Study: alternative framing influences entrepreneurship training success

Shop owner takes notes with a pen while using a digital tablet while sitting in a craft store

Providing entrepreneurship training programs to individuals living in poverty has been a growing trend worldwide over the past two decades. New research from York University’s Schulich School of Business suggests that how new entrepreneurial practices are framed can significantly impact the extent to which they are ultimately adopted by trainees.

Geoffrey Kistruck
Geoffrey Kistruck

The findings are contained in a recently published article in the Journal of Business Venturing, titled “Exploring the relative efficacy of ‘within-logic contrasting’ and ‘cross-logic analogizing’ framing tactics for adopting new entrepreneurial practices in contexts of poverty.” The article was co-written by Geoffrey M. Kistruck, a professor and RBC Chair in Social Innovation and Impact at Schulich, together with Charlene Zietsma, the Max McGraw Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment & Sustainability; Angelique Slade Shantz, an assistant professor of strategy, entrepreneurship and management at the University of Alberta; and Luciano Barin Cruz, director of sustainability transition at HEC Montréal.

The researchers conducted a mixed-methods field experiment in rural Sri Lanka with an entrepreneurship education and training partner involving 683 entrepreneurs. They used two framing tactics for introducing new entrepreneurial practices. The first framing tactic – “within-logic contrasting” – is the dominant framing approach used currently, and is focused on distinguishing the behaviour of unsuccessful entrepreneurs with highly successful entrepreneurs or “role models” who used the newly prescribed entrepreneurial practices. The second framing tactic – “cross-logic analogizing” – was an alternative designed by the researchers, and focused on likening the newly prescribed entrepreneurial practices to activities that individuals routinely engage in within the non-business domains of their lives – everything from new cooking recipes to trying different ways to better protect their children from mosquitoes. Ultimately, the researchers found that cross-logic analogizing was more efficacious in terms of both a change in entrepreneurial mindset and entrepreneurial behaviour.

“Our research findings contribute to entrepreneurship theory and practice by helping to explain and predict why and when alternative framing tactics can significantly impact the success or failure of entrepreneurship education and training programs in impoverished regions,” says Kistruck. “Individuals living in poverty are often forced to rely heavily on routines and heuristics in order to survive. Entrepreneurship training efforts that essentially ‘borrow’ from existing logics rather than require the ‘building’ of new logics have a much better chance of ultimately being adopted in such contexts.” 

Dahdaleh Institute summer interns to showcase global health research

Global health

The Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research (DIGHR) invites York University community members to its fifth Summer Global Health Intern Symposium on Aug. 30.

DIGHR poster

Throughout the summer term, Dahdaleh global health interns have been undertaking exciting research projects that address critical global health challenges.

On Aug. 30, eight interns will reflect on their internship and deliver a short presentation about the experience, knowledge and skills they have gained, and will share progress on their research projects, including:

DIGHR research
Global health interns
  • experiential-based simulation learning;
  • effects of resource insecurity on health outcomes;
  • mental and emotional health and wellness;
  • post-pandemic public health reforms; and
  • impact of human behaviour on antimicrobial resistance.

To learn more about this event, or to register to attend, visit

Lunch will be provided. All are welcome to attend.

The Dahdaleh Institute is currently hiring the next cohort of global health interns for the upcoming Fall/Winter 2023-24 academic year. All interested applicants are encouraged to visit the DIGHR website to learn more.

York ranks among top universities making global impact for positive change 

Times Higher Education Impact Rankings banner

By Ashley Goodfellow Craig, YFile editor

York University continues to stand out as a global leader in building a more just and sustainable future by driving positive change through the shared vision and collective actions of its faculty, course directors, staff, students, alumni and community partners.

The University is positioned among the world’s top 40 universities for advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the 2023 Times Higher Education Impact Rankings which measure how more than 1,500 universities work to address the most complex and compelling societal issues of our time.

