: Class, Gender, Race and Religion in Environmental Movements
  • Biodiversity Conservation and Environmental Justice: How Aichi Targets Encourage Complementarity and Conflict
  • Green Economy and the Environment: Do the Poor or the Powerful Benefit?
  • Socio-ecological Resilience and Scale: Can Community Action Pull Us Back from the Brink of Planetary Crisis?


BielWhat might you get out of GESA? 

The dynamic GESA experience is unique for each participant. In past years, participants commented in their own words what they achieved during the Academy.

  • “A new group of wonderful friends, colleagues, and allies in the fight against social and environmental degradation that I will call on and turn to for the rest of my life!”
  • “to be a better leader”
  • “important background on issues I work with”
  • “critical examination of what I am doing, why I am doing it, how I am doing it, and whether I should be doing it”
  • “new awareness of myself and my motivations for working to address environmental change”


To spend time with such an amazing group of humans (participants, organisers, resource people) from such diverse backgrounds yet connected by certain commonalities has been a rare privilege, and I know these friendships and connections will last for many years. 

More here on what participants have to say about their GESA experience >>

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