Aalto Global Impact was established five years ago in 2012 to promote and facilitate Aalto University’s educational and research programmes for societal impact globally. Multidisciplinarity, real-life challenges and partnerships based on cross-stakeholder collaboration are central to Aalto Global Impact’s work.
‘Five years ago there were numerous global projects, programmes and courses focusing on societal impact and sustainability issues scattered across Aalto University. Therefore, Aalto Global Impact was created to bring these different initiatives together and, thereby, increase impact as well as enhance continuity,’ explains Director Teija Lehtonen.
‘We support different schools and programmes across the University in their activities by creating multistakeholder global alliances and thereby providing concrete real-life project opportunities for students and researchers,’ says Lehtonen. ‘Aalto Global Impact is also home to Impact Iglu, an impact community that supports entrepreneurs who do business to solve societal challenges.’
Collaboration across disciplines and sectors
Aalto Global Impact has facilitated resource mobilization for several research projects amounting to a total of 5.4 million euros. Key fields include sustainable and frugal innovations, inclusive businesses, renewable energy, water and sanitation, ICT and digitalization, architecture and design. These projects have brought together researchers from Aalto Schools of Business, Engineering, Science as well as Arts and Design.
A total of 300 students have been involved in tackling global real-life challenges and this includes some 32 courses. Aalto Global Impact’s key educational partners include, for example, the Master’s programmes Creative Sustainability and International Design Business Management, as well as Sustainable Global Technologies and Cities in Transition studio courses.
External partners include other universities, companies, governmental authorities and NGOs. Aalto Global Impact has also contributed to the development and innovation policies in Finland and globally as well as development of new funding instruments such as BEAM – Business with Impact, a joint programme of Tekes and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
Focus on projects in emerging markets
‘The focus of our work is particularly in emerging markets. Since 2012, we have worked in 15 countries most of which are in Africa, but also including Mexico and India, for example,’ says Lehtonen. ‘Our main projects at the moment are in several sub-Saharan African countries.’
In spring 2017, Aalto Global Impact coordinated the project CodeBus Africa to empower youth in technology by organizing creative coding workshops in ten African countries. Part of the Finland 100 programme, CodeBus Africa was a joint initiative of Aalto University, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, Nokia and Mehackit, and also involved collaboration with multiple local tech hubs and educational institutes.
‘At the moment, we are starting a new three-year project to strengthen problem-based learning in Africa. The PBL East Africa project received the maximum funding, a total of 700,000 euros, from the highly competitive Ministry for Foreign Affairs’ HEI-ICI programme for higher education institutions,’ says Lehtonen. ‘The project involves numerous experts and courses from across Aalto University, and it’s a joint initiative with Nairobi University, Makerere University and Dar es Salaam University.’
Teija Lehtonen, Director, Aalto Global Impact
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