The results of the rankings – the only global report of its kind – recognize York’s interdisciplinary research and innovation strengths in sustainability, inclusivity and equity that have earned the University placing in the top three per cent of universities in the world overall.

Work to advance the SDGs is rooted in the University Academic Plan as reflected in York’s vision to provide a broad demographic of students with access to high-quality education at a research-intensive University that is committed to enhancing the well-being of the communities it serves.

“York University continues to be recognized worldwide for its leadership in advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. York’s top 40 ranking is a testament to the ongoing commitment of our faculty, staff, students and instructors who have taken up the challenge outlined in our University Academic Plan to strengthen our impact,” says President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton. “I am grateful to the entire York community for driving positive change and building a better future for everyone.”

The Times Higher Education Impact Rankings considers factors such as research, stewardship, outreach and teaching to determine the rank for each institution. York’s position in the rankings speaks to its strong global standings in the SDGs, with nine of 17 ranked in the top 100. Learn more about the rankings here.

York’s commitment to answering the call to right the future reflects the dedication of faculty, instructors, staff, students and alumni to research, academic pursuits and campus initiatives that advance more inclusive, equitable and sustainable communities.

York community members are encouraged to update their email signatures with the latest rankings and see other ways to amplify this achievement by using this toolkit.

York library exhibits to reflect on Congress theme Reckonings and Re-Imaginings

Scott Library

By Elaine Smith

Congress 2023 at York University will involve more than academic presentations and panel discussions, as York University Libraries is set to showcase its unique archival holdings built through five decades of preserving cultural heritage.

Michael Moir, University archivist, and his team have been working for many months to create thought-provoking, interesting exhibits for the event. Three exhibits will be on display on the second floor of the library between May 27 and June 2 reflecting on the event theme, Reckonings and Re-imaginings.

At Congress in 2006, “John Lennox, the former dean of Graduate Studies approached the archives about having exhibits of interest to various learned societies,” said Moir, who is also head, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections. “When Congress’ return to York was announced, the Libraries began to plan for participation in the celebration, building upon our first experience.”

The first exhibit, Reckoning and Reimagining: Deborah Barndt’s Engaged Use of Photography, showcases images taken by the retired professor, who is also curating the display. The exhibit will focus a contemporary lens on photos of migrants to Peru in the 1970s; posters from ESL classes in Toronto between 1977 and 1984; literacy teachers in Nicaragua learning to be photojournalists during the Sandinista regime in the 1990s; and urgent social issues of the early 1990s.

Celebrating Black Emancipation Through Carnival focuses on the work of the late Kenneth Shah, a native of Trinidad and Tobago who immigrated to Toronto and was a major force for years in the city’s Caribana, an annual celebration of the emancipation of the Caribbean’s Black population. His costume designs were featured in the parade year after year and the colours and styles will be on display for viewers.

Ben Wicks, the late cartoonist, and his work are the focus of the third exhibit, Cartoons as Commentary and Agents of Change.

“Wicks was known for his cartoons and his work with CBC-TV,” said Moir. “Fewer people are aware of his humanitarian work and his campaigns against poverty and malnutrition in Canada and Africa, and to promote children’s literacy. We seldom think of cartoons as agents of change, but he used them to draw attention to causes dear to his heart.”

The Wicks family donated many of his drawings, scrapbooks and episodes of his television show to York and a selection of these aims to give the viewer more insight into his work as a changemaker.

All three exhibits will be open to the public during regular library hours, except if a Congress 2023 reception is taking place in the space.

York University and the Federation for Humanities and Social Sciences will host Congress 2023 from May 27 to June 2. Register here to attend. Term dates have been adjusted to align with timelines for this year’s event.

Study explores barriers, opportunities for implementing Finnish Baby Box concept in Canada

A new study out of York University examines how the Finnish Baby Box concept was instituted across nations identified as liberal welfare states, such as Canada, the U.K. and the U.S., that minimize income redistribution, social spending and management of the labour market. It also identified numerous barriers to building progressive public policy in these nations.

