Youth Arctic Forest Solutions Hackathon: Igniting Innovation for Arctic Sustainability

Barents Forest Forum, Rovaniemi
3-5 October 2023

In a dynamic convergence of youthful creativity and unwavering commitment to the Arctic’s future, the Youth Arctic Forest Solutions Hackathon, that took place on 3 October in Rovaniemi, has yielded fresh ideas and practical results that promise to shape the course of the Barents and Arctic sustainability. The Hackathon was a side event of the Barents Forest Forum 2023 (4-5 October), and it was organised by the Youth and indigenous peoples’ involvement in climate change adaptation in the Arctic and the Barents region (ACAF) project. The ACAF project is coordinated by the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) and funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. The Hackathon was also supported by the Working Group on Barents Forest Sector (WGBFS) under the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC).

The Journey: 

While the hackathon concept comes from the computer programming and IT world and can last for a couple of days, the Youth Arctic Forest Solutions Hackathon was an immersive and collaborative event that spanned 9 hours and focused on solving problems related to Arctic and Barents region’s sustainability. It brought together a diverse group of 14 young individuals, aged 20-30, from northern and eastern Finland (Lapland, Kainuu and North Karelia) as well as northern Norway (Troms), who share a common passion for environmental sustainability and a deep commitment to the future of the Arctic forests.

In the morning, context presentations on climate change impacts on forests, conservation and management of forests over time in Lapland, reconciling forestry and reindeer herding in northern Finland, and the acceleration of the green transition in the northern region provided young enthusiasts with an extensive overview that served the purpose of the deep diving into the current conflicts and aspects of forest management.

Guided by moderators and mentors, participants embarked on a remarkable journey of discovery and innovation in the afternoon. The four teams, each comprising individuals with varying skills and backgrounds, were given the opportunity to select one of the four distinct focus areas to discuss and create solutions to: Equitable Climate Action in Forestry, Forest Resilience in the Face of Climate Change, Balanced Forest Management for Sustainability, and Empowering Communities in Forest Stewardship. Hackathon guidelines served as the roadmap throughout the event, ensuring a productive and collaborative experience. Unlike in other hackathons, there were no winners selected at the end.

The Hackathon was not merely an event; it was a platform for these emerging leaders to explore, learn, and innovate. It was a space where fresh perspectives and bold ideas converged to address the pressing challenges of our time—forest management, biodiversity conservation, and climate change in the Barents region and the Arctic.

The Outcomes:  

The participants ventured beyond boundaries to envision the Barents region that thrives amid climate uncertainties, balancing ecological health, economic interests, and cultural values. These emerging leaders proposed solutions that were thoughtfully articulated and creatively put together in a short period of time. They included increasing the dialogue between various stakeholders, exploring the concept of agroforestry in the Arctic conditions, suggesting a pilot forest cooperative that integrates the pillars of sustainable development, and strengthening of indigenous rights through transparency and informing the public. The results of participants’ collective efforts were very appreciated by the attendees of the Barents Forest Forum that kindly provided the participants with the platform for expression of their obtained knowledge and ideas.

In addition, the participants were offered on the Barents Forest Forum’s excursion day an opportunity to see in practice how the northern forests are managed, and their multiple uses integrated from economic, social, and ecological viewpoints.

Moving Forward:

The outcomes of the Youth Arctic Forest Solutions Hackathon will serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration. They will be shared with policymakers, stakeholders, and the Arctic and Barents region’s community in a form of the Youth Recommendation Paper, reinforcing our commitment to Barents and Arctic sustainability. In particular, the Youth Recommendation Paper will be sent to the WGBFS, aiming to inform the Group for their ideas to be noticed in the future work planning.

Written by Daria Makhotina Gudnason and Niina Kautto

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