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The INDICARE-model - Measuring and caring about participation in higher education's sustainability assessment

Disterheft, A and Caeiro, SS and Leal Filho, W and Azeiteiro, UM (2016) The INDICARE-model - Measuring and caring about participation in higher education's sustainability assessment. Ecological Indicators, 63. pp. 172-186. ISSN 1470-160X

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Abstract

© 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.The implementation of sustainability in higher education has been advanced over at least the last two decades and brought sustainability assessment on the research agenda of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and sustainability science. Participatory approaches have gained increasing attention in these endeavours, but remain often vague and less addressed in sustainability assessment procedures. To fill in this gap, an indicator-based model, INDICARE, was developed that can assist in assessing participatory processes within higher education's sustainability initiatives. The objective of this paper is to introduce and discuss the model's theoretical background, its structure, applicability, and how it can broaden the perspectives on participation and sustainability assessment in the university context. Embedded in a cross-sectional qualitative research design, the model was developed in iterative stages and was presented and adjusted along six feedback loops, having been presented to 98 persons during conferences, workshops and university meetings. Inspired by biophilic ideas, transformative learning theories and participatory evaluation, INDICARE follows an ecocentric and integrative perspective that places the earth and its community at the centre of attention. A preliminary set of thirty indicators and practices, grouped in three categories of context, process, and transformation, is proposed. The assessment process itself is considered as a thought-provoking exercise rather than as a control tool and emphasizes the interplay of personal reflection and action-oriented outreach. INDICARE intends to invigorate the sustainability debate in higher education, in particular by proposing a more holistic approach to assessment that underlines experiencing the interconnectedness of human-nature relationships, combined with reflective exercises that can respond better to the call for transformation on individual and institutional level.

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