How to establish your GO?

Reading time: 4 min


Every attempt to establish a Green Office (GO) is different in its own way. But students and staff share similar challenges they need to overcome. Based on existing lobby efforts, we compiled five steps that those lobby efforts had in common. You don’t need to exactly follow these five steps, but they provide you with inspiration:

1. Form a team of like-minded people
2. Discover existing sustainability efforts
3. Design your Green Office
4. Write the funding application
5. Pitch and submit your application

Establishing a Green Office is not easy, but dozens of students and staff have already done it. Dozens are doing it right now. You can do it too.

The challenge

You are up for it – even if you might not think so right now

“Forget it,” Anna and Tom told us. “We will just not be able to do it.” They were talking about establishing a GO at their university. “Where do we start? How do we get people involved? How do we write the proposal? We don’t feel like we can pull this off.” We had reason to believe Anna and Tom were wrong. They could do it. And they did.

If you want to establish a GO and have similar doubts and questions like Anna and Tom, then you can get an overview on this page about the five steps to take to establish your GO.

There are many ways to establish your GO. We don’t expect you follow these five steps exactly, but that they provide you with inspiration on how to design your own journey. Dozens of students and staff have gone through this process already. Dozens are doing it right now. You can do it too!

If you succeed: Congratulations, you have taken a significant step to advance sustainability at your institution. If you don’t, you will have learned a lot, raised powerful questions, and that may trigger something else. Change processes are often full of surprises.

1. Initiative

Form a team of like-minded people

It helps if you have a team to design and lobby for the GO. You can exchange ideas, support each other, draw on a wider network, and have more fun. Your team doesn’t need to be big if its members are committed. But how can you find like-minded people?

If you are a student: Find out if there are sustainability student groups on campus. Also, organise a meeting with the sustainability coordinator, student representatives, professors or lecturers working on sustainability. Present the GO Model and its benefits and see if they want to develop it together with you.

If you are a sustainability coordinator: You can meet up with sustainability student groups and student representatives to see what they think of the GO Model. You could also get in touch with a sustainability professor to see if they can commission a student research project to investigate the feasibility of a GO for your university.

If you are an academic: See if you can find a group of students or an individual student who want to do a course project on the GO Model. Of course, also reach out to the like-minded colleagues, the sustainability coordinator — if your university has one — and sustainability student groups or representatives.

Once you have a team ready, get in touch with us here, so we can put you on our map of Green Office Initiatives.

Team of the Green Office Initiative at HU Berlin (Photo by Nachhaltigkeitsbüro Studentische Initiative – HU Berlin)

Team of the Green Office Initiative at HU Berlin (Photo by Nachhaltigkeitsbüro Studentische Initiative – HU Berlin)

2. Discovery

Map and analyse existing sustainability efforts

Once you have your team, it is important that you understand who is already working on sustainability. This way, you can find out if a GO is needed or not. How can you identify existing initiatives? Just ask in your team or find a staff member who has a good overview. You can also do research on your university’s website for information.

Once you have identified existing sustainability efforts, it is important to analyse their strengths and weaknesses, as well as the opportunities and threats. You can conduct this analysis in multiple ways: For example, by inviting initiatives to a workshop, conducting a working session with your team or by interviewing different initiatives.

Even if you decide not to establish a Green Office, this analysis is helpful for a better understanding of those already working on sustainability and what could be done to take sustainability to the next level.

3. Design your Green Office

Think carefully how you want your GO to look like

Once you have decided to go ahead with establishing your GO, it is time to design it. To do so, you might want to answer the following questions:

Rationale: What are arguments for the establishment of your GO?
– Role: What role should your GO fulfill?
– Activities: What activities do you need to realise those goals?
Organisational model: How many students and staff should work in the team? How is your GO embedded into the organisation? What office space do you need? How would the online presence look like?
Budget: How much does your organisation need to invest? Where would the funding come from?

It might take some time to answer these questions, but we are happy to help you. Once you have designed your GO, you can summarize everything in a short concept paper or power point presentation. This makes it easier to present and discuss your ideas.

Working session to finalize concept paper in Lund (SE)

Working session to finalize concept paper in Lund (SE)

4. Funding proposal

Identify funding opportunities and write the proposal

Your university is a bureaucratic organisation, and without a formal proposal, you won’t get funding for your GO. The proposal describes what your GO is, why it is necessary, how much it would cost, and what the university gets in return.

There are many ways to fund your GO. Funding can come from:

– Executive Board
– Students’ Union
– Facility Services
– Innovation funds
– Quality of teaching and learning funds
– Sustainability budgets

Once you have identified a funding source, it is time to write the proposal. Don’t waste time writing a detailed proposal, before you are sure about where to submit it.

How to find the money? It is important that you talk to people who understand which funds are available and how you can maximise your chances of accessing them. For example, you could write a 1- to 2-page concept paper and discuss it with somebody from the president of the Students’ Union, a senior person working on university development, or a member of the Executive Board directly.

Once you’ve found a funding source, it’s time to write the proposal. GO proposals vary in length from 2 to 20 pages. It all depends on how much detail your funding body wants you to provide. Get in touch with us so that we can send you a funding proposal template and examples of successful proposals. We are also happy to give you feedback on your first proposal version.

An overview of different funding proposals. When will you add yours?
An overview of different funding proposals. When will you add yours?

5. Submission

Finalize your funding proposal and submit it

Congratulations! You have reached the final step. Now is the time to finalize your funding proposal and submit it. While doing this, you should take note of the following things:

– Deadlines: Some committees only meet every couple of weeks or months. Find out when you need to submit your proposal to have it discussed at the next meeting.
– Format: The funding committee might want proposals to be a particular length or require you to submit a one-page executive summary.
– Pitch: Find out if you can be personally present at the meeting to pitch your idea and directly answer questions people might have. If you are permitted to give a pitch, make sure that you are well prepared for it.

Once you have submitted your proposal, you will have to be patient. It might take a couple of weeks or months for the committee to get back to you. In the end, they will reject or approve your proposal.

The official opening of the Leiden University Green Office. When will you start yours? (Photo: Leiden University Green Office)
The official opening of the Leiden University Green Office. When will you start yours? (Photo: Leiden University Green Office)