For more than 80 years in Finland, expectant mothers have been provided with a cardboard box containing an extensive collection of clothing, bathing products and diapers, together with bedding and a small mattress, which could be used to place the baby in if necessary.

Dennis Raphael
Dennis Raphael

Faculty of Health Professor Dennis Raphael and Alexis Blair-Hamilton, a recent graduate of the Health Studies program at York and lead author of the study, investigated how the concept was translated in liberal welfare states. Raphael says they were led to do so by their observing that governmental authorities and the media in Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. put forth the mistaken belief that Finland’s very low infant mortality rate was achieved by having babies sleep in the box rather than by the advantages provided by Finland’s extensive social democratic welfare state.

Using a critical case study methodology, the study looked at whether the Finnish Baby Box concept’s implementation in Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. experienced message distortion (having the box serve as a means of preventing SIDS rather than providing essentials associated with childbirth), commercialization and watering down of content and authorities, and media separation of the baby box concept from the broad array of Finnish welfare state policies that support families with children.

Numerous barriers to building progressive public policy in these three countries were identified, including: “the structures and processes of the liberal welfare state, commercial interests that skew public policymaking and media logic that limits news reporting to the concrete and simple, eschewing complex analysis.”

Additionally, the researchers found that only Scotland and Wales recognized the decommodification and equity roles played by the Finnish baby box and its contents. The authors noted that in Scotland and Wales, like Finland, governing authorities were decidedly on the left-wing of national politics, demonstrating how a commitment to equity and social democracy serve as important spurs to health promoting public policy. Barriers and opportunities in liberal welfare states for implementing such public policy to support families and promote health and well-being were considered.

The full study “A critical analysis of the Finnish Baby Box’s journey in to the liberal welfare state: Implications for progressive public policymaking” is available for free download until May 17. To obtain a copy of the study after May 17, contact Raphael at

LA&PS students receive Aspiration Awards

Two dozen third-year Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) students were recognized for their academic improvement and commitment to excellence.

The Aspiration Award was created in 2017 to help increase graduation rates by focusing on third-year students who have demonstrated academic improvement between their first and second years of study and face financial need. The idea for the awards fund was sparked by student Board of Governors member Elisa Alloul. Alloul expressed to the board that while entrance awards were helpful, it was important to put more emphasis on supporting students who were in the middle of earning their degree. As a response, then-board Chair, Rick Waugh, kicked off the fundraising effort with a gift of $3,000. Since then, LA&PS has made appeals to the alumni community, who also responded with generosity. As a result, the Faculty has established a permanent Aspiration Awards endowment fund that supports multiple students every year.

The 2022-2023 recipients – each awarded $1,500 – represent the wide spectrum of disciplines at LA&PS, including students of philosophy, anthropology, human rights and equity studies, cognitive science, and law and society.

Among this year’s recipients there were a range of positive reactions, indicating the impact the Aspiration Award has on their lives and studies.

“This award is really motivating and will continue to push me until the end of my degree. It is nice to be acknowledged for putting in the hard work, and I’m grateful to have received this award,” said Omead Khodashenas, a honours law and society student.

Fourth-year student Navjot Kaur Nagra, also in law and society, said the Aspiration Award helped boost her academic confidence. “Receiving this certificate is a humbling experience, as it serves as a tangible reminder of the progress I have made during my years studying at York University.”

John Lee, in his third year of philosophy, sees the award as a long-term investment in his academic success. “The LA&PS Aspiration Award has provided the opportunity for me to pursue my academic goals without the burden of financial stress,” he said. “Many people, including myself, view education as an investment into our future with the benefits revealed only after we graduate. However, this award has shown that there are benefits along your academic journey as well.”

“The award recognizes my work ethic which makes me more passionate about my field and the program I am in,” said Lindsay LeBlanc, a third-year majoring in anthropology and advocacy and minoring in public engagement training.

