A Sustainable KI Community (SKICOM)

KI: s engagement in the Inner Development Goals Initiative - exploring e.g., inner qualities and capabilities suggested that we need to develop for a sustainable future and working life, and how to cultivate such capabilities.

Background and purpose

Strategy 2030

In the Karolinska Institutet strategic plan, Strategy 2030, it is declared that KI shall enter 2030 as a groundbreaking, global and engaged university with a vision to advance knowledge about life and strive towards better health for all.

Internal sustainability as a point of departure

Driven by e.g., successful competition for external funding, KI has experienced rapid growth in recent decades. This has impacted our internal culture with a decrease of “we-spirit” and sense of a common purpose. Strategy 2030 addresses these issues and takes them as a point of departure.

Strategy 2030 and SDGs

The time horizon 2019—2030 for Strategy 2030 was chosen with great care. Many of the challenges and opportunities facing our university and society at large become more apparent when considered over a longer time perspective. The time horizon also coincides with the United Nations ‘Agenda 2030. It is incumbent on us as a university to contribute in the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs view medicine and health in the broadest of contexts. If we are to achieve our vision of better health for all, we must do the same.

Inner Development Goals

- Emphasizing the need for shift to also including an inside out perspective

Although many models and insights around sustainability issues have been introduced in recent decades, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals, SDG (2015), or the Limits to Growth report (Meadows et al., 1972), we have not come anywhere near to mitigating the effects on climate change, biodiversity loss and waste of non-renewable resources (IPCC 2021, 2022).

The IDG initiative is based on the assumption that we currently lack the necessary skills and competencies needed to transition to more sustainable forms of development. Scholars and practitioners are increasingly emphasizing the need for an inward focus (Woiwode et al., 2021), exploring the role of internal dimensions and the intrinsic links between human challenges, e.g. sustainability challenges, health, poverty and discrimination. Moreover, only focusing on direct drivers (technological innovations) and not indirect (values, norms) (Horlings, 2015) to reach mitigation targets has been raised as an issue that could have negative effects on other sustainability goals by missing synergy effects (Chan et al., 2020, Wamsler 2021).

The substantial role of internal dimensions can be found in system theory, which identifies places of intervention in a system with different impacts on collective and system change (Meadows, 1999, 2008, Baugher et al., 2016). Shallow leverage points have downstream effects (e.g. taxes, subsidies), whereas deep leverage points are substantially harder to achieve but can create changes upstream and change a system's direction (through, e.g. goals, mindsets and paradigms) (Meadows, 1999; 2008, Woiwode et al. 2021, Pöllänen et al., forthcoming). Further links between internal dimensions and external sustainable outcomes are given by adult development theories where increased abilities to engage in issues around sustainability can be linked to complex thinking expressed in stages of hierarchical complexity (Inglis, 2008) as well as ego development and post-conventional meaning-making (Brown, 2011, Boiral, Baron & Gunnlaugson, 2014). Hence, in addition to implementation of new technologies and policymaking in governance on multiple levels, a complementing approach with psychological capacities and values on individual and group level seem to be crucial, in order to move towards the SDGs and our own KI Strategy 2030

Purpose and overarching goals


  • To create prerequisites for a sustainable KI-community by including an inside out shift in perspectives and efforts
  • To offer KI-staff and executives the opportunity to explore and develop significant capacities, capabilities and competencies needed to realize Strategy 2030 and to contribute to a sustainable working life and society.
  • KI contribute to society through exploration, identification and stimulation of competencies and qualities needed to face the challenges in society and contribute to a sustainable global community.


  • Explore, and if needed, adjust the capabilities and competencies described in the IDG framework to adapt to KI-context.
  • Explore if some parts in the framework need to be expressed or stated in an alternative way. Translate to Swedish.
  • Identify evidence informed interventions to support competencies and capabilities central to a sustainable working life, the realization of Strategy 2030 and to contribute to the SDG´s.
  • Design a pilot development program.
  • Conduct and evaluate the pilot program. Recommendations to further research and development of the IDG-framework to partner organizations within academia e.g., HHS, SU and LUCSUS.


SKICOM is partly financed by joint fundings; supported by the trade unions and management at Karolinska Institutet.


Phase 1, May – Aug 2022: Communication, anchor and input from KI-researchers, management, and employees. Individual exploratory interviews

Phase 2, Aug- Oct 2022: Analysis of interviews.

Phase 3, Nov 2022- March 2023: Design of developmental program and recruitment of participants.

Phase 4, April-June 2023 + Sept-Dec 2023: Conduct program, feb 2024 Evaluation of program

Phase 5, Not included in budget – long term follow up


Maria Deckeman, specialist organisational development, initiator, and process management, Karolinska Institutet

Walter Osika, researcher, Coordination of research project and evaluation, Karolinska Institutet

Christin Mellner, researcher, part of research team, Stockholm University

Shervin Shahnavaz, researcher, Vice Chair, Council for Environment and Sustainable Development Karolinska Institutet

Sandra Helminen, specialist leadership, Karolinska Institutet

Anna Christiansen, Communication