Shangri-La Institute for Sustainable Communities


Shangri-La Institute for Sustainable Communities


The Shangri-La Institute for Sustainable Communities (SISC, see works for the development and maintenance of an ecologically sustainable, economically viable, socially just and democratic society. We support community-initiated education, conservation and cultural projects that empower local communities to engage in sustainable development. We believe that to fulfil the mission of returning the air, land and water to health, it is essential to mobilize youth and other community members in public participation.

In all of our work, we seek to uphold and mirror the ethics and values outlined in the Earth Charter which are: respect and care for the community of life; ecological integrity; social and economic justice; democracy, non-violence and peace.



  • To promote education for sustainable development (ESD) in China through innovative, place-specific projects and initiatives.
  • To strive towards the creation of an ecologically sustainable, economically viable and socially just society.


Major Projects and Activities

The Institute pursues sustainable development through practice-based education with schools and communities. The Institute is involved in capacity building and environmental education throughout China.

Projects and activities include creating professional development opportunities, providing teacher training, linking schools and communities, empowering communities through education, and developing educational resources.

Major projects taking pace in 2017 include Waterschool China, a long term water and environmental education and component of Swarovski Waterschool International; A range of influential Community Conserved Area Development projects in Bazhu, a rural area of Yunnan; The Young Citizens’ Climate Initiative, a climate change education project now in it’s third year or collaboration with increasing schools across China; The Road Safety Education project that trains teachers in three very different Chinese cities to educate their students about road safety; work with nature reserves in the Shangri-La region of Yunnan and areas in Tibet and Sichuan;  and a range of other projects based in Shangri-La and beyond.


Major Achievements and Awards

Two major awards received for the Waterschool China project. Shangri-la Institute Director Yunhua Liu has also played an important role in ESD internationally –She is a member of the International Advisory Group of the ‘UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development’ and has also contributed to work with the Lifelong Learning and ESD theme group at UNESCO. SISC has written articles on ESD experiences in China for the International Review of Education and the Journal of Education for Sustainable Development. SISC is a member of IUCN and has been an official partner of the Earth Charter since early 2010. SISC conducts annual auditing for all our projects by PwC. A set of guidelines developed as part of the Waterschool China project that influenced the natural curriculum on environmental education. SISC have published set of place-specific textbooks published on water education to support teachers. A suite of reference books have also been published on environmental initiatives and eco-tourism on the Tibetan Plateau.


Major Funders

Swarovski Waterschool; The National Geographic Society; Ford Foundation; Geely; The German Embassy, Beijing.


Major Partners

The Chinese Ministry of Education, the People’s Education Press, UNESCO (Beijing), Earth Charter, Swarovski Waterschool, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, EU-China, National Geographic Society, Oxfam Novib, UNDP, IUCN and many local partners.


What Makes Our NGO Distinctive?

Since its roots as the education department of WWF China based in Shangri-La, Yunnan, where key staff members of SISC gained valuable experience implementing high-impact projects in the region. Since splitting from WWF, the organization has gone from strength to strength, building a large and wide-ranging network of NGOs, schools, monasteries, nature reserves, businesses and government agencies that is the key to continuing successful capacity building.