EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Getting to impact at scale: A dynamic analysis to guide propagation of educational innovations in climate change

Florian Kapmeier1, Juliette N. Rooney-Varga2, Charles Henderson3, and David N. Ford4
Florian Kapmeier et al.
  • 1Reutlingen University, ESB Business School, Reutlingen, Germany (
  • 2University of Massachusetts Lowell, Climate Change Initiative and Environmental Science, Lowell Massachusetts, USA (
  • 3Western Michigan University, Department of Physics, Kalamazoo Michigan, USA (
  • 4Virginia Tech, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Blacksburg Virigina, USA (

In order to successfully address climate change, society needs education that scales rapidly, transmits scientific information about its causes and effects, and motivates sustained commitment to the problem and science-based action to address it. For decades, government agencies in the US and elsewhere have funded the development of innovative, evidence-based pedagogies and curricula to teach STEM fields, including climate change and sustainability. Research shows that many of these innovations deliver strong gains in learners’ knowledge, sense of urgency, and desire to learn more about climate change and sustainability. To build capacity needed to meet the climate and related grand challenges, rapid scaling of educational innovations is needed in higher education. However, current practices of outreach and word-of-mouth propagation mostly fall short. We develop and analyze a simple computational model to understand why and, using the model and conducting sensitivity analyses, test other, more promising strategies. Our dynamic analysis reveals that outreach has limited impact and does little to accelerate word-of-mouth adoption under conditions typical in higher education. Instead, we find that community-based propagation can rapidly accelerate adoption, as is also shown by successful real-world scaling efforts.

How to cite: Kapmeier, F., Rooney-Varga, J. N., Henderson, C., and Ford, D. N.: Getting to impact at scale: A dynamic analysis to guide propagation of educational innovations in climate change, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-16102,, 2023.