Address: 1247 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W., Suite 201, Washington, D.C. 20007 • Phone: 202.421.4417

Model Kyoto


In July 2017, Alterra will offer Model Kyoto 2017, a rigorous 5-day interactive academic experience for students and teaching faculty interested in grappling with the major environmental issues of our time.  In many respects, Model Kyoto will mirror the goals of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which was ratified in 2005, and the Copenhagen climate change conference, where in 2009 many United Nations member states committed to targets for sustainable energy use and climate change remediation.  With the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference (COP21 held in Paris) fresh in our minds, our goal is to inspire the next generation of energy leaders.

Model Kyoto will emphasize the importance for schools of incorporating global environmental perspectives into curriculum.  Alterra, Emory College Center for Science Education, and Hughes Science Initiative, with support from leading experts, will play a moderating role, supporting both students and school faculty as they evaluate how best to apply climate change perspectives to curriculum as part of overall education strategies around climate change remediation.

Fundamentally, we seek to humanize, personalize, and demystify climate change and its constituent policy challenges for a diverse group of participants involved in education and eager to learn how this singular global challenge may be incorporated strategically into curriculum and special programming.  With Model Kyoto, we are attempting to “unpack” the variety of personal perspectives on climate change and its far-reaching implications.

From industry to academia to the public sector and beyond, students who can collaborate with diverse peer groups are in high demand.  In addition to our core focus on climate change issues, our curriculum includes sessions on leadership, team building, and communication skills.  Alums of our programs tell us that these curriculum modules have served them well in a variety of project-based contexts both inside and outside the classroom.  While many of these skill areas require a lifelong learning effort, we strive to provide Model Kyoto participants with a strong foundation which they can draw from for years to come.

Creativity and Entrepreneurship

Many of the project management skills required to start and build great companies apply directly to the task of creating and sustaining climate-related projects.  For pre-university students, it can seem intimidating to approach topics typically associated with MBA programs and post-graduate professional work.  Some educators doubt that entrepreneurship can be taught at all, choosing to believe that certain skills just “come naturally” to some students but not others.

At Alterra, we believe entrepreneurship can be taught to everyone because we’ve seen graduates of our programs achieve great things.  Whether or not a given student aspires to become a CEO, skills like team management, goal planning, and resilience form the basis for audacious learning and, ultimately, leadership.

The objective of the “Creativity and Entrepreneurship” portion of our program is to help students further define their own voices as leaders.  For each student, the word “leadership” may mean something different: personal leadership in one’s academic education; team leadership in a project-based setting; or community leadership, the ability to speak up at community forums and provide a student voice.  All of these types of leadership rest on the same key skills.  We will introduce these skills to the participants in a series of lectures and workshops led by a ‘clean-tech’ entrepreneur.

Project Planning: Creating Project Goals

While we often think of big goals in the climate movement, how does one break down a big problem into small, actionable pieces?  Setting clear goals includes both the big vision and the specific steps you plan to take to reach that vision.  In this session, we will focus on the idea of creating stretch goals and baseline goals for your project.

Building a Strong Team

Strong teams exhibit a number of well-studied characteristics.  They can hold effective meetings inclusive of divergent opinions.  They can tolerate uncertainty on the path to achieving a certain outcome.  They pride themselves more on the achievements of the group than on the achievements of a single individual.

Building a strong team requires much more than wearing matching t-shirts or agreeing on an overall plan of attack.  In this session, we will discuss methods for motivating team members and assigning roles.  We emphasize that roles need not be static throughout a given project.  The most resilient teams exhibit the ability to adapt to change and re-route based on new information.  In addition to strong inter-team communication, strong teams look outside of themselves in order to seek out the ingredients they need to succeed.

Unexpected Outcomes and Attitudes Towards Failure

Reading cover stories from business magazines might lead you to believe that successful entrepreneurs roll out of bed with a great idea and have a few million dollars in their bank account by the end of the day.  The dominant narrative of startups in our culture seems to emphasize “overnight success” without spending much time on the mental techniques successful entrepreneurs employ to motivate themselves in the face of challenges and disappointments.

In this session, we will focus on recommendations for students undertaking ambitious projects.  How does one contextualize apparent “failures” in the course of project implementation?  What do you tell yourself after a year of work seems to be erased by an administrative challenge or an unplanned turn of events?  We will discuss techniques used by professional athletes to cultivate a strong ‘mental edge’ and motivate themselves during difficult athletic contests.  We will discuss how students can use these types of techniques to learn from challenges and use unplanned failures as opportunities to strengthen both team dynamics and overall project success factors.

Running your Education like a Startup Company

To conclude our discussion of startup skills, we will present a session on how to bring the lessons learned in Model Kyoto back home to one’s academic pursuits.  It takes an extraordinary idealism and hopefulness to work on climate change and energy topics against the backdrop of today’s geopolitical landscape.  Students who possess this hopefulness often need creative outlets in addition to standard educational curriculum.  In this session, we will discuss ways to add project-based learning elements to the curriculum.  We will also discuss ideas for how to navigate the choice of which subjects to study in college.

Model Kyoto will be Facilitated by Robyn Allen