In earlier years, Arctic academics were left alone in their own communities. That is no longer so, following the rapid rise of the ‘Emerging Leaders’ networking program.
- The Arctic constitutes a global crossroads. A natural place to meet between the north, south, east and west. Arctic academics and business leaders may have been left on their own in their Arctic communities in earlier years, however, the Arctic is now a buzzing metropolis with the polar seas constituting the connection lines out to all corners of the world, says Project Manager for the Emerging Leaders networking program Laura Johanne Olsen of SALT.
The idea behind the Emerging Leaders networking program was to create a meeting place and a knowledge journey for young researchers and leaders of the High North. The main idea of the network program came following a recognition of Akvaplan-niva’s Managing Director Salve Dahle and Conoco Philips Director Ole LIndejfeld.
- The realized that it was only late on in the career that people have networks extensive enough to really develop ideas in collaboration with actors from other industries and sectors. The Emerging Leaders program springs from the idea of providing young researchers and young leaders an early head-start to their network building. Because the best ideas grow in interdisciplinary meetings between people from various sectors, Olsen says.
A ‘hot’ meeting place in the Arctic
The Emerging Leaders is a side program during the Arctic Frontiers event, which has now developed into a large and attractive meeting place in the Arctic.
- It has become the meeting place. Emerging Leaders has become an opportunity for the youngest to make contact with important actors who are already important for the development in the Arctic, the project manager says.
She stresses the importance of young people’s perspectives and opinions being maintained and included in consultations.
- That is why we facilitate a presentation at the Emerging Leaders during the Arctic Frontiers in which the participants get to present their views on how to best manage the opportunities of the north, she says.
Important issues on the agenda
The coming participants of Emerging Leaders 2018 will meet in Bodø, Norway in January 2018. The discussion will then focus on challenges related to search and rescue in the High North.
- The next day we will travel with Hurtigruten to Lofoten, where we will focus on historic and future-oriented business development. We will spend the last days in truly Arctic surroundings in Tromsø, Olsen says.
Throughout the entire trip, emphasis is placed on a high academic level and, not to mention, broad social opportunities.
- For the young to meet and make connections that they can benefit from in their coming Arctic careers is the most important point of it all. And we are fortunate to also be joined by Artur Wilczynski, Canada’s Ambassador to Norway, on this trip. He is an important and very inspiring mentor for all of us, the network leader says.
She says that many of the participants on the program have never been to Norway before.
- Even though many of the participants have an Arctic angle to their work, not all of them have been this far north before. For most of them, our Norwegian Arctic is different from their own Arctic, Olsen says.
Worrying amounts of littering
Even though the Arctic varies from one country to the next, there are some overarching themes that are recurring throughout and shared by all.
- The many opportunities for demographic and business development are the source of several challenges, and the theme of this year’s Arctic Frontiers is ‘Connecting the Arctic’, Olsen says.
She says climate changes and marine littering are among the biggest challenges in the Arctic; however, a warmer Arctic also opens up parts of the polar seas and make them available for business activities in petroleum, shipping, tourism, fisheries and ocean farming.
- Marine littering accumulates in Arctic waters. This threatens all marine life. We see plastic littering in layers as thick on the Arctic seabed as it is round European cities. During the past few years, we have seen an increase of some 50 percent more plastic littering in northern waters, and this is a scary development, the network leader says.
She argues that there is a demand for young leaders who know each other’s challenges, so that the Arctic can meet these challenges with functioning solutions even today.
- The need for international obligations and arrangements for how to handle and dispatch waste in the Arctic is precarious, Olsen says.
Opportunities also represent challenges
Where many see opportunities there are also, according to Olsen, at least as many challenges.
- I believe we must see the greater picture as a whole. We must grasp the opportunities that facilitate sustainable business development in line with future generations’ demographic development. The Arctic is changing fast. We must confer with each other, she says.
Getting to know each other and getting the opportunity to say out loud how one can maintain a shared Arctic is therefore important.
- We have clearly not seen the best solution to the Arctic challenges yet, and who knows – maybe Emerging Leaders 2018 will arrive at the best functioning and best overall solutions to these particular challenges, Olsen says.
Though it is not always easy to measure, exciting connections have already arisen out of the network building, according to Olsen.
- We see exciting connections that in all likelihood have arisen based on the Emerging Leaders program, Olsen says.
She refers to a Canadian participant being invited to present life among Inuit for a large group of European foreign ministers and diplomats at the Canadian embassy.
- I also think it is exciting when young researchers like Kristian Amundsen gets to meet former Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende, and for one of the participants to get a job with the European Space Agency in Paris. Networking is important and takes place more or less all the time, wherever you are. Emerging Leaders provides excellent aspiring leaders with a head-start on their careers, Olsen says with a smile.
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