SPARK the Movement
Organisation : Vereniging Circulair Friesland , Netherlands

SPARK the Movement focuses its transformative action on all schools on all levels and in all courses in Friesland. We stimulate primary schools up to university to use the UN-SDGs and the whole school approach, to embed Education for Sustainable Development into the curriculum, didactics and the schoolmanagement. Besides, we help to build strong regional networks with partners in businesses, NGO's and local governmental institutions, in order to make positive social and ecological impact. Together we learn how to build a new reality, by putting up concrete actions, projects and challenges.

Agendas addressed
Climate changeSocial inclusion and integrationLocal economies and employment
Pathways followed
  • Involve citizens through participatory implementation
  • Encourage local private and civic engagement
  • Promote social innovation supporting inclusion
  • Pursue a shift towards a circular economy
  • Prepare policies for socio-cultural changes due to innovation
250 kids having had sustainability workshops by local entrepreneurs

Friesland is a rural area in the northern part of The Netherlands, challenged by demographic, economic and ecological issues, like braindrain, biodiversity loss, climate change, soil degradation and a relatively low socio-economic status. Five years ago Association Circulair Friesland started as a business-led initiative, focussing on how the implementation of a circular economy could help the region to meet its challenges. This initiative was enforced by the Administrative Agreement of the Province of Friesland in 2019, striving for broad prosperity, as well as The Blue Delta Coalition that came forth out of having been Europe's Cultural Capital in 2018. Together we aim to build a thriving region, in which young people have the knowledge, skills and the attitude, to contribute to and influence the future with positive actions. SPARK is financed by all VET and applied universities in the region, but also reaches out to primary schools and high schools.

In Action
Seven characteristics for a circular economy, by Verenging Circular Friesland

SPARK the Movement bases its transformative work upon three stages, moving from phase I in which actions, lessons or projects are ad hoc and started by individual teachers and pupils/students to phase 2 in which multiple partners (several schools/ schools and companies/ schools and municipalities) work together in connecting projects around a regional sustainability challenges. Yet, in phase 2, projects are still next to 'business as usual' and not yet part of day to day learning for sustainability. In phase 3 structural and systemic learning for the transition we need to bring about is achieved, and education for sustainable development (ESD) is embedded in all aspects of the schools in our region. 


To help teachers to start ESD in their schools, we started a wall of fame. Here inspiring lessons, actions or projects that contribute to the SDGs can be uploaded by teachers or young people. In our wall of fame there are 400 initiatives, from all school-levels. There's also a section with over 50 connecting projects, showing how schools cooperate for ESD with municipalities, companies, ngos' or other schools.

We're now developing teach-the-teacher trainings (especially in pedagogics), tools and commitment for embedding ESD into the regional educational policy for phase 3. In september this year the new regional educational agreement will be signed by all VET-centres and (applied) universities of Friesland, focussing on e.g. internalisation (global challenges, local solutions), circularity (system change from linear to circular economy) and networking with local partners for the SDGs. 


Quote SDG Nederland:"Spark is an inspiring platform that innovates the entire education system in Friesland. In addition to an overview of sustainable and circular activities in education, they are also looking for partnerships with local and business."

Our main challenge now is to outreach to all high schools: this is a diverse and scattered group that is more difficult to get convinced of the importance and benefits of ESD and working with the SDGs structurally. To get transformative action in high schools, we need to develop more awareness among teachers of what ESD is, and how this can be implemented with regional partners. Teach the teacher-trainings (especially focussing on democratic, sustainable pedagogics) are our top-priority for the coming months, as well as bringing the tools we developed, as for instance a 60x 80 cm whiteboard with a SPARK SDG-Compass, to every high school.

Working with the SPARK toolkit
  • 400 SPARKs on our Wall of Fame (inspiring SDG-related initiatives on our website
  • 50 connecting projects between schools, companies, ngo’s and/or municipalities
  • 1500 followers on social media (instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, newsletters)
  • Active Whats App group for SDG4 and SDG 17 with resp. teachers and young future makers
  • Several tools available (toolkit, SDG compass, games, short documentary about how SPARK works (film = under construction)
  • Ongoing learning lines around themes for sustainability from primary school - high school - VET-centres -etc -(waste/ energy/ biodiversity/ health/ climate/ Biobased/…)
  • UN-acknowledgment as a RCE on ESD (Regional Community Centre on Education for Sustainable Development) since February 2021
  • All VET-centres and universities have ESD embedded in their individual strategies, policies, curricula and facilitatory management; a common regional agreement is in the making
  • Close co-production with Cooperation Leren voor Morgen (circular skills / whole school approach) and close cooperation with SDG Nederland 

As the president of the Cooperation Learning for Tomorrow (and Dutch SDG4-Alliance-holder) says: 'Quality education is the key to sustainable development. Focus on SDG4 is a prerequisite for the realisation of all other SDGs'. SPARK fully agrees on this, although we add SDG17 (Partnerships for the Goals). As an equivalent of an African proverb (it takes a village to raise a child) SPARK mobilises companies, municipalities, ngo's and schools as we believe 'it takes the region to educate our children'. By working on real sustainability issues in multi-age, multi-level and multi-disciplinary teams we find new ways for tackling today's challenges,  and accelerate innovation processes in governmental institutions and within companies.

Young people of different backgrounds join for instance in public-private cooperations, for instance in biobased projects working as students/ pupils with architects, project developers and building constructors to design biobased offices, houses, bridges or a BioSintrum. 

We believe this has a positive impact on the development of knowledge and skills we need for the transition towards a circular economy and a sustainable society. By designing this collective learning process we can stop braindrain and create meaningful and rewarding jobs that are attractive to the new generation. 

SPARK has a positive impact on the socio-cultural transition, as it promotes social innovation in a very inclusive way: all schools from all backgrounds are addressed and invited to join; SPARK has a positive impact on the socio-economic transition, as it promotes the knowledge and skills needed for a circular economy and a thriving 22nd century; SPARK has a positive impact on the technical transition as it promotes young people to get acquainted with new technologies for the SDGs in d'labs, innovation hubs and in mobile touring busses. The technical transition is also stimulated by addressing policy and decission makers to take up ESD.

Challenges and lessons learned
Student-led SDG congress

The biggest challenges we face are related to working with several stakeholders, each group having its own language and dynamics. Yet, the shared ambition makes it possible to overcome these problems. Another challenge we face is the systemic institutional change that is needed for working collaboratively on the local solutions that contribute to global challenges. VET-schools and higher education do well in our region, but high schools are lacking behind. We want to tackle this by more teacher-trainings, and by bringing tools (SDG Compass) to the schools that are easy to implement and result in awareness and action. 



ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability
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79098 Freiburg

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