How can we build sustainable futures across the Arctic region?

The Arctic Opportunity Explorers program – a collaboration between Sustainia and HelloScience – provided a platform for students from across 11 different countries to form teams and develop innovative ideas to solve SDG-focused challenges. Throughout the program – which ran from September 2020 to January 2021 – teams collaborated together on the HelloScience platform, as they shaped their innovative ideas and received valuable insights from mentors.

We check in with Kelly Lynch – Partner Manager at Sustainia, and project leader of Arctic Opportunity Explorers – to learn more about the key experiences, insights and opportunities that emerged from the program.

Q: How is the Arctic Opportunity Explorers (AOE) working to catalyze collaborative approaches to entrepreneurship?

A: Here at Sustainia, we are committed to facilitating the move from inspiration to action when it comes to tackling sustainability and climate change-related challenges. We see the Arctic Opportunity Explorers as a natural extension of this initiative, and we hope that the program will allow us to achieve this goal by serving as a tool through which we can empower young people to become changemakers in the Arctic.

Students are at the center of the program, and we believe it is important to recognize their potential as it relates to entrepreneurship – especially given their unique combination of skill, innovative thinking, and drive to meet the biggest and most complex challenges we are faced with today. The Arctic Opportunity Explorers program is facilitating student collaboration around sustainable entrepreneurship and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by providing them with a platform on which to showcase their innovative ideas, as well as by providing them with the groundwork, connections, techniques, and frameworks by which they may be able to achieve true social impact.

THE TEAM CASES

Q: AOE brought together students from across 11 different countries to focus on innovating around
regional challenges in the Arctic. What key insights have you gained through the program –
specifically in terms of how we might continue to foster local-global collaborations around the
SDGs?

A: Producing innovative solutions around the SDGs that are localized and contextually-relevant is fundamental to what we are trying to achieve with the Arctic Opportunity Explorers program. We want to build and support pathways for innovation and entrepreneurship that have the potential to address global challenges, like climate change (SDG 13), while simultaneously ensuring that local concerns and voices are heard and prioritized.

Over the course of this year’s program, the importance of bringing a diverse group of individuals from disparate backgrounds, geographic locations, and academic disciplines together was reinforced. We saw a wide range of creative ideas coming from our student participants, and we believe this diversity of perspective will be a key factor moving forward. In order to create locally-tailored solutions, it is equally important to make sure people living in Arctic communities are included in these conversations, and we found that students from around the world are extremely eager to learn about the realities of life in these regions that are often perceived as remote.

Q: The use of collaborative digital tools and technologies – such as HelloScience – was central to the
Arctic Opportunity Explorers program. In what ways would you like to see these digital tools and technologies grow and evolve in order to further support entrepreneurial collaboration around the SDGs? Were there any particularly interesting examples of how students creatively used these tools
and technologies to enhance their collaborations?

Kelly Lynch, Partner Manager at Sustainia

The importance of a collaborative mindset is paramount, and digital tools may serve as an important lever. The entirety of this year’s Arctic Opportunity Explorers program took place in the shadow of COVID-19, and as such virtual tools like HelloScience were instrumental in allowing the project to move forward and succeed. By facilitating continued interaction between individuals spread across a multitude of time zones and locales, it has shown the great potential for remote work and collaboration moving forward.

In fact, the winning team with the overall best innovative solution was composed of three bachelor’s students spread across the United States, United Kingdom, and Russia who had never met prior to embarking on this challenge. HelloScience served as a platform to share their ideas and journey with each other, and to later showcase the high-quality of their work to a wider audience. This ‘living library’ approach will be important moving forward, and will ensure ideas such as theirs are able to evolve and grow. This will hopefully inspire and facilitate even greater collaboration and cooperation between communities and individuals all over the world.

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