‘Engagement and knowledge change the world’

Danat Tekie
‘I think I have a fundamental need to engage in important issues. I want to spend my time on something meaningful and contribute to making the world a better place,’ says Danat Tekie, Chief of External Relations in Young Sustainable Impact (YSI). Photo: Geir Anders Rybakken Ørslien
By Ove Sjøstrøm

19 February 2021 07:45

‘Engagement and knowledge change the world’

Danat Tekie (26) from Oslo is one of the founders of the start-up success Young Sustainable Impact. But she is not resting on her laurels. With a grant from NHH Executive, she will now learn more about sustainability.

‘I think I have a fundamental need to engage in important issues. I want to spend my time on something meaningful and contribute to making the world a better place,’ says Danat Tekie, Chief of External Relations in Young Sustainable Impact (YSI). 

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challenged 

In February, she participated in the first session of the sustainability programme at NHH Executive. During the next twelve months, Tekie and the other students will study part-time for their master’s module in Sustainable business strategy. 

‘It feels great to have started the course. The first session was conducted digitally, and I have talked to people from many different sectors. They have different questions and answers to the challenges of sustainability. This makes the programme really interesting and exciting. I find that I'm challenged by many perspectives and capable lecturers.

Danat Tekie, Chief of External Relations in Young Sustainable Impact (YSI).
Danat Tekie, Chief of External Relations in Young Sustainable Impact (YSI). Photo: Geir Anders Rybakken Ørslien

Entrepreneurship and sustainability

Tekie was born and grew up in Oslo and is of Eritrean descent. After serving as a guard in His Majesty the King’s Royal Guards, she took a degree in organisational science at Lillehammer University College. She also studied at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa.

‘An education is important, but for me it has also been important to engage in voluntary work and organisations,’ she says, and adds:

‘But what I choose to spend my time on has to be something that solves a problem for other people.’

Huge response

As a student, she was one of the founders of Young Sustainable Impact (YSI) and Future Leaders Global. Now, five years later, she is the Chief of External Relations at YSI. The organisation has now become international, with eight full-time employees and three offices in Asia. 

‘What is the goal of YS?’

‘We give young entrepreneurs the world over tools and a platform on which to develop concrete business solutions to different sustainability challenges.’ 

She says that the response has been huge.

Using IT to promote sustainability

Former NHH student Francesca Accerbi travelled from a little village on the Ligurian coast in Northern Italy and ended up in Orkla’s headquarters.

‘More than 10.000 people from all over the world apply to our digital innovation programme. We seek young and engaged candidates who want to develop good business ideas that are sustainable. Of these, we pick 25 entrepreneurs who we work closely with to develop solutions.’

young talents

One strategy is to connect young talents with established companies to solve specific challenges. 

‘We have worked with big companies such as Coca Cola, the Grieg Group and Orkla to name just a few,’ she says.

‘What have the entrepreneurs in the programme achieved?’

‘Through funding from our programme ‘YSI Innovation Program’, Aquasolis Global has for instance developed sustainable water purification machines. The company Urinalytics has developed a reliable and simple health test, while Waymore makes t-shirts from recycled plastic bottles,’ says Tekie and underlines:

‘It's incredibly rewarding to think of what we have achieved since we started in 2016. We are privileged to be able to work with young talents from all over the world.’ 

Gave a TEDx talk 

In 2019, Tekie gave a TEDx talk about sustainability organised by the University of Oslo. 

‘The goal of the lecture was to demystify the concept of sustainability. It’s talked about so much that many people no longer know what it means,’ she says and emphasises our joint responsibility for looking after the planet.

‘I strongly believe in the power of each individual. If everyone feels a responsibility for doing their part, it will be easier to reach the goals together. Of course, we also need the big countries on board if we are to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals and solve the global climate crisis.’

Received a grant

Tekie has received a grant from NHH Executive to complete the sustainability programme. 

Higher education can create an impact

CEMS Responsibility Week was kicked off at NHH this week with a panel discussion on how the Higher Education Sector impacts global efforts to meet the SDGs and the Paris Agreement.

‘I was delighted to receive the grant. I feel a need for more specific knowledge in order to make YSI grow and become more professional,’ she says, and adds:

 ‘The study is case-based with examples from the real world. In this way, I get the tools I need to develop YSI while studying.’

drivers of change

‘What challenges do organisations and businesses face when it comes to sustainability?’

‘One example is that it’s difficult to distinguish between real sustainability challenges and hot air. You need to be knowledgeable to know what you're talking about. Another thing is to develop sustainable business models that are grounded in companies' core business and that ensure that companies survive in the future.’

‘Where do you see yourself in ten years?’

 ‘I’m still working on sustainability. I believe in business and industry as drivers of change. But sustainability must be integrated in the core business of the companies,’ she says and concludes:

‘It’s enthusiasm and knowledge that change the world.’