Future17 Sustainable Development Goals Challenge



Future17 Sustainable Development Goals Challenge: September- December 2024

Do you have a heart for creating a visible impact in your community?
Are you searching for tools to help you realise a sustainable project?
Do you want to learn more about Sustainable Development and how you can be a part of it?

Learn about the key aspect of the UN’s SDGs (Sustain​able Development Goals) in this innovative new Short Course: The 17 SDGs were adopted by 195 UN member nations in 2015, to end poverty, protect the environment and planet, and ensure peace and prosperity for all citizens on earth by 2030. Each SDG balances social, economical, and environmental sustainability​.​ The SDGs also align strongly with the AU’s Agenda 2063 for a peaceful and prosperous Africa (see the overlap).


Please join us as the SDG/2063 Impact Hub as we gear up to host the fourth Future17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Challenge Literacy programme at SU. Eligible students are invited to apply to participate in real-life challenges with an industry partner, using the SDGs as a framework, while staff are invited to apply as an academic mentor for the same offering in 2024.


Background to Challenge: The Future17 SDG Challenge Short Course, launched at SU in March 2022 offers a unique opportunity to take part in a new global sustainability education programme across disciplines and cultures set by the SDG Challenge Partners. It uses the UN’s SDGs as a framework to help find solutions for the global, interdisciplinary challenges we are facing, while building participants’ key employability, critical thinking and presentation skills. Participants will use collaborative and innovative ways to approach challenges, working with the partner universities and mentors assigned by the different institutions.  You can read more about the UN’s Agenda 2030 and the SDGs here.

The Institutions: This prestigious short course is presented by the University of Exeter (UK), QS World University Rankings and a consortium of universities. Stellenbosch University as a founding member forms part of this consortium, alongside the Chinese University of Hong Kong and São Paulo (Brazil), Auckland University (NZ), The American University in Cairo (Egypt), LUISS University in Rome (Italy) Arizona State University (USA) and The American University in Sharjah (UAE). More institutions will be announced shortly. The industry Challenge Partners include organisations like​ NGOs, institutions and companies that have conceptualised challenges. Challenges can range from creating a digital strategy to promote the SDGs to University students, doing market research for urban farms, to recycling soap from hotel chains to create jobs for communities.

Information on previous cohorts: The latest cohort of 40 Students and 11 mentors completed the first offering in early June 2022, by three more offerings, the last one finishing in December 2023: If you would like to know more about the programme and hear from former students, you can read more about the students’ experiences in this news article​.

Short Course structure: This short course is part-time, as selected by the selection panel. The only cost of the course is subsidised by SU International where the Hub is located. The only cost to students, is for certification at R85. The course takes place in an online environment with the partner universities. With this short course (presented virtually), we hope to transform how students at SU are educated on Sustainable Development, as they prepare to become the leaders and policy makers of tomorrow. Candidates that are accepted will learn and develop those skills needed to help solve real world problems and sustainability challenges in a multi-cultural environment.

Eligibility: Undergraduate students from their 3rd year onwards, and all postgraduate students from Honours level in 2024 and up. Interested mentors should hold a PhD and have some teaching experience.

  • Interested mentors and contact the SDG/2063 Impact Hub programme manager and academic lead for the Future17 Challenge directly: corina@sun.ac.za.

Par​ticipants can expect the following from the Challenge

  • 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; 
  • Develop employability skills by providing a space for students to work intensively with academic and SDG Challenge Partner mentors on a sustainable development challenge of mutual interest; 
  • Enable students to gain an appreciation of the sustainable development challenges facing SDG Challenge Partners and how these can be responded to appropriately; 
  • Develop skills for promoting change within organizational settings and developing systems and mechanisms to support such changes; 
  • Develop professional presentation and report writing skills for external organizations; 
  • Promote students’ awareness of and interest in applying academic knowledge to sustainable development challenges in a professional setting; 
  • Provide students with an opportunity to generate non-academic impact for tackling sustainable development challenges.  

Short Course phases: The Future17 Challenge will progress according to the following phases with groups of 6-8 students from the various universities, you can expect to spend approximately 150 hours on the Short Course in total, including consultations with the company you are partnered with. 

 Phase 1: Starting September 2024: Online program induction and skills for tackling sustainability challenges (self-paced learning over four weeks) 

  • Learn about design thinking, collaborative learning and teamwork, liaison with organisations and clients as well as intercultural exchange.  
  • ​​You will need approximately 12 hours to complete this phase
  • You will be assigned to your team and mentor during this phase and start getting to know each other. 

Phase 2: Starting October 2024: Group collaboration on a sustainability challenge (eight weeks plus one week for assessment preparation) 

  • Learn about your sustainability challenge and work with your team and mentor to develop solutions.  
  • You will primarily work on MS Teams as a meeting and document sharing platform.
  • You will need approximately 16 hours for this phase.

Phase 3: Future17 Project presentations: End November/Early December 2024 (final week) 

  • Student group presentations online (one hour, with Q&A) to showcase work to offer further collaborative learning. 
  • Submit a final written assignment one week after the event.  
  • You will need approximately ​4 hours for this phase.
  • We will host an online non-compulsory ‘graduation’ event in January 2025.

In addition to the hands-on time needed for the different phases as above, you might expect to spend another ​​90 hours on independent study and collaborating with your group to complete the project, presentation and final assignment. ​ 

Accreditation: You will be certified for this short course by QS University rankings on the successful completion of the project, as well as Stellenbosch University through our Short Course programmes. There will be both formative (group presentations on project progress) and summative (group presentation and written report).

 You can apply now (Students), until 16 August 2024 after which all applications will be considered by a selection panel. 

For any queries: Please email the Programme Administrator on susdev@sun.ac.za. Student participants from their 3rd academic year postgraduate studets are invited to apply here. Preference will be given to postgraduate students should we have a large response.


Staff with PhDs are invited to apply to be an Academic Mentor.