The facilitation of Education for Sustainability (EfS) by Decentralized Global Networks (DGNs) is consistent with the dynamic and increasingly complex nature of sustainability issues and is often motivated by inter-governmental policy objectives that link sustainability learning with sustainable development. Current approaches endorsed by DGNs support the implementation of EfS programs at multiply scales including local and global contexts, and engage teachers, teacher-educators, policy makers and the wider community in re-orienting education towards sustainability. The practice of using DGNs in the provision of EfS is now well established and supports the participation of a geographically dispersed and diverse body of participants. Notwithstanding, there is still limited understanding of the complex systems operating within DGNs and how these systems generate the conditions necessary to facilitate EfS at organizational and program levels. The aim of this research is to identify the inherent dimensions, along with challenges and opportunities seen as characteristic of the effective facilitation of EfS by DGNs. The author’s investigation is centred on a qualitative case study of the Environment and School Initiatives (ENSI)—a DGN in operation for over 26 years with a membership that has spanned over 25 countries. The analysis is further extended through examination of four program-level case studies. The findings from this research identify organizational and program level approaches to EfS facilitation encompassing 11 dimensions considered to be conducive to a DGNs facilitation of effective EfS, for example; i) addressing the nexus created between policy, research and practice; ii) applying a structured approach to network decentralization; iii) monitoring and evaluating processes and outcomes; and, iv) developing an organization focused on learning and the advancement of networks more broadly. In addition, synthesis of these 11 dimensions resulted in the identification of four challenges and five opportunities that impact upon a DGNs facilitation of effective EfS across multiple scales. In conclusion, the research findings identify that DGNs approach is multi-scale, contextual and relevant to participants, and confronts the gap between the paradigms of policy, research and practice enabling these networks to more readily address the effective facilitation of EfS. Noticeably, these approaches increase the capacity of teachers and participants to deliver effective EfS and can be seen to address the more general role of education in embedding sustainability in our society.
Submitted in the fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, University of the Sunshine Coast, 2015.