World Café jumpstarts Planetary Health at UNE

World Café jumpstarts Planetary Health at UNE

On November 14, 2017, 40 members of the University of New England community gathered in Leonard Hall to participate in the UNE World Café for Planetary Health. Fueled by locally sourced refreshments, students, faculty, staff and administrators from five colleges engaged in three facilitated conversations, capturing their insights on sticky notes, poster paper and even the tablecloths. The UNE-Planetary Health Steering Committee, comprised of students, faculty and professional staff from across the university hosted the event. It was sponsored by the Office of Strategic Initiatives, Office of Environmental Health and Safety and Office of Student Activities and Organizations.

World Café conversations are based on the format developed by the World Café, a global movement to support meaningful conversations in corporate, government and community settings. The method is based on three principles: people already have within them the wisdom and creativity to confront even the most difficult challenges; the answers we need are available to us; and we are wiser together than we are alone.

The goal of the UNE World Café on Planetary Health was to discover transdisciplinary partnerships and create a roadmap for Planetary Health engagement at UNE. In early 2017, UNE joined the Planetary Health Alliance (PHA), which was founded on the premise that problems occurring in our environment are problems impacting human health – and they must be looked at as a singular issue with a unified solution. Students and faculty attended the first PHA Annual Meeting in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and returned to campus believing that UNE is uniquely positioned to contribute to the planetary health field with its wide breadth of expertise across all six colleges.

Steering Committee member and Marine Sciences Master’s student Dylan Turner ’17 commented, “The issues that we all face today need to be addressed, and can only be addressed, through a lens of Planetary Health. People need to recognize issues as part of a bigger picture and UNE is the perfect place to spread ideas and share concerns and really get something like this moving.” 

Members of the Planetary Health Steering Committee planned the World Café to surface existing UNE planetary health initiatives and build excitement and capacity for creating connections across colleges. “This World Cafe was an opportunity to find common ground between our colleges and disciplines, since human health and environmental health and the intersection of the two is at the core of what UNE values,” said Alethea Carridi, UNE’s Sustainability Coordinator.

The World Café will be a catalyst for the Planetary Health Steering Committee, according to Co-Chair Jen Gunderman-King. “The event was a success in engaging people collaboratively across the university in providing realistic, meaningful strategies for moving planetary health at UNE.” The Steering Committee is synthesizing its findings and will report back to World Café participants in the coming weeks.

Read the latest about Planetary Health at UNE.

Learn more about the Planetary Health Alliance.

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40 members of the UNE community from five colleges engaged in conversations.
40 members of the UNE community from five colleges engaged in conversations, capturing their insights on sticky notes, poster paper and even the tablecloths.