A YGA trying to make our planet a better place

YGA alumni, Verena Rachenwald, was chosen out of 3600 applicants to be one of 1000 global talents working on the Sustainable Development Goals during the first ever UNLEASH Innovation Lab in Copenhagen.

In the outskirts of the old working class area and current vibrant hipster hub of Copenhagen called Vesterbro, you find an old train workshop- ‘Lokomotivværkstedet’. With its raw and rustic look, its floor-to-ceiling windows and roof structure made of wood and glass, it served as the framework for the very first UNLEASH Innovation Lab, where hundreds of global talents met each other for the first time a couple of weeks ago.

UNLEASH is a global innovation lab that brought together 1000 people from all over the world to transform their personal insights into hundreds of ideas and build lasting global networks around the UN’s official Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is a non-profit initiative developed by several core partners such as the UNPD, Deloitte, Dalberg, the Confederation of Danish Industry, Carlsberg Foundation and Danish folk high schools (Højskolerne).

During the 10 days long programme the talents was working to reach 7 selected SDGs: Education and ICT, Energy, Food, Health, Sustainable Consumption & Production, Urban Sustainability, and Water.

At this event, we from Copenhagen Capacity met with Verena Rauchenwald, who was selected one out of 3600 applicants to be among the top 1000 talents. They met for the first time in Copenhagen and spend the following 10 days in Denmark working on the ideas of how to solve the many serious challenges that our planet is facing today.

As an international student in Denmark, Verena was a part of Youth Goodwill Ambassador programme in 2013/2014. After graduating from her Master’s degree in Environmental Chemistry and Health from the University of Copenhagen in 2015, she worked for a Danish start up called Airlabs for almost a year. She wrote her Master’s thesis on how to clean polluted air in the cities in collaboration with Capital Region. Her academic interest also covers areas such as urban planning and architecture. So, when she was looking for a summer school back in April and stumbled on the admission for the UNLEASH Innovation Lab 2017, she applied to be enrolled and work on Urban Sustainability during the event. 


It is estimated that by 2050, 70% of the world’s population is going to live in cities. It will be a great challenge, as well as an immense opportunity for cities to assure quality services to a growing population. Through sustainable urban planning and the engagement of citizens, cities can create more liveable, inclusive and environmentally-friendly cities for all. That is what I want to contribute to and why I wanted to work on this specific SDG!

separator Verena Rauchenwald PhD Candidate in Social Ecology at Alpen-Adria-Universität 

 

The first 3 days of the UNLEASH programme took place in Copenhagen, where the talents got to know each other and started to work on actual sustainability cases provided by several different Danish companies. Verena visited BLOXHUB, where the Danish architecture firm Henning Larsen facilitated a workshop on finding solutions for the transport sector in Copenhagen.

On the 3rd day, the talents were allocated to the different Danish Folk Schools (Højskoler), where they spent 4 days of intense work on their specific sustainability theme. The concept of Højskoler is very unique to Denmark and is considered to be a cornerstone of Danish educational system in which education is available to all the citizens. Verena was assigned to Østersøen Højskoler in Aabenraa. Together with other UNLEASH participants, she was very surprised and happy about such an academic setup. Over the course of four days, the UNLEASH participants, UNLEASH facilitators and people running the school grew very close together through singing both Danish and English songs in the mornings, working hard on the idea formations and sharing stories over wonderful meals.



It was amazing to see how many good ideas can be born within a very limited amount of time when a group of people from different nationalities and educational backgrounds come together and work hard on solutions for a green transition of society.

separator Verena Rauchenwald PhD Candidate in Social Ecology at Alpen-Adria-Universität

 

The programme was finalised with a public UNLEASH festival taking place in Aarhus and it culminated in an award show with official speeches from the HRH Crown Princess Mary and the Prime Minster of Denmark, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, as well as a keynote speaker from Ashton Kutscher and several other innovators and thought leaders. Naturally, there is no award show without prizes and these were handed out to selected teams who showed excellence throughout the programme.

As the UNLEASH accelerates, it will visit different countries every year from now on and until the culmination of the 2030 Agenda. The focus will remain on unique ways to open new perspectives and discussions and to use the local ways to problem-solving and idea generation while exploring the SDGs.