News - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Belfer Center's Arctic Initiative Takes Students on a Virtual Field Study to Greenland

| May 21, 2020

IGA-671M: Policy and Social Innovations for the Changing Arctic immerses students in real-world sustainable-development issues through the lens of the rapidly changing Arctic region.

Ane Lone Bagger

Ane Lone Bagger, Minister of Education, Culture, Church and Foreign Affairs of Greenland, offered her words of encouragement to student participants in the Greenland Policy Challenge.

When COVID-19 grounded travel plans for Harvard, Halla Hrund Logadottir, co-founder of the Arctic Initiative and Adjunct Lecturer for the course Policy and Social Innovations for the Changing Arctic (IGA-671M), was not going to let the pandemic ground her field study.

The course immerses students in real-world sustainable-development issues through the lens of the rapidly changing Arctic region. This year, the course was supposed to travel to Greenland for the capstone field study and Innovation Lab. But when classes went remote, the teaching team swung into action and converted the trip into the virtual Greenland Policy Challenge.

Co-designed with Greenland's Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Education and Culture and produced in collaboration with the University of Greenland, The Greenland Policy Challenge was born out of the idea that connecting young future leaders to innovate on challenges facing the Arctic can both educate them about this fast changing region and equip them with skills to develop and contribute new and sustainable solutions.

Greenland Zoom Screenshot

Zoom screenshot of Greenland Policy Challenge participants

Over the course of two days the Greenland Policy Challenge teamed up students from the University Greenland with students from Harvard over Zoom to co-develop recommendations for Greenland's policy strategies in the fields of climate change, education and cultural preservation, foreign affairs and economics and trade. Student groups were paired with expert local Greenlandic mentors who offered guidance along the way.

On the first day students had the opportunity to learn about their subject areas from local Greenlandic experts including: Jørn Skov Nielsen, Greenland's Deputy Minister, Ministry of Industry, Energy, Research and Labour, Lene Kielsen Holm Greenlandic Research Scientist and Project Leader in the Climate and Society Research Group at the Greenland Climate Research Centre, Katti Fredricksen, Head of the Language Secretariat of Greenland and poet, and Inuuteq Holm Olsen, Head of Representation of the Greenland Representation in Washington, D.C.

Then after an afternoon and evening of brainstorming sessions, policy development, and memo writing, students spent the second day presenting their policy solutions to a panel of experts including: University of Greenland Rector, Gitte Adler Reimer; Deputy Foreign Minister of Greenland, Kenneth Høegh; and Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and Co-Director of the Arctic Initiative, John P. Holdren.

Ideas ranged from encouraging expansion of "green sand" as a sustainable development opportunity, creating an online dashboard to map attractions around Greenland to encourage people to experience Greenlandic culture, investing in hydropower to produce hydrogen fuel as a clean energy source, and creating more technology tools for early childhood language education in Greenlandic. The expert panel critiqued each groups' set of solutions and shared the ways the students presentations helped reshape their thinking about future policy strategies.

At the end of the two days, students shared their thanks for the opportunity to connect from across the globe to build a network of young leaders interested in promoting sustainable development of the Arctic. While digital tools can't replace face-to-face interaction, the Greenland Policy Challenge showed how virtual spaces can still provide a venue for learning, innovation, and new networks to form.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Janis, Brittany. “Belfer Center's Arctic Initiative Takes Students on a Virtual Field Study to Greenland.” News, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, May 21, 2020.

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