ChangeMakers is a Central Baltic Interreg project, funded by the European Union, that aims to enhance the spirit of entrepreneurship with focus on sustainability, circular economy, water sectors, and reuse-reduce-recycle. Target group in ChangeMakers is students of upper-secondary schools in countries around the Baltic Sea, i.e., Sweden, Finland (including Åland), Estonia, and Latvia. The project started in 2020 and runs over two years in which 250 students will form 50 cross-border teams to establish ‘mini’ start-ups and develop business solutions to global environmental challenges with a specific focus on the Baltic Sea. Local companies and organisations – e.g. the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of Sweden, Lovia, and Fifax Ab, — have partnered the project assisting the students with their start-ups.
The Zoom call with a selection of the more than 120 upper-secondary school students from Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Åland.
The ChangeMakers BootCamp was a great success, hosted and moderated by the representatives of Riga Technical University who ensured that the students learned about innovation, teamwork, and entrepreneurship in a meaningful way. Organising a Zoom call with 120+ teenagers for two days is of course a challenge, but several online tools, like Mentimeter or Miro boards, helped to engage everyone. Furthermore, the founder of Angry Birds, Peter Vesterbacka, joined us and gave an inspirational speech about entrepreneurship and initiating things that seem impossible in the beginning. The students showed great interest and creativity to work on the presented environmental challenges, and were curious to talk to their new teammates from other countries.
As a central activity, 14 environmental challenges were presented in the BootCamp which had been defined by the project partners in collaboration with local companies and organisations from whom a representative also joined the online Boot Camp. Defined challenges cover a wide range of environmental issues both within the Baltic countries and beyond, including hydrological and water management challenges such as the use of excess rainwater, plastic pollution of stormwater discharge into the Baltic Sea, as well as eutrophication and invasive species issues concerning the Baltic Sea. Furthermore, problems regarding textile waste, the efficiency of different industries, usage of disposable cups or silage packaging, as well as how to cut down fossil fuels were also introduced to the students. After learning about different environmental challenges, the students chose a challenge, formed cross-border teams and drafted their initial ideas about founding a mini company and how to tackle solutions to their environmental challenge.
Following the BootCamp in Oct 2020, the student teams continued working on their mini company ideas in collaboration with mentors and project partners. In Sweden, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (Naturvårdsverket) is part of the project and assisted students in addressing solutions with the two challenges of a fossil free planet and a plastic free Baltic Sea. The teams will pitch their companies in a dragon’s den format (i.e. present their business ideas to a panel of experts and potential investors) to the project representatives and collaboration partners in the beginning of May 2021. Although the final event of the first round of the project is again going to be online, ChangeMakers is indeed a great example of how we can conduct projects and events despite the current situation and that inspiration and passion for a sustainable future can also be spread online.
Find out more about the project:
Hanna Kreplin recording a video as an online study material for the students