IWMI curriculum adopted by international universities

Enhancing the ability of local people to take advantage of research conducted by IWMI and build their own parts of the circular economy has long been a focus of our work. In 2019, this effort reached a new level with a university curriculum that has been adopted by seven institutions and is under active consideration by several more.

The curriculum is based on the book we published in 2018, which details a series of empirical business models to address the challenges of waste management and sanitation. The curriculum came about through a conscious decision to broaden the range of people who are able to make use of IWMI’s research results, while also being able to influence future thinking on resource recovery and reuse (RRR).

To ensure that the curriculum meets the needs of students and teachers, an intensive course was conducted at IWMI’s headquarters in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in the summer of 2018. For two days, we worked with 25 university teachers who would be using the material. After this workshop, we welcomed about 50 undergraduate and graduate students to an intensive seven-day summer school to fine-tune the course material.

As a result, seven institutes of higher education formally agreed to use the curriculum in their degree courses in 2019 - Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand; Makerere University, Uganda; Birla Institute of Technology and Science, India; Open University, Sri Lanka; University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka; Technische Hochschule Köln, Germany; and Ghent University, Belgium. Several other universities remain interested and are continuing discussions.

So far, the universities that are using the course material cover mostly technical topics, such as sanitation and wastewater management. To gain broader involvement, in 2019, we compiled a list of business schools around the world which might be interested in using the course materials and case studies we have developed. We will be pursuing opportunities to interest them in our work. Broader adoption of the curriculum would benefit global communities because our work has shown that sustainable recycling schemes often offer jobs to women and youth, for whom there are few other opportunities in large cities.

We also recognize that not every student or potential entrepreneur is able to attend a university course. To that end, we worked with the International Centre for Water Management Services (cewas) in Switzerland to develop an online course that any potential entrepreneur can take to prepare themselves to launch a business based on RRR in the sanitation-agriculture interface.

Together, the online course and the university curriculum, which continue to increase their reach, are making the case for sustainable waste management businesses around the world, in support of crop production and our environment.


The Resources Recovery and Reuse (RRR) Entrepreneurship course was developed by researchers at the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) / the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE), and business development experts at cewas – coaching entrepreneurs in water and sanitation. Funding was provided by Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung (BMZ) (Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development), Germany.

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