The Berlin School of Economics and Law (1) organizes the annual International Week on Sustainability (IWS) since 2019 with the goal is to integrate sustainability into the higher education curriculum. This year 2022, HWR invited master’s students from Metropolia for the second time to participate in the design and development of sustainable solutions together with companies and students from other countries in a series of workshops that lasted for 4 days, 18-21 November 2022.
Our group of 10 master´s students was excited to get an approval from Meropolia´s International office. Additionally, the IWS study trip offered a chance to earn 3ECTS while solving real-world sustainability concerns, so we longed to go and try. The final argument in favor of the trip was its destination, as Berlin represents significant historical legacy, making it a unique opportunity to visit and experience it, difficult to pass by.
Fast forward to November, it felt surreal to land at Berlin airport, and we were too excited to feel exhausted. Even the rain, slushy streets, and chilly air could not dim our spirits. In Berlin, we were all determined to expand our knowledge and make new connections.
Day 1. Opening Day and Kick-off
The program kick-off took place in HWR Startup Incubator Space located in the Siemens industrial park. It started with a briefing with project partners from Startup Incubator Berlin, which featured the startups in the sustainability field. The introduction also included a brief review of Service Design methods and tools covered by Prof. Christian Klang of HWR.
There were about 30 participants coming from different academic and business fields who were assigned to five working teams. Each team selected one of the following challenges: 1) incentivizing nature-based solutions to climate change; 2) making travel sustainable and meaningful; 3) incentivizing CO2 reduction during commute; and 4) communicating vegan food delivery effectively.
Teams put their hands to work on the challenge they had selected. The startups sat down with the teams to explain their projects and share their motivations and visions. Ideas poured in as each team concentrated on solving the issues and gathering data. Day 1 came to a close with more questions than answers.
Day 2 and 3. Ideation and Prototyping
Day 2 sessions were held on the HWR campus (2). As we had grown accustomed to the modern design of Metropolia´s campuses, the large corridors, arched hallways, and marble floors in the HWR campus were a little surprising.
Teams worked seriously to build and test their prototypes. It became obvious that cooperation is essential to the success of the projects and this is where online tools for team collaboration became critically useful. Ideas and information were together put in an online board to make sure that good ideas and critical pieces of information are not missed out.
The challenge was to make business sense out of all the ideas and information that we had, as we quickly realized that bright ideas and passion were necessary but not enough. We kept reminding ourselves that we needed to find solutions that would be viable, feasible, doable, and would make business sense for our partner startup.
The second day ended with coffee and laughter, as we watched the first snowfall of the year covering HWR.
On Day 3, we went to The Morp Company, a consulting firm that offers sustainability advice. A brief workshop on the use of the business model canvas as a tool to address corporate sustainability concerns was held and received very well as a hands-on new tool.
Day 4. Pitch for Impact
Day 4 was a pitching day. As teams presented their ideas and answered questions from partner startups and other participants, it was inspiring to see the variety of proposed solutions. There were no earthshaking proposals, but the teams focused on concepts that made real business sense and would advance true sustainability.
Although the solution reports still need to be finalized, we felt a sense of accomplishment for having done something worthwhile as the last session ended.
In all honesty, finding our way to the session locations in the morning was a bit challenging. Because of this, coffee and Google Maps have become our close allies.
When in Berlin, we didn’t just snap pictures. We needed to get out there, interact, and connect. Berlin is blissful for shoppers and vibrant for foodies and art lovers. A frequent conversation starter during this trip was “Is this your first time in Berlin?” It was easy to say “Yes” in response to this question. “How do you find Berlin?” and “Which sites have you visited?” were the typical follow-up queries. With each passing day, we would find ourselves giving different answers because Berlin is too diverse to describe in a few words.
Despite our time constraints due to working 4 full days on projects, we were nevertheless able to visit some famous sites. We were lucky to witness the start of Berlin’s Christmas market and were able to sample local food including currywurst, kebab, stollen cake, and local wine. We had our taste of misadventure too during the first attempt to visit the Brandenburg gate, as we ended up at a factory site due to our over-reliance on Google Maps.
On the last day of the trip, it was difficult to bid Berlin goodbye. Armed with new knowledge and filled with the brilliant sparks of Berlin, we boarded our plane to return to Finland.
- The Berlin School of Economics and Law (Hochschule für Wirtschaft und Recht, HWR, Berlin) is one of the largest universities of applied sciences in Berlin. It was founded in 2009 as a result of merged of two other big higher education institutions, and it now enjoys more than 150 partners around the globe, including Metropolia UAS, its long-time partner. Read more about HWR from its web-pages: https://www.hwr-berlin.de/en/
- Berlin School of Economics and Law, Badensche Str. 52, 10825 Berlin. The picture below shows the marble floors and grand interiors of this campus.
About the author
Karen Espiritu is a 1st year MBA student in Business Informatics at Metropolia Business School. Karen is a certified project manager and a result-driven professional who is passionate about fostering organizational sustainability on all three fronts: economic, social, and environmental. She enjoys blogging in her spare time and is an active student ambassador of Metropolia. Her video about IWS-2022 in Berlin can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPiUds0fVvo