Religious studies student, Farhat S. Malik, credits the award with helping to relieve some of the financial stress he was experiencing. “I am thankful from the depth of my heart for the Faculty, LA&PS. This award has given me the utmost support to save my sinking ship in the financial ocean. Now I am worry-free, and I can entirely focus on my studies.”

Recipients must be Canadian citizens, permanent residents and/or protected persons and/or Ontario residents who demonstrate financial need. To be considered, students must complete a Student Financial Profile. The Faculty will confirm each student’s GPA increase to be deemed eligible for the award. The Aspiration Award will be available during the student’s third year, and is renewable for the student’s fourth year if a similar average is maintained between their second and third year. More information on the award, and how to apply, can be found here.

Here is the full list of this year’s award recipients and the degrees they’re working towards:

  • Abdul Muqeet Ansari, BA (Specialized Honours) in cognitive science
  • Vanessa Crystal Bajnauth, BA (Honours) in law and society
  • Jason Carneiro, BA, undecided major
  • Shinelle Destiny Sincere Grant, BHRM, human resources management
  • Orien King Qin Huang, BCom (Specialized Honours) in commerce (management)
  • Sarah Nael Humidan, BCom (Specialized Honours) in commerce (accounting)
  • Charos Khusheva, BA (Honours) in human rights and equity studies
  • Matthew Mei, BCom (Specialized Honours) in commerce (management)
  • Fatima Mirza, BA, interdisciplinary social science
  • Aman Hussein Mohammed, BA (Honours) in political science
  • Sarah Noor, BHRM, human resources management
  • Huda Hashi Nur, BA (Honours) double major in international development studies and English
  • Richard Mai-Dinh Huy Pham, BA (Specialized Honours) in English
  • Natalie Christine Royer, BA (Specialized Honours) in speech and language sciences
  • Sebastian John Cordeiro Sanginesi, BA, humanities
  • Abdullah Syed, BA (Specialized Honours) in information technology
  • Hajira Taimoor, BA (Honours) in business and society (global economy stream, social economy stream)
  • Tianchai Viboonmethakorn, BCom (Specialized Honours) in information technology (business systems analysis)
  • Justin Michael Walcott, BA, undecided major

York researchers invited to share, collaborate at global health workshop

FEATURED Global Health

Call for presenters: The Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research invites the York University community to join the ongoing discussion on critical social science perspectives in global health research.

Critical research often involves the use of critical theory with social justice aims. Critical social science perspectives in global health (CPGH) are transdisciplinary, participatory, experimental or experiential analyses that seek greater effectiveness, equity and excellence in global health. This means engaging directly with global public health actors, structures and systems to transform global public health while remaining committed to social science theory and methodology. For more information, visit the CPGH project page.

There is an open call to York researchers to consider presenting at the Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research’s fourth annual, Workshop on Critical Social Science Perspectives in Global Health Research on March 29. The registration deadline for new research ideas presentations is March 20. Participants will engage with the research community at York University from a variety of disciplines to create new insights, foster collaboration and discuss research opportunities. The workshop will be an in-person event at the Dahdaleh Institute with continental breakfast and lunch. All are welcome to attend.

Critical Perspectives in Global Health Research Workshop Wednesday, March 29

Who can present?
York faculty and researchers (with the support of a York faculty member) are invited to deliver presentations.

What is the format of the presentations?
Interested participants are asked to prepare a brief five-minute, two-slide presentation on any research project, current or planned, which takes a critical social science approach to global health.

Seed grants
Following the workshop, the Dahdaleh Institute will launch the 2023 Critical Perspectives in Global Health Seed Grant program and award five research seed grants of up to $5,000 each. The seed grants will support critical global health research that contributes to the themes of the Dahdaleh Institute, which are planetary health, global health and humanitarianism, as well as global health foresighting.

For more information on these research themes, visit the Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research website. For the event’s full agenda, visit the event page.

