A journey from Pioneer to climate entrepreneur
© Photo by Sára Volom (The Photon) I Péter Vigh at the Budapest Sustainability Exchange conference, September 2020
Seeking a professional and personal challenge, Péter participated in the Pioneers programme in 2018 – and it was a transformative experience. Since completing Pioneers, Péter set up ‘Másfél fok’, a climate action awareness-raising project in Hungary and continues to be involved in Pioneers as a coach.
The Pioneers programme came at a perfect time – it was the much-awaited fresh air I needed to develop. I met extremely talented, motivated people and learned how to look at climate entrepreneurship with new eyes. It is no exaggeration to say that it turned my professional and private life around. If you’re thinking of applying, get ready to step out of your comfort zone and give yourself a chance to try out change – beyond climate and environment.
Péter Vigh, Pioneer 2018, Coach 2019-2020
Péter Vigh was working as a project advisor in Hungary on capacity building projects at the LIFE programme – the EU’s funding arm for climate action – when friends and colleagues encouraged him to apply for the EIT Climate-KIC Pioneers programme in 2018. The experience was extremely positive and after years working in the public sector, Péter decided to become a ‘climate entrepreneur’, working as a Coach for Pioneers since 2019 and setting up a climate change awareness-raising project in Hungary.
“Proposals and policies provided comfort and distance from the climate change problem,” says Péter. “I had never worked as an entrepreneur – my previous professional experience was as an employee or research fellow – but I took the leap of faith and now I could not see myself behind a desk again, in a 9-5 job. I feel much more empowered working this way.”
As a coach, Péter is now embedded in the wider Climate-KIC community: “In 2019, I was the local climate expert in the programme for Hungary and Slovakia and I also successfully applied to become a member of the Network of Climate Coaches, which provides access to amazing resources and enables me to be part of a worldwide network. During Pioneers 2020, I worked as a local coach and in the future, I would like to work more with this community to unfold its vast potential and goodwill.”
A self-confessed ‘implementing guy’, Péter was initially sceptical of the systems innovation thinking promoted in the Pioneers programme: “It took me a while to see the benefits, but now I see the importance of taking time early on in a project to think more clearly about its goals and which methodology is most suitable. When I began managing a programme as a coach, everything came together much more easily through systems thinking. As an approach, it should be more widely promoted in workplaces and also used to tackle other challenges beyond climate change.”
Péter finds the introductory and final workshops of the Pioneers programme especially useful: “As a Pioneer, it was amazing to have all the Hungarian participants gathered in a welcoming and stimulating environment and to come together again at the end of the programme to reflect. As a coach, it was a different experience – I presented on climate action to people with different levels of expertise and I felt an enthusiasm from the group as they aligned their expectations and knowledge gaps. In 2020, I was concerned we wouldn’t be able to replicate this experience with new Pioneers as most things moved online, but despite obstacles it went well – we did our best to create a community and our alumni group is still having meetings.”
Beyond Pioneers, Peter is a founder, project manager and editor at ‘Másfél fok – éghajlatváltozás közérthetően’, a climate action awareness-raising project in Hungary funded by the European Climate Foundation. “We deliver scientifically-approved messages on climate change from academia and science in an easy-to-understand way. We are working together with environmental journalists in Hungary, who often lack knowledge, time or capacity to write about these issues. “
Péter adds, “Ultimately, we want scientific ideas to reach the general public more easily, by communicating the best-available solutions to existing problems – making a seemingly abstract phenomenon a personal issue,” says Péter. “Our goal is to create an online platform distributing scientifically-approved articles to the general public and as a climate communication expert I help in the translation and writing. It is going really well and the scientists we work with appreciate being quoted in the media. The project is in its second year and I look forward to seeing it develop.”