*EH 210. Social and Sustainable Innovation Driven by the Sustainable Development Goals


  • Professor: John Spengler, Ramon Sanchez
  • Term: Spring
  • Time: TBA
  • School: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Course ID: 204420

In January 1st of 2016 the United Nations officially released the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which officially launched the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which over the next 15 years will drive global activities to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and reduce climate change. The new goals call for action for all countries to promote economic growth and address a range of social needs including education, health, social protection, and job opportunities, while tackling climate change and environmental protection (UN, 2016). Although SDGs are not legally binding, it is very likely that governments may use them to establish national frameworks for achieving these 17 goals which might trigger innovation at a global scale. However, the task of complying with SDGs should be a shared responsibility with citizens of each country as it is unlikely that governments would be able to act by themselves without people's support. A big percentage of new ideas are likely to be conceived and implemented in developing countries which may require to strengthen their frameworks and capacity to conceive and implement innovation initiatives under their local conditions. For that reason, public health professionals should become agents of change that empower people worldwide by sharing knowledge and developing skills in sustainable practices and technologies, climate change preparedness, social entrepreneurship and the process of creating positive startups to implement sustainable and social innovation to help in achieving SDGs.

This course will examine the relationship between SDGs, community problems and current sustainable and social solutions to serve as a starting point for developing new solutions that might serve as the business or social cases for new startups in health, sustainability or social ventures.

This course will be taught in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico during January of 2017. Students from Harvard University will take classes along with students from the Autonomous University of Yucatan and will work in multi-national teams to assess community needs, prepare climate change vulnerability and resiliency enhancement plans, design health and social solutions to problems to serve as the business case for sustainable startups, develop business or social plans for potential investors, engage the community into participating in developing and implementing solutions and in recommending frameworks to enhance sustainable and social entrepreneurship in a community.

Some of the topics for this course are:

- Sustainable Development Goals as drivers of sustainable, health and social initiatives

- Assessment of health and environmental beneficence of new ideas to achieve SDGs based on scientific tools developed by public health professionals

- Assessment of community vulnerability and resiliency development to the effects of climate change

- The process of identifying and understanding community needs to engage people into participating in achieving the aims of SDGs

- The process of creating social, health or sustainability startups based on SDGs, community needs and climate change preparedness activities

- The process of using health and environmental benefits of sustainable or social value propositions to strengthen the business cases to help funding activities with innovation and social investors

Eligible students may conduct further independent studies, thesis and write papers.