Osgoode RedDress Week honours murdered and missing Indigenous women

Red dress hanging from tree branches beside lonely arboreal highway, stock image banner for missing Indigenous girls awareness

As third-year law students Megan Delaronde and Annika Butler recently wrote out the stories of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, one fact became painfully clear: the Canadian justice system has not solved the vast majority of cases.

Butler, the co-chair of the Osgoode Indigenous Students’ Association (OISA); Delaronde, OISA’s director of cultural and community relations; and a group of other volunteers, wrote out 300 of the stories for OISA’s “RedDress Week” (Feb. 13 to 17), posting them throughout the main floor of the law school along with a number of red dresses. They selected stories from thousands of cases chronicled in a database maintained by the Gatineau, Que.-based Native Women’s Association of Canada.

“There are stories that I have written out that will stick with me,” said Delaronde, a member of the Red Sky Métis Independent Nation in Thunder Bay, Ont.

She and Butler, a member of the Mattawa/North Bay Algonquin First Nation, pointed to examples like a nine-month-old baby girl who died in foster care – no charges were ever laid – or 20-year-old Cheyenne Fox of Toronto, whose three 911 calls just prior to her 2013 murder went unanswered.

“I think a lot of the time this problem stays abstract for people who aren’t Indigenous,” said Delaronde. “One of the things we were hoping to accomplish with our names wall was to show the vastness of this problem and for people to understand that these aren’t just names. Many of them were mothers and the vast majority of these cases have gone unsolved.”

Many of the postings on the wall did not carry a name. “A lot of the names of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) we don’t know,” said Butler, “but we still wanted to hold a place in our hearts for them.”

She noted that official statistics kept by police underestimate the number of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada compared with records kept by the Native Women’s Association and other Indigenous organizations and communities.

Osgoode Indigenous Students’ Association members, from left: Megan Delaronde, Hannah Johnson, Sage Hartmann and Annika Butler.
Osgoode Indigenous Students’ Association members, from left: Megan Delaronde, Hannah Johnson, Sage Hartmann and Annika Butler.

OISA’s “RedDress Week” this year was the most extensive in the club’s history. Inspired by Métis artist Jaime Black’s 2010 art installation, “The REDress Project,” Red Dress events are typically held in May to raise awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous women. But because the academic year is usually over by May, Delaronde said OISA decided to schedule the event in February.

She said the timing seemed appropriate considering one of the latest reminders of the continuing tragedy ­– the recent murders of four Indigenous women in Winnipeg: Rebecca Contois, 24; Marcedes Myran, 26; Morgan Harris, 39, a mother of five children; and a fourth unidentified woman who has been named Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe, or Buffalo Woman.

“We wanted to ramp it up this year so we poured our hearts into it,” said Delaronde.

The group also organized a trivia night event that raised almost $1,000 for the Native Women’s Association of Canada.

Butler and Delaronde said that OISA’s first-year reps Sage Hartmann (Red River Métis) and Hannah Johnson (Secwepemc Nation) also played a key role in organizing the event, with support from OISA members Levi Marshall and Conner Koe, Osgoode’s student government and Osgoode’s Office of the Executive Officer.

Past and future OISA events

In September, OISA organized a special event for Orange Shirt Day (also known as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation), with guest speakers and Osgoode alumni Deliah Opekokew (LLB ‘77), the first First Nations lawyer to ever be admitted to the bar association in Ontario and in Saskatchewan; and Kimberly Murray (LLB ‘93), who serves as the federal government’s special interlocutor on unmarked graves at former residential schools. In March, it plans to organize a Moose Hide Campaign Day. The Moose Hide Campaign is a nationwide movement of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians from local communities, First Nations, governments, schools, colleges/universities, police forces and many other organizations committed to taking action to end violence against women and children.

Dahdaleh Institute Seminar Series presents four events in January, February

global health

The Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research at York University continues its 2022-23 Seminar Series with four events planned for January and February.

