The initial sketch of the SSN began in the Summer of 2015. Two members of I’dECO: the Yale-NUS Sustainability Movement, Jeffrey and Weiliang, embarked on a Social Impact Fellowship in three Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Sweden and Norway). They observed the factors which contributed to the strong culture of sustainability in these communities, and identified best practices they could bring back to Singapore.
Between travelling on bicycles, eating budget sandwiches and learning how to cook, Jeffrey and Weiliang interviewed over 25 environmental leaders in Copenhagen, Malmo, Stockholm, Gothenburg and Oslo. These ranged from Hans Bruyninckx, Executive Director of European Environment Agency to Olov Kallgarn, President of the Nature Conservation Society, Malmo Chapter to Simen Torp, Founder of the Hurdal Eco-Village in Norway, etc.
For Jeffrey and Weiliang, the spirit and culture of collaboration and innovation in the Scandinavian environmental scene was most striking. Almost every environmental organisation, be it NGO, green business or government body, was involved in projects, initiatives or cooperatives that spanned all the different stakeholders. They heard, observed and understood how critical collaboration is to attain a strong culture of sustainability. This experience so inspired the duo that they felt the need to nurture and build a similarly collaborative environmental scene in Singapore.
But what works in Scandinavia may not necessarily work in Singapore. So together with other members of I’dECO, they met up with local environmental organisations in Singapore to find out what exactly is lacking in the environmental scene here, and how I’dECO could be part of the solution. The initial concept of the SSN was formed. Jeffrey and Weiliang formed a preliminary team with other I’dECO members (Wan Ping, Ying Tong and Kimberly), and submitted their idea to the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU). The team was shortlisted to attend the IARU Global University Climate Forum in Paris, and kindly funded by the Dean of Students Office at Yale-NUS College. At the event, the students exchanged ideas (and criticism) with 100 other students from 30 other universities, under the uplifting spirit of COP21. The trip further persuaded the team that inspiring real solutions, rather than empty commitments, was the best thing the conference could do.
And so I’dECO was on its way to crafting the SSN. The current model for SSN was developed as a result of discussions with more than 30 environmental leaders and organisations in Singapore, cutting across the public and private sector. I’dECO also drew experience and worked with local partners that facilitate environmental collaboration in Singapore, such as 350 Singapore, Earthfest Singapore, Green Drinks Singapore, Gone Adventurin’, #LepakInSG and MP Louis Ng. Applying rigorous research and critical thinking to our discussion models and exercise, the SSN conference will inspire promises and real solutions. Complementing this will be the Sustainable Solutions Portal, which builds off existing platforms and consolidates resources in the environmental collaboration field here in Singapore. Together, the SSN will bridge organisations, and create sustained engagement for environmental solutions.