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Interactive introduction to social sustainability

How can engineers, as intended problem solvers, define and work with the multifaceted concept of social sustainability? The course module supports the creation of a working definition and associated methods that enable this aspect to be included in the engineer's work.


Sustainability is introduced briefly where the social aspect is defined, and it is put into the context of the other aspects. The focus of the module moves from the individual perspective, with a focus on the needs of the individual person, to the global perspective. The module is characterised by discussion and experience-based methods, in which the student him/herself is expected to relate to the concept based on him/herself, before the focus is raised to an aggregated global level. The module addresses individual needs, motivation, rights, justice, political perspectives and concrete tools. The layout includes both a generic part about the concept and mankind, as well as an adapted part for each individual programme (developed in connection with the implementation).

The module consists of five lectures and three seminars, where the students are expected to try out an experience-based process as well as play the GaSuCo board game. Literature is used in between these events and examination may consist of exam questions, an assignment or be included in existing assignments. In its full extent, the module consists of 40 hours of working time for the students, equivalent to 1.5 credits.

Background and implementation

The course was developed by a transdisciplinary team in 2014 on behalf of KTH-Sustainability. It was given for the first time in the spring of 2015 for the Degree Programme in Industrial Engineering and Management, and parts of it have appeared in other programmes, such as the Degree Programme in Mechanical Engineering and the Degree Programme in Computer Engineering. For autumn 2015, it will be implemented in a further three programmes. The module is modified and jointly developed on implementation, in order to define the material for each student group. Development and modification also take place continuously based on the experience gained from the implementation in different programmes.


The module aims to give definition and focus to the problematic nature of the concept of social sustainability. This is achieved by providing a number of perspectives that frame the concept but which must also be consolidated in relation to each other. Sustainability extends from an individual's perspective to embracing all the peoples of the world, and it extends in space and time, where the concept of justice becomes a central issue.

Consolidation of perspectives takes place via seminars where discussion and sharing are in focus. Sustainability is a valuation subject, which means that different conclusions can be drawn from the same information, and that the best method for in-depth involvement in the subject is through dialogue.

The student will also be able to experience what social sustainability can mean to him/herself as a person in one of the seminars. In this way, the student can identify with the subject in a new way.

The educational approach used consists of experience-based exercises and discussion-based learning events. The GaSuCo board game is played during the seminars and experience exercises are conducted.

Course material

Lec 1 - Introduction to social sustainability

Lec 2 - The personal perspective of the good life

Lec 3 - Perspectives of justice

Lec 4 - Tools and assignment presentation

Sem 1 - Personal perspective - experience-based

Sem 3 - Tools and case analysis

The course literature used consists of video clips available online as well as scientific articles.

For course material and lectures, contact the course facilitators listed in Contacts or email


Responsible for development, as well as being facilitators and lecturers, are: