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Author's note
What is E S D?
Reorienting Education
Localizing the Global Initiative
Challenges and Barriers to E S D
Community Sustainability Goals
Case Study: Toronto, Canada Board of Education
Managing Change
Public Participation
Concluding remarks
Tools to Introduce the Concept of Sustainable Development
Tools to Create Community Goals
Tools to Reorient Education to Address Sustainability
Tools for Managing Change
Web resources

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Participants use a chart to examine barriers to change and envision solutions.


To identify and prioritize barriers and brainstorm solutions.


This exercise is more effective if participants have completed the exercises Examining Assumptions and Stoplight.

Group size: 2 to 6 participants.

Time Needed: 30 minutes to 1 hour.


  • Steering Around the Barriers worksheet, one copy for each. [web version] [pdf version]
  • Pens or pencils.
  • 3 to 6 large sheets of paper.
  • Marking pen (dark ink).
  • Tape (to affix paper to wall).


  1. Select a project for reorienting education to address sustainability (e.g., creating a green campus, incorporating more social equity into campus policy, modifying primary school curriculum to include sustainability). Also, see Stoplight exercise to prioritize which projects are ready for action.
  2. Write the project name in the space provided at the top of the Steering Around the Barriers worksheet.
  3. Participants brainstorm barriers to the project:
    • Each participant states one or two barriers he or she wants the group to discuss (2 minutes maximum per person). Each participant speaks in turn without comment or interruption from remaining participants.
    • Write each barrier mentioned on a large sheet of paper, summarizing each barrier with a keyword or short phrase. Affix paper to wall for all to see.
  4. Prioritize barriers to the project:
    • Ask participants to select three barriers to be discussed in depth. Hint: Choose the three barriers which have the greatest potential to stymie the progress of the project.
  5. Write the three selected barriers in the top row of the Steering Around the Barriers worksheet ("Barrier #1," etc.)
  6. Ask participants to use their worksheets to analyze each barrier and classify its source (e.g., barrier: the geography curriculum does not include sustainability; source of the barrier: the nationally mandated curriculum). (10 minutes).
  7. Ask each participant to share his or her ideas about the sources of these three barriers to change. Write down each person's ideas on a large sheet of paper for all to see.
  8. Using these ideas, participants work together to fill in the section "Sources of barriers" on the left side of the worksheet. Participants discuss each of the three barriers in turn to gain a deeper understanding of each.
  9. Write relevant details in the spaces under each column, and brainstorm solutions for each barrier (15 minutes).
  10. Write ideas for solutions in the space labeled "Solutions" on the worksheet. (Numbers along the left side refer to Barriers #1, 2, and 3).


If the barriers to your project seem too numerous, try the following before beginning step 4:

  1. Participants brainstorm barriers and write down each barrier on a separate 3" x 5" card.
  2. Spread out all cards on a table. Participants then group together cards with similar themes.
  3. Ask the participants to identify a common theme for each group of cards (e.g., funding, human resources, lack of awareness/understanding).
  4. Discuss the themes.
  5. Have participants examine the barriers under each theme. Discuss the following questions:
    • Can some barriers be combined into one theme?
    • Can any barriers easily be overcome?
    • Can some barriers be safely ignored?
    • Are some barriers based on assumptions rather than facts? Use the exercise Examining Assumptions to address this question.
  6. Write a keyword or short phrase that describes the common theme for each group of cards.
  7. Return to step 4.

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