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Beyond the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Addressing Sustainability and Development

Look to the future and develop solutions to pressing global issues by understanding and analysing the SDGs.

696 enrolled on this course

Collage of different environments and materials including a concrete block of flats, foliage, glaciers, forests, cardboard and discarded plastics
  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    2 hours

Implement solutions that address and go beyond the SDGS

Meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or Global Goals is proving very challenging, as countries around the world deal with biodiversity loss, climate change, poverty and inequality, and ecosystem degradation.

This four-week course from the University of Michigan explains how societies can tackle and even go beyond the SDGs, by looking at sustainability and development as two equally important ideas rather than a single concept. The result is an in-depth exploration of how all the factors related to Global Goals influence each other.

Explore interrelated fields to find SDG connections

Over the duration of this course, you’ll get the chance to look at how investigation and action into climate change, biodiversity loss, and other key issues can build bridges between different fields.

As you compare the impact SDG solutions have on natural, social, and applied sciences, as well as humanities, you’ll gain insights into the synergies and tradeoffs between these areas.

Go beyond Global Goals for sustainable solutions

Once you’ve seen how the Sustainable Development Goals are connected to different fields, you’ll start on the ultimate goal of this course; to understand and address sustainability and development as equally important, coexisting issues.

Through in-depth analysis of each SDG, how it is being achieved, and how it relates to the world’s most pressing problems, you’ll learn how to best develop and apply solutions to global concerns.

Look to the future with SDG experts

The University of Michigan is one of the best places to learn not only about the current state of the Sustainable Development Goals, but also about how to go beyond them. With such a wealth of experience and learner support, the insightful ideas in this course are easy to grasp.


  • Week 1

    Introduction to the course

    • Introduction to the course


    • Sustainability and Development

      Why did we choose to frame this course around 'sustainability and development', rather than 'sustainable development'?

    • Climate Change and Climate Action

      What are the different ways in which the climate is changing? How and why are different populations disproportionately impacted by these changes?

    • Michigan Sustainability Cases

      Explore the research and expertise of Dr. Maria Lemos and engage in a case called Climate and Development. This case focuses on anti-poverty programs in Brazil and their effect on families.

  • Week 2

    Poverty and Inequality

    • Introduction to Poverty

      What does poverty look like around the world? How do we define and measure poverty?

    • A Changing World

      Now that we better understand poverty, we will examine how poverty levels have changed over time, how poverty is projected to continue changing, and the mechanisms and ethics of addressing poverty today.

    • Combatting Poverty and Inequality

      We will take a look at some of the attempts, and different strategies, used by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and governments, to address issues of poverty and inequality.

    • Unemployment Benefits

      What are the different kinds of assets households possess? In the face of a sudden change in income, how can we support households and alleviate poverty?

    • Addressing Poverty: Environmental Resources

      How do people around the world utilize their environmental resources to combat poverty in their communities? We'll learn about ecotourism, payments for ecosystem services, and wrap up with future trends.

    • Engage

      Test your knowledge of poverty and inequality and review a case study from Kenya.

  • Week 3

    Biodiversity Loss and Ecosystem Degradation

    • Introduction to Biodiversity Loss and Ecosystem Degradation

      In this week, you can expect to learn about why environmental changes happen, what the drivers and impacts of these changes are, and how to share ecosystems between people and wildlife while preventing environmental degradation.

    • Engage

      Dive deeper: complete a quiz on biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation, review a case study centered on East Africa, and discuss your takeaways with peers.

  • Week 4

    Trade Offs and Synergies

    • Sustainability Science

      You can expect to learn about sustainability science and how it applies to sustainability and development.

    • Five Transitions of Human Societies

      You can expect to learn about transitions in human societies and how those lessons learned apply to sustainability transitions.

    • Examples and Solutions

      We finish this week looking at examples of solutions, and how you can improve sustainability solutions for better outcomes.

    • Quiz and Final Thoughts

      Take a last opportunity to test your knowledge of trade-offs and synergy, and reflect on your course experience.

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Assess and analyze the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their relationship to the world's most pressing problems.
  • Apply frameworks and evidence necessary to develop solutions.
  • Describe the world's most pressing problems with a specific focus on poverty & inequality, ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss, and climate change.
  • Apply skills learned to implement solutions.
  • Assess relevant solutions that would help realize the SDGs and at the same time, solve pressing problems.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone interested in solutions for climate change and biodiversity loss. Individuals studying or considering a career in sustainability, environmental science, or any other related fields will find it especially valuable.

Who developed the course?

University of Michigan

As the #1 public research university in the United States, U-M has been a leader in research, learning, and teaching for more than 200 years, with 102 Grad programs in the top 10 — U.S. News & World Report (2019).

  • Established

  • Location

    Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
  • World ranking

    Top 30Source: Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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