All talks will be delivered in hybrid format. Everyone is welcome. Attendees will join global health leaders, researchers, practitioners and students and during the series, and will have an opportunity to learn about the important collaborative and transdisciplinary research happening at the Dahdaleh Institute (in the thematic research areas of Planetary Health, Global Health & Humanitarianism, and Global Health Foresighting).

The schedule of events and full details are available online.

Wednesday, Jan. 25, 1 to 2 p.m.
How to Influence Public Policy … What Happens When You Leave the Room? with Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Public policy is about making the world better. However, this only happens when policymakers consider all relevant points of view.

After defining some key terms, the discussion will focus on how scientists and other technical experts should engage government for maximal positive impact. Drawing from his varied policy experiences in both Canada and Haiti, Jean-Jacques Rousseau will provide tips on how to advocate for policy change. The key takeaway is that, while science is necessary, it is not sufficient in making a positive impact in the policy realm. This is true even in areas like pandemic preparedness where science is predominant.

Rousseau is a philosopher of science, innovation policy expert, and serial entrepreneur. He is passionate about innovation for impact and committed to unlocking the value of AI for positive change.

Wednesday, Feb. 1, 1 to 2 p.m.
Global Environmental Changes, Resource Insecurity and Health Outcomes, with Godfred Boateng

Global environmental changes have become critical determinants of health affecting the most vulnerable populations in poor resource settings. These environmental changes produce effects such as resource insecurity, greater poverty and deprivation, the spread of new and recurring infectious diseases, and poor health outcomes, which create an existential humanitarian crisis requiring an anticipatory approach instead of a reactionary one.

In this presentation, Godfred Boateng – assistant professor at the School of Global Health, director of the Global and Environmental Health Lab, and a Faculty Fellow at the Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research at York University – will highlight some of the key components of his research program in Global Health and Humanitarianism.

Drawing from quantitative data collected from Kenya, Ghana, and Malawi, Godfred will show the prevalence and deleterious consequences of resource insecurity among households in informal settlements. Through this presentation, he will show the significance of being able to measure and quantify the different forms of resource insecurity, the different pathways by which components such as food, water, energy, and housing insecurity can enhance our understanding of vulnerabilities faced by underserved populations, and the relationship of his research outcomes to several of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Wednesday, Feb. 8, 1 to 2 p.m.
Methodologies for Co-Designing Community Responses in Sierra Leone, with Megan Corbett-Thompson, Jessica Farber, and Osman Sow

In this presentation, Megan Corbett-Thompson, a CommunityFirst Fellow co-sponsored by the Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research and the SeeChange Initiative, will reflect on the importance of applying participatory methodologies that enable the effective involvement of community members to respond to the health challenges identified by communities. Together with Jessica Farber of See Change and Osman Sow, a paediatric and neonatal clinical officer, Corbett-Thompson will examine the context of building effective solutions to humanitarian health crises in Sierra Leone.

Wednesday, Feb. 22, 1 to 2 p.m.
The Orthodox Legal and Policy Framework Governing the Harm of Displacement and NATO’s Policy for the Protection of Civilians 2016, with Sarah Khan

In 2022, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) estimated that 59.1 million persons remain internally displaced (53.2 million due to conflict), and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that 27.1 million are displaced across international borders as refugees. The highest figure of displacement on record since record keeping began. 

This research examines the existing orthodox International Legal and Policy Framework regulating the harm of displacement in contemporary crisis situations. It queries whether the “harm of displacement,” as envisaged in this orthodox framework sufficiently captures the scale, gravity, and multi-faceted nature of this harm. The research hypothesizes that the failure to specifically reference the “harm of displacement” in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s landmark Policy for the Protection of Civilians 2016 is emblematic of the limitations of this orthodox International Legal and Policy framework.

In this seminar, Sarah Khan, a master of law (LLM) research student at Osgoode Hall Law School and Dahdaleh Global Health graduate scholar, will present her year-long research for the LLM Research Program at Osgoode Hall Law School.

