rootAbility works to establish platforms and networks for student-led projects
As exhibited, a number of students in Holland are eager to take part in sustainable activities. There is a social enterprise that aims to help universities support such student projects: rootAbility. Through the platforms
and networks provided by rootAbility, even students who are not majoring in sustainability can play a key role in the issue.
rootAbility was set up in 2012 by five friends after their successful establishment of the first student-led sustainability
department, the Maastricht University Green Office in Holland. The Maastricht University Green Office was founded in September, 2010 under a very inspiring model of universities financially supporting student projects and students collaborating with academics, staff and volunteers.
“We found out this was actually a very innovative and novel model to advance sustainability at a university,” explained Felix Spira, one of the founding members of rootAbility. “What the Green Office achieved was that it brought together all these different stakeholder groups mainly by mobilizing the energy of the students.”
In short, rootAbility supports students and staff to promote sustainability at universities by helping them set up student-led, staffsupported units. The social business also runs workshops to help students acquire the skills necessary to make transformations in the university, gives presentations and talks at sustainability conferences, and promotes
research based on the Green Office model.
“I would say my role in rootAbility is the role of the visionary,” Spira mused. “I really have a big vision on how what we are doing can contribute to systemic changes within the higher education system. That means we can bring about a fundamental shift in the way students are engaged with sustainability at the university – bringing them from the
margins to the center, the heart of the process and then using their energy and drive.”
According to Spira, universities should care about the issue of sustainability because of the role they have within society.
“Universities produce knowledge through research and this knowledge then gets applied either through new technologies or consultancy work,” Spira commented. “So we have this reflection by universities and
researchers on society and their production of knowledge and feedback. It is a very crucial question what we are actually learning from the research that is being done at universities.”
Regarding this crucial question, the topic of sustainability can serve as a sufficiently fascinating and driving subject.
“It touches upon the areas of how we can change the original research and education structures, the whole operational sites of energy management as well as how we can help universities to contribute more to sustainability transitions,” Spira added.
Because the role of universities and its students and the meaning of environmental sustainability are significant in modern society, the university-related works of rootAbility have their own significance.
“rootAbility is still a very small organization, but I think with what we are doing, we can have a very big impact,” Spira proclaimed.