Improving systems innovation knowledge and helping shape the ‘Greenest District in the Baltics’

Following a positive experience on the EIT Climate-KIC Journey programme in 2020, Katerina Chantzi joined Pioneers in 2021 to build on her systems innovation knowledge. Her group project ‘Green City District’ focused on installing green roofs and facades for residents in a Tallinn neighbourhood to maintain, and Katerina presented the project alongside colleagues at the Pioneers European get-together in November 2021. Participating in Pioneers has already led Katerina to further collaborations and she is using systems innovation thinking in her work.

“As well as learning more about climate change, Pioneers equips you with a valuable skillset you can use in your work and daily life. The programme helps you see the world in a more interconnected way and shines a light on what your role in the world could be. If you’re interested in applying for Pioneers, but are unsure – do it! I was super happy to have taken part and it made me realise sometimes we undervalue what we do, which is why it’s important to move on from ‘impostor syndrome’.”

Katerina Chantzi, Pioneer 2021, Project Manager at Cleantech Estonia, Founder of BinFree

After participating in the EIT Climate-KIC Journey programme in 2020, Katerina Chantzi was keen to develop her knowledge further. “I had a very positive experience on the Journey programme – I even hosted Journey 2021 in Estonia – and it seemed that Pioneers built on what Journey had taught us about systems innovation thinking,” she said.

Katerina’s workplace – Cleantech Estonia – were also her Pioneers delivery partners. Initially, Katerina worried that Pioneers, “was only for super-high experts – but the programme is not like that, you can participate even if you have basic knowledge on climate change and systems innovation,” she says.

Her group project ‘Green City District’ focused on Wolfscape – a neighbourhood in Tallinn aiming to become “the greenest district in the Baltics”. Located at an abandoned port, Wolfscape wants to bring together a range of professionals to create a sustainable and unsegregated neighbourhood.

Katerina and her fellow Pioneers looked at the possibility of creating green roofs and facades in Wolfscape – and ensuring residents maintain them. By looking at success stories in neighbourhoods from around the world, Katerina and her team provided recommendations for Wolfscape to build in sustainable design from the beginning and engage residents, challenging the neighbourhood to sign up residents for the Living Community Challenge, a certification framework geared towards creating symbiotic, sustainable communities.

Katerina has already been applying what she learned at Pioneers in her daily life and work. “I used Pioneers content in ‘Creating circular economy’, an elective learning distance course I offered to high school students on the Estonian Edumus platform. I will also be using systems innovation thinking during my teaching for the Tallinn University LIFE project – the ‘Green Tallinn University’ – which aims to support students interested in climate action, helping them build a strong community of climate leaders and facilitate dialogue with the university on climate action.”

Pioneers has also already led to another collaboration – Katerina is running a 30-day minimalism challenge workshop alongside fellow Pioneer Heikki Laidma. Bringing together Katerina’s company BinFree – which helps people in Estonia adopt a more sustainable lifestyle by providing recycling pick-up services and courses – and Heikki’s company Smartswap, the course will take place in March 2022.

Networking was one of the main draws of the Pioneers programme for Katerina: “It brings together people with similar interests and approaches and helps them develop good synergies and collaborations. It was great to learn about what people are doing in different countries and there is a feeling of being able to co-create and share constructive feedback.”

Check out our Week of Action videos to find out more about the programme, how it links to climate action and hear more from previous participants and partners: