top of page

Applications are closed! You can subscribe to stay informed about the next semester.

Become a changemaker for sustainability

kick-off weekend

What to expect?

The semester-long rootlinks programme will equip you with valuable skills and experiences to become a changemaker for sustainability.

​As a rootlinker, you will engage in the rootlinks Learning Journey - a unique program teaching methods including Systemic Design and skills like Non-Violent Communication whilst supporting your personal growth and resilience as a changemaker. In an interdisciplinary team you will apply your learnings by working on a real-world sustainability challenge. During your time at rootlinks, you will also get the opportunity to grow your network and discover possible career paths in sustainability. Of course, all while having a fun semester and making new friends!

Why should you apply?

Skills & Experience

rootlinks is a unique opportunity to acquire skills and hands-on experience outside the standard university curriculum.


You will have the chance to exchange with inspiring people and build a network in sustainability.


By developing solutions to the sustainability challenge posed by the partner organisation, you will have real impact.


Next to all the learning and hard work, we will make sure that your time at rootlinks is fun and enjoyable.

The rootlinks Learning Journey

The rootlinks Learning Journey is a hands-on training programme that equips you with the skills and experiences to become a changemaker for sustainability. We've designed it together with our partners, such as the Transdisciplinarity Lab and the Student Project House at ETH Zurich.

The Learning Journey consists of two parallel tracks that complement the real-world sustainability challenge you will be working on in your team of 4-6 students.

In the first track, you will learn about Systemic Design, a method combining Systems Thinking and Human-Centered Design to understand and tackle complex sustainability problems. You will learn how to think in systems, thoroughly understand stakeholder needs and pain-points, assess the impact of proposed interventions, and prototype ideas.

The second track addresses your personal development and growth as an individual and as part of the rootlinks team. Here, you will engage in topics such as communication, personal values and resilience, or non-hierarchical teamwork.

The two tracks of the Learning Journey will be delivered through workshops, talks, problem-based learning and mentoring sessions during the weeklinks (see below).

Time Commitment


The time commitment is 8 hours per week from 5th October to 22nd December 2021. This includes the weeklinks and your individual work on the Challenge within your team. In addition, there will be a kick-off weekend at a holiday house in Schönenberg ZH and a Glühwein evening to conclude our time together.

Throughout the 12 weeks of the programme, we will meet every Wednesday at 6 p.m. for the weeklinks. After an input, workshop or talk, you will have time to apply the learnings in your team, ask the speakers questions, or discuss with your coach until around 8:30 p.m. After that, we’ll enjoy the rest of the evening together with some food and drinks provided by us.

​How you spend the remaining 5 hours to work on the challenge during the rest of the week is up to you and your team.


Here is an overview of the important dates again:

  • Kick-off weekend in Schönenberg ZH: 2nd October, 9 a.m., to 3rd October, 5 p.m.

  • Weeklinks (weekly meeting at Student Project House in Zürich): every Wednesday from 5th October to 22nd December 2021, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. with food and drinks afterwards

  • Final presentation and Glühwein night: Wednesday, 22nd of December evening from 6 p.m.


To make sure that you and your team can take the most out of the rootlinks Learning Journey, we ask you to keep all these dates free in your calendar!

  • How do you deal with the Covid-19 restrictions?
    We will work hard to make sure you have an amazing semester with rootlinks and are able to build strong connections to your fellow rootlinkers! For the moment, we are planning to run the programme in-person. You will need a valid COVID certificate during the whole duration of the programme.
  • Who can take part in the programme?
    All students currently studying at one of the following Zürich universities are allowed to participate: ETH Zürich, UZH, ZHAW, ZHdK and PHZH.
  • Do I need an university background in a sustainability-related field to participate?
    Not at all! Our goal at rootlinks is to enable you to use your subject-specific skills to advance sustainability. What's most important for us is your interest in sustainability, motivation to learn, and curiosity to work in an interdisciplinary team. We're looking forward to your application, regardless of your study background.
  • I do not have any prior knowledge or experience in sustainability. Can I still apply?
    Yes, please! At rootlinks, we strongly believe in the creative power of interdisciplinary teams. If you're interested in sustainability and motivated to learn, we're looking forward to your application
  • What are the sustainability challenges?
    Here you can read about the five sustainability challenges that we offer this semester.
  • How about team events?
    At rootlinks, we're all about linking people and ideas! So of course, we'll make sure that there will be enough opportunities to connect with all your fellow rootlinkers. After some team building during the kick-off weekend, you'll have the chance to exchange and socialise during the weeklinks every Wednesday night. And depending on how the Covid-19 situation evolves, we will offer some suitable team events through the duration of the programme!
  • How big are the teams? Who will I be working with?
    The teams will be composed of 4 to 6 students from different backgrounds and study levels. We will work hard to make the teams as diverse as possible while keeping in mind your interests and the requirements of the Challenges.
  • Will I be paid for my work?
    No. Everyone at rootlinks, the founding team and the participating students, engage on a voluntary basis. You will be reimbursed for your commitment through valuable skills, an inspiring network, social events, and new friendships.
  • Do I get a certificate of completion?
    Yes. We will provide you with an official certificate that shows the skills you acquired and the Challenge you worked on.
  • Do I need to know German to participate?
    No, the entire rootlinks programme is conducted in English.
  • What is systemic design?
    In her 2013 TED talk, Dr. Leyla Acaroglou gives some inspiring examples on how systemic design can help us develop more sustainable solutions:
  • What happens after the rootlinks programme?
    When you have completed the rootlinks Learning Journey, we hope that you will have gained skills and experiences that help you on your further journey to advance sustainability! If you wish to stay with rootlinks, you can become part of the organising team that improves the Learning Journey and defines new sustainability Challenges for the next generation of rootlinkers.
  • What type of organisation is rootlinks? How are you funded?
    rootlinks is a non-profit organisation ("Verein"). In November 2020, a diverse team of students and lecturers from different backgrounds got together to make rootlinks a reality. All of us work on a voluntary basis without any renumeration. We are funding the rootlinks programme through contributions from the Challenge partners and a U Change grant.
Anquor: Students Q&A
bottom of page