Side event at the STI Forum

Transforming education for a human-centred approach to STI and SDGs

The ILO Research Department collaborates with the UN interagency task team on STI for the SDGs (IATT) on a research project on a Human-centred approach to harness science, technology and innovations (STI) for progress in SDGs.

The project aims to create awareness for the central role of human beings in shaping innovation and transformation processes and for education and learning to enable human beings and societies to perform these roles.

For more information visit the STI Forum Homepage
Humans are central actors in processes of innovation and technological change, and yet their role is insufficiently recognized in discussions about how to harness Science, Technology and Innovations (STI) for progress towards the SDGs. A collaborative research project is therefore implemented by the ILO Research Department jointly with the Analytical Work Stream of the Inter-Agency Task Team on STI for SDGs. Based on the ILO’s Human-centred approach a Human-centred approach to harness STI for progress in SDGs will be elaborated.

This research project aims to create awareness for the central roles of human beings in shaping innovation and transformation processes and for education and learning to enable human beings and societies to perform these roles. Experience shows that harnessing STI for SDGs is a complex process, and that progress is still slow in many countries despite government strategies to support this process. This challenges the models and frameworks which we use to explain innovations and technological change, and has motivated the IATT to develop a new framework which places human beings centre stage. The framework aims to explain the unique functions and different roles of human beings in this process. Only humans can create new ideas and visions of the future, humans search for knowledge, inventions and discoveries, and human beings reflect and take decisions, manage processes of change and use their agency. In this sense, innovation may be considered an intrinsically human-centred process in economies.

While there is wide agreement that education, training, skills development, and learning is important for achieving SDGs, the human-centred approach to STI shifts attention to the important role of learning to mobilise creativity, to nurture beliefs, attitudes and mindsets which support change, and to develop competences and human agency. This dynamic perspective on education is often neglected in economic models explaining innovation, technological change, growth and development. Their focus tends to be on investment in general education, and lifelong learning and skills development for productive use of new technologies in firms, and employability of workers.

The dynamic framework to accelerate progress in SDGs suggests that each society is challenged with transforming education to provide learning opportunities for children, youth and adults to build the capabilities to trigger, shape, and manage innovation and transformative changes. Disciplines such as education, pedagogy, sociology, and cognitive science provide important insights on learning for human traits, competences, attitudes or agency for innovation and change. They also show that such learning for change is not limited to education methods and teaching approaches in schools. It also relates to learning models such as apprenticeship, socialisation in social networks and communities or learning in organisations. Merging the insights from different disciplines on the roles of humans in innovation processes and of learning to perform these roles effectively will raise important policies issues and inform policies on transforming education and learning for harnessing STI to accelerate progress in SDGS.

Session Agenda

  1. Presents conceptual and empirical arguments for a human-centred approach to STI and SDGs.
  2. Provides insights on education and learning for innovation and sustainable development and discusses policy implications for transforming education.
  3. Presents three cases from Brazil, Tanzania and Zambia on innovative education and training approaches which nurture capabilities, creativity, personalities and agency for innovation, transformative changes and sustainable development.
  4. The Q&A session provides a platform to engage in an agenda-setting process and discuss future research to advance the human-centred framework for SDGs.


Mr. Richard Alex Roehrl
Senior Economic Affairs Officer, Team leader, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, New York, United States


Ms. Irmgard Nübler
Senior Economist, International Labour Organization, Research Department, Geneva, Switzerland
Ms. Dorothea Kleine
Professor, Co-director, Institute for Global Sustainable Development (IGSD) Research Theme Lead, Digital Technologies, Data and Innovation, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom
Fr. Christian Temu OSB
Abbot, Missionary Benedictine Abbey, Ndanda, Tanzania
Ms. Rita Afonso
Professor, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Faculty of Business Administration; Lab Technology and Social Development, and Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability (DESIS) Network, Brazil
Ms. Chisenga Muyoya
Co-founder, Asikana Network for Women in IT, Zambia; Co-director of the Gender-Just Digital Innovation in Africa (GeDIA) project