Future17: How are universities working together to tackle global sustainability problems? | Top Universities

Future17: How are universities working together to tackle global sustainability problems?

By Chloe Lane

Updated July 11, 2022 Updated July 11, 2022

Sponsored by the University of Exeter 

Future17 is a partnership between the University of Exeter and QS to help students tackle the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the workplace. It connects students from multiple universities across the globe, with international organisations to help solve complex challenges and meet the 17 SDGs. 

Hannah Gundry, a University of Exeter Student Ambassador for Future17, said:  

“Future17 has been a really valuable and exciting opportunity for me. I’ve enjoyed working with others, making friends in different countries, and networking with project partners. It’s also a really good opportunity to carry out real-world work without the pressure of being in the workplace.” 

After learning about sustainability and injustices during her geography degree and extracurricular activities, Hannah was looking to further her understanding of what it means to tackle sustainability issues in the workplace.  

She said: “I want to be able to apply what I have learnt and do something to help change the world for the better once I leave university and Future17 provided an excellent way to gain skills within a supported academic structure that will help my future career.”  

What does Future17 involve? 

 During the programme, teams of students are put in contact with an organisation and given an SDG-related challenge. 


Before starting their project, each team completes a four-week induction. The induction provides interactive ways to learn about the concept of sustainability and the SDGs and gives students information about how to carry out projects using design thinking. 

“The induction challenged and developed how I viewed the SDGs and made me more excited about the project ahead, as well as developing the skills I would need to undertake the project,” said Hannah. 

The project 

The teams are then put in touch with a company, which gives them a challenge to solve related to the 17 SDGs.  

It is then up to the teams to assign roles to each person within the group to ensure they meet the required outcomes.  

“We split the roles based on people’s skillsets, which benefitted our group massively as each outcome was completed to the best quality,” said Hannah, who was the project leader for her group.   

As project leader, Hannah led the group’s meetings in which the team discussed the different ideas and came up with action points to complete before the next meeting.  

“Our team worked really well together, and each person had the chance to give their ideas. We merged these to come up with one collective idea,” she said. 

Assessment methods 

The projects are assessed in two ways: a 25-minute group presentation of the project’s process and a more detailed written report. 

“I think that the two types of assessment complemented each other,” said Hannah. “The presentation was exciting and a good way to summarise our digital fundraising strategy, although it was not long enough to go into lots of detail.  

“The written report was more detailed, and, in our presentation, we could point the project partner in the direction of the report to find out more.” 

What types of projects will students do in the Future17 programme? 

The projects taken on by students so far have been incredibly wide-ranging and diverse, offering students the chance to really immerse themselves in the challenge and create unique, sustainable solutions to complex workplace problems.  

“There are so many issues in the world with poverty, climate change, environmental decline, and food insecurity, to name a few and I believe that sustainability and achieving the SDGs provides a universal framework for tackling those issues,” said Hannah.  

Here are just a couple of ways students at the University of Exeter have got involved with Future17 so far. 

Creating a fundraising strategy for QS World Merit  

Hannah’s Future17 project involved creating a digital fundraising strategy for QS World Merit, researching previous campaigns and creating the framework and social media designs for the campaign.  

“It was exciting working as a team on this as we discussed different ideas and came up with fun ways to raise awareness and funds for QS World Merit,” said Hannah. 

The team’s final strategy ‘Get EPIC with QS World Merit’ drew on the charity’s four key values: Empowering, Pioneering, Integrity, and Collaboration.  

The team focused on the SDGs, created ways for people to undertake a physical challenge, outlined recommended social media platforms, and suggested ways to connect the donors and beneficiaries. 

Hannah said: “I think one of the highlights of Future17 for me is the transferable skills I developed in project management, intercultural working and consultancy.  

“These skills will help me to adapt to different working situations, team dynamics, and leadership roles in future jobs, as well as helping me to achieve something for a specific purpose or person. Having these skills will help me to be confident in future jobs and job interviews as I have experience to draw on and learn from.” 

Expanding the Soap for Hope project 

Jasmine Jump was eager to make a difference with her Future17 project. Her team worked with a firm called Diversey on their Soap for Hope programme which helps to recycle soap waste into new soap bars to improve sanitation in at-risk communities.  

Jasmine is hoping to pursue a career in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) so Future17 gave her valuable experience and a taster of what this could involve.  

Jasmine’s team were tasked with investigating if the Soap for Hope programme could legally operate in the EU, UK and Brazil, and uncover similar projects in these locations to identify potential partners. As most of Jasmine’s teammates had legal backgrounds, she instead worked mainly on the market research aspect of the project.  

The project helped Jasmine develop a variety of soft skills and she also learnt how to use Canva to create infographics for the final project. 

“The Soap for Hope project certainly helped me appreciate teamwork with a multi-cultural group, enriching our creative thinking,” she said.  

She has since connected with her teammates on LinkedIn and intends to stay in contact with them. She said: “I admire their time management and am proud of what we developed together”.  

Implementing a pick your own model in a regenerative Spanish farm 

When he heard about Future17, Shire was excited by the prospect of working with people from around the world on a real-world business challenge.  

As his Future17 project, Shire worked directly with a regenerative farm in Spain that was looking to implement a pick-your-own (PYO) model.  

Shire’s team put together an in-depth report about how the farm could approach the PYO model, reach out to customers and expand their scope.  

“I found the experience very interesting as the team worked together to deliver such incredible results,” said Shire. 

This article was originally published in July 2022 .

Want more content like this Register for free site membership to get regular updates and your own personal content feed.

Explore Events

Get assisted by higher education experts

Our expert teams can help start your academic journey by guiding you through the application process.

Related Articles Last year

Most Shared Last year

Most Read Last year