Research shows that even though people may become richer they do not, beyond a certain point, necessarily become happier. Many people, including parents and teachers, are confused and uncertain about how to meet today’s challenges, let alone how to prepare young people for dealing with tomorrow’s challenges. Many are not even aware of the power individuals have through the choices they make every day.
The challenges are complex. They are systemic and personal, immediate and long-term. More knowledge and insight into how to use relevant data are essential, but it is equally necessary for people to be inspired and motivated to make value-based choices and to create new alternative, sustainable lifestyles. Hedmark University College has, for many years, focused on research and education for behavior and policy change towards more responsible, sustainable living. It has coordinated activities, locally, nationally and internationally, whose aim has been to help ‘consumers’ to become more informed, responsible and active citizens who can contribute to constructive change through the way they choose to live.
More than two decades ago, Hedmark University College began coordinating national and international projects which highlighted the concept of Consumer Citizenship Education. Consumer Citizenship Education is a cross-curricular, interdisciplinary approach to promoting attitudes, transferring knowledge and developing skills that combine consumer education, environmental education and civic training.
During the last twenty years the international community has adopted the concepts of consumer citizenship education as the core of what is presently referred to as “Education for Responsible, Sustainable Living” or “Education for Sustainable Consumption”. Hedmark University College has been actively involved in the development both of the international and national policies needed to integrate education for responsible living into existing curricula as well as developing relevant methods and materials. This development work has relied upon continual action-based research of which Hedmark University College has also been integrally involved.
The Partnership for Education and Research about Responsible Living (PERL) has emerged from the work Hedmark University College has coordinated. PERL is a partnership of educators and researchers in 50 countries which develops methods and materials to encourage people to contribute to constructive change through the way they choose to live. PERL’s mission is:To educate individualsto recognize the influence they can have as stakeholders, citizens and fellow human beings; and to assist individuals in putting their principles into action through making more reflected, responsible lifestyle choices. PERL strives to empower students to develop and evaluate alternative visions of a sustainable future and motivate them to turn these visions into reality. It aims at creating a deeper understanding of the mechanisms that control consumer society and the influence individuals can have on it in order to better contribute to sustainable development and global solidarity. PERL’s main intention is to stimulate education which facilitates students’ ability to analyse, understand and cope with real, everyday life problems and to empower them to be active participants in modern society. Active participants are individuals who not only make selective, reflected lifestyle choices in the market but who also effect changes by engaging as stakeholders in the dialogues and debates which determine policy, contribute to transparency and guarantee accountability.