Education differs from information dissemination in that it involves transferring a more substantial body of information and knowledge to the target audience, substantially changing their level of awareness and/or opinions on a given issue. Information dissemination tends to focus on getting key messages out to larger audiences, while education implies deeper learning relationships with smaller groups.
CSOs can play substantial roles in education for environmental sustainable development, both directly as educators, and indirectly by supporting other educators as they incorporate its principles into their work. CSOs can educate many different groups, including:
- policy makers and civil servants by, for example, introducing them to new approaches;
- local authorities, involving them in CSOs projects, for example, so that they better understand problems and feel equipped and supported when tackling them; and
- small and medium-sized enterprises by introducing them, for example, to opportunities for cleaner production.
CSOs also have opportunities to affect change through the formal education system, particularly by supporting the implementation of sustainable development principles into school curricula. Grade school teachers typically have a period of time for discretionary activities, for which they are often looking for relevant and interesting materials. CSOs can exploit this time by providing teachers with materials that spread sustainable development messages among students. Alternatively, they can play a more active role in filling this time by visiting classes and conducting activities, such as role plays or educational games, with students.
- Regional Environmental Center (REC), Sustainability in Action: NGO Initiatives for Sustainable Development in the Western Balkans