Positive Action: Incorporating Sustainable Development Goals in Social Service Community Projects in Higher Education at Tecmilenio

Positive Action: Incorporating Sustainable Development Goals in Social Service Community Projects in Higher Education at Tecmilenio



Organizations/areas of the university involved

All students enrolled in an undergraduate program.


As the first positive university in the world, Tecmilenio prides itself on the promotion of wellbeing and happiness throughout the student journey. We seek to design and implement experiences for students that will enable them to find a meaningful life purpose by employing their character strengths as they build their professional competencies. With the purpose of providing an opportunity for students to explore ways in which they can “leave their mark” in the world the University designed and implemented the Positive Action program. At the end of the program, students should have designed and implemented a social impact project, aligned to the SDGs, in collaboration with a community-based organization that brings the student closer to the achievement of their declared life purpose. The purpose of the Positive Action program is fourfold: First, by law, students of higher education must complete 480 hours of community service in order to obtain their degree. Tecmileno seeks to go beyond and above and create projects that will have a positive social impact. Second, Tecmilenio leverages the social service requirement as a means to instill in students a social awareness that will permeate their declared life purpose and their role as agents of change. Third, as an active member of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), Tecmilenio is committed to integrating strategies that will mobilize students to work towards advancing the SDGs. Hence, Tecmilenio has discovered that students can align their character strengths and professional competencies to the SDG framework. Last, Tecmilenio recognizes the importance of collaborating with community based organization that are committed to the 2030 Agenda, therefore, the Positive Action program seeks to enhance those partnerships by having students collaborate directly with active community based organizations. The SDG framework is embedded in the purpose and objective of the social project that students create and work towards. Students can select the SDG that they would like to focus on and then select the organization with which to partner. During the August 2019-May 2020 cycle, 3,337 students enrolled in the program developed approximately 900 social impact projects.

Results and impact measured or expected

The vision of Tecmilenio`s Positive Action program:
1. Students that participate in this program are more socially aware and continue to be engaged in their communities.
2. Local community impact through the design and implementation of a social impact project based on the SDG(s).
3. Strong community ties through collaboration between students and local community based organizations.
We are currently working on developing a system that will allow us to measure:
1. Impact of the social project in the community.
2. Increase in student´s self-reported social awareness and knowledge of the SDGs

Connection with the SDG framework

The Positive Action program focuses specifically in students creating a project based on one or more of the Sustainable Development Goals. In a yearlong workshop, students learn about the SDGs, and choose at least one that best aligns with their life purpose and professional competencies. Upon choosing the SDG, students create a social impact project and select an organization. During the 2019-2020 academic cycle, there were 1,288 registered projects. The breakdown of the projects by SDG are as follow:
• SGD 1: 170 projects
• SDG 2: 178 projects
• SDG 3: 492 projects
• SDG 4: 466 projects
• SDG 5: 137 projects
• SDG 6: 28 projects
• SDG 7: 18 projects
• SDG 8: 113 projects
• SDG 9: 47 projects
• SDG 10: 194 projects
• SDG 11: 96 projects
• SDG 12: 61 projects
• SDG 13: 125 projects
• SDG 14: 21 projects
• SDG 15: 131 projects
• SDG 16: 156 projects
• SDG 17: 208 projects

Barriers and follow up

We have experienced some resistance from the students due to the break from the conventional form of fulfilling the social service requirement to obtain their degree. Additionally, we have learned that we need to strength our impact measuring tools in order to better assess the impact of the social projects. However, as a socially responsible university, we are committed to work on advancing the Sustainable Develop Goals, have an impact in the community and fostering a social conscious in our students. We plan to lean from the experience of the pilot programs and make the necessary adjustments in order for students to see the value in a meaningful contribution to society.

Updated June 2020 by Paola Visconti