Register here to attend these events.

York University maps courses that teach about Sustainable Development Goals

Image shows a hand holding a pine cone against a lush backdrop of greenery

York University is internationally recognized for its contributions to addressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) through teaching, research, stewardship, and partnerships. York’s annual SDG report is a snapshot of some of the work the University is doing in collaboration with Canadian and international partners to advance the Global Goals.

“The University is making determined and substantial strides towards the goals, through the power of higher education,” says York University’s Provost and VP Academic Lisa Philipps.  

As the world rapidly approaches 2030, youth have been mobilizing to compel global leaders to take urgent action on the SDGs. “As a global SDG leader, York University and its students are already playing an integral role in this movement,” adds Philipps.

To continuously improve the support offered to students and graduates who are tackling these challenges, York University has embarked on a process of understanding how its courses address or are linked to the SDGs. This initiative maps York courses with one or more of the SDGs, as appropriate, and the University is making this information available to the community on its SDG website.

The goal is to better inform students about learning opportunities related to the SDGs, to understand York’s strengths and curricular assets across the disciplines, and to increase awareness and deepen SDG-related conversations at the University and beyond.

Teaching the SDGs: the number of York courses related to each Global Goal

The above graphic shows the number of courses that relate to each of the United Nations 17 SDGs

Lessons learned from mapping courses

In consultation with OSDG, an open access tool developed by the United Nations Development Program’s SDG AI Lab and the EU-based thinktank PPMI, York analysts were able to undertake this process. They looked at both undergraduate and graduate courses offered in both English or French across all Faculties and all courses offered at the time of this analysis.

This approach looked at the use of more than 20,000 keywords and with the help of machine learning identified courses that are related to one or more of the SDGs through course titles and official descriptions. The University learned about the OSDG tool from University College London.

York University is the OSDG’s first official North American partner, as the organization works with a range of global partners such as the University of Hong Kong. York analysts consulted other universities in Ontario, British Columbia, California, England and New Zealand, organizations like York that are recognized for their global leadership on SDGs. Those consultations focused on learning about best practices for mapping and sharing SDG-relevant courses with their respective communities.

In total, analysts identified 1,635 courses (38 per cent of all courses), that are related to at least one SDG. Mapping for SDG 17 is still in development. All Faculties were represented among the mapped courses and the above table shows the number of courses that were identified as being related to each SDG.

The OSDG’s machine learning-enabled course mapping functionality flagged SDG-related courses when they specifically referenced the SDGs in the curriculum or where the curriculum empowered students to independently tackle an SDG theme within or outside of the classroom.

Many courses also mapped to more than one SDG – in fact, 285 courses were simultaneously mapped to two SDGs and 43 courses mapped to three SDGs. The process of mapping courses to the SDGs is iterative and analysts recognize that it is reliant upon the use of specific keywords and phrases found in current courses descriptions. As course descriptions continue to evolve, the analysis will be updated.

This approach will continue to improve over time, as new keywords are contributed to the OSDG’s bank. The full list of mapped courses will be published by Spring 2023 on York’s SDG website for the benefit of prospective and current students. The University will invite feedback in the lead up to publishing these courses and will continue to welcome ongoing feedback thereafter to ensure the mapped list of courses are kept up to date, and remain helpful for the York community.

The current analysis will serve as a starting point to improve the process of capturing SDG-related courses and advancing SDG education, and research on the SDGs, as outlined in the University Academic Plan.

Feedback from former Provostial Fellow and Professor Cheryl van Daalen-Smith, associate dean, academic; the Sustainability Office; the UNESCO Chair in Reorienting Education Towards Sustainability; and the Vice-Provost Students team has also been invaluable during this initial mapping endeavor. This Provostial initiative was supported by the Associate Vice-President Teaching & Learning, the University Registrar, the Office of Institutional Planning and Analysis and York International.