Saving the planet, one SDG at a time

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Written by
Svenja Prigge

The Sustain.All lab connects students and social entrepreneurs to get a step closer to a just future

Bengisu Berispek is a serial YES alumna and a one-woman show in the truest sense. When asked about her passion project Sustain.All, she talks about it with such energy that it is contagious. With Sustain.All, she strives to build a network bridging the gap between project makers, volunteers, and sponsors to help reach the UN’s sustainable development goals.

What are the sustainable development goals?

The so-called SDGs are 17 goals formulated by the United Nations. They address social, environmental, and economic aspects, such as gender equality, clean water, responsible consumption and production, and sustainable cities, to name a few.

Why are they important?

They raise awareness about the main global issues we are facing right now and provoke the question of how we can reach these goals. This is why we need platforms like Sustain.All. I participated in a sustainable project at TU Berlin called “Greening Africa Together” from 2019 to 2020. We worked with 100 women in Burkina Faso to construct a plastic recycling centre. Towards the end of the project, the global pandemic broke out. We couldn’t travel to Burkina Faso to plan the next steps together with the women. It was then when I had the idea to build a digital platform, by which we could stay connected to the project and follow along on its progress as well as being able to continue to offer support.

“The workshop helped me to specify the questions I should ask myself.”
At this point, you did your first workshop with Young Entrepreneurs in Science …

It was the two-day online workshop From PhD to Innovator. At the time, I woke up in the middle of the night with questions like: How can I make this project happen? The workshop helped me to specify the questions I should ask myself and what steps I can take to develop my idea. The more I got think and talk about it, the more confident I became and the more I believed in it.

With Sustain.All you are building up a lab course at TU Berlin and a digital platform. How does this all come together to address the SDGs?

Our lab at TU Berlin started this summer semester. During the 3-week education lab phase, 17 guest speakers representing the 17 SDGs, hold keynotes. We are discussing scientific articles that help identify problems in the way of reaching the SDGs. Together, we ideate collaborative approaches to tackle these problems. The second phase is the project lab, where we match the students with the project makers according to their skills. Each of the projects we are working with addresses certain SDGs.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals
This way the planet benefits, project makers can find volunteers, …

… and students can gather real-life experience for their careers. This part is happening in the lab, but we want to include it in the digital platform as well. We also want to provide opportunities for project makers to secure funds via our digital platform in the future.

The third part is the integration lab. Throughout the lab, we will take part in events, such as the Climate Day on 29 April, organised by the TU Berlin and the University of the Arts Berlin. Then, there is the “Lange Nacht der Wissenschaften” on 2 July, and many more.

“This past year has been very challenging – developing the lab on my own, and trying to find tutors and speakers.”
How has your idea of what Sustain.All evolved since you started the process in 2020?

As mentioned in the beginning, the idea for the digital platform came first. In November 2020, I participated in the hackathon DigiEduHack by TU Berlin. There, I was able to connect with a coder, an innovation management student, and an electrical engineering student. They became part of my team, and we won! Thanks to the hackathon, I discovered that my idea had potential. In April 2021 we applied to the TU project lab, which is how this programme developed.

Are you still working together?

In total, we worked together for about half a year. But with time, the team dissolved. My team mates were students who didn’t have much spare time. I managed most things myself because I was the idea giver. This past year has been very challenging – developing the lab on my own, and trying to find tutors and speakers. My co-tutor is a friend from high school – somebody I trust. People like her are not easy to find.

How do you fund your work on Sustain.All?

I work full-time and put in hours for Sustain.All after coming home from work. It helps that I am very passionate about what I do. There are currently no funds for my position at the University. Yet, the Entrepreneurship Centre at TU Berlin has been a great support with their workshops and consultations. I stay optimistic: We recently applied for funds at the Stiftung Innovation in der Hochschule. It was a big application to tackle, including an abstract, a financial plan, and more. We will hear back in May about whether we got selected •

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