Day 4: Resilience, Innovation,& PPPs

Written by Kirsi Kotilainen

Today was another thought-provoking day at the GSS Global Environment, Energy and Risk. We started at the 6th floor of Geneva University’s Environmental Sciences building with reflections from yesterday when we were able to visit the International Office for Migrations (IOM) and talked about how IOM have been trying to tackle some of the global dynamics related to environmental migration. Climate change is affecting human mobility in multiple ways through changing the environment where people live and causing both environmental and social disasters that are forcing the people to leave their homes as environmental refugees.

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We next talked about resilience, which can be described as the capacity to resist and absorb shocks, to learn from the episodes of shocks and to prevent repeating the same mistakes. The climate change is triggering environment to change and different types of natural disasters are becoming more frequent. The question is how to build resilience on individual, community, national and international level? First thing is to identify vulnerabilities that can lead to reduced ability to respond to shocking events. To increase our ability to respond to environmental problems can be improved through Innovation. Digital tools are available today and can be helpful in accelerating innovation and engaging anyone with a smart phone and internet access to contribute to projects that are made available online. Openness is another key enabler as multiple stakeholders need to get access to e.g. climate data to be able to contribute to building solutions. And there is a lot of data available collected by climate scientist, NGOs, governments and citizens. In fact, there’s so much (big) data available that the next challenge is to find the essential and be able to visualize the data in order to link it to real context.

Our discussion further led to Crowdsourcing as a tool for engaging citizens in innovating solutions. The beauty of crowdsourcing is that it can be a way to strengthen citizen contribution to important topics in the global level. And once more and more people get active on the global challenges there can be a surprisingly big bottom up impact!

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We learned about Datacanvas project where 98 citizens deployed sensors in 7 cities around the world, 700 people participated workshops and events and 120 k were involved online. Data was collected by devices placed in cities and made available to students to find innovative ways to visualize the data. In Geneva, little Baby Josephine Casper (in picture) collected data rigorously every 15 minutes on a balcony over a busy street in Geneva on temperature, humidity, light, noise, dust and pollution. The data was made available to students to figure out ways to visualize data to make the measurements more concrete and real. Some of the results are e.g. Urban heart beat and It feels like which are able to make the data living and meaningful.

We also talked about Hyperloop, the initiative to build a transport system that move people in a tube with high velocities with minimal emissions. The Hyperloop could transfer people from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 30 minutes, or from Helsinki to Stockholm also in 30 minutes. The concept obviously has some serious barriers to overcome before proven feasible, but is nevertheless an example of highly innovative solution that could disrupt the transportation business in the future. What I wasn’t aware of is that much of the ideas for the Hyperloop prototype have been crowdsourced. Hyperloop is based on open source and for instance rloop, one of the winners in SpaceX competition designed a passenger pod for the Hyperloop prototype project. In projects like this public-private partnerships (PPPs) are essential and Elon Musk sure knows how to make best of the collaboration with the public sector. And the public-private partnerships were exactly what we were focusing on next…

In the afternoon we had a privilege to visit World Economic Forum (WEF) in Geneva. Summer has finally arrived to Geneva and WEF is perfectly located by the lake side offering amazing views over the Lac Leman and Jura mountains. Not a bad place to unscramble some of the toughest problems in the world! WEF is a non-public, non-UN organization focusing on shaping the global agenda and cultivating public-private partnerships. WEF partners with powerful members of the private sectors, NGOs, universities and the public sector to discuss, form partnerships and work on solutions for some of the topics on the  global agenda. We had presentations on some of the topics WEF is working on with multiple stakeholders e.g. Tropical forest alliance 2020, Oil and gas industry evolution as well as future cities and urbanization.

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Our discussion on global challenges and dynamics today was linked closely to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), for instance:

  • SDG 9: industry and innovation, infrastructure; Must say, that I love the fact that innovation and involving citizens in helping to solve global challenges has been coming up in many discussions that we have had during the week with international organizations.
  • Today we talked about crowdsourcing as a way to address data visualization of environmental data. This is especially relevant for the SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities as people will have a clear incentive to be active in their local neighborhoods
  • SDG 17: partnerships for the goals; WEF is facilitating discussion between multiple stakeholders and helping to build partnerships between private and public actors

At WEF we heard the same answer as we have heard during most visits during this week: we are not implementing the projects, we are facilitating them. At the end of the day I was left pondering who will take care about all that implementation stuff…



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