Research stay in Latvia: ESD for 2030 Project

2023-05-24 Interview with Merle Dreessen about her research stay in Valmiera, Latvia in February/March 2023.

1. Hey, thanks for providing us your time. Let's start with a little introduction; who are you and what is your connection to the ISDL?

Sveiki. I'm Merle Dreessen and I'm an 8th semester student of "Global Environmental and Sustainability Studies" here at Leuphana University of Lüneburg. Since April 2021, I have been working as a student assistant at the Institute for Sustainable Development and Learning (ISDL), which came to my attention through the seminar "The Future cities of Europe - beyond Lüneburg 2030+". Since then, I have been involved in the research project “ESD for 2030 - Learning for and in resilient and sustainable communities” and got the opportunity to accompany the student exchange to the Baltic States as a tutor in summer 2022. Besides my work as a student assistant, I am currently writing my bachelor thesis at the ISDL.

2. Interesting! What is the topic of your bachelor thesis?

In my bachelor thesis I am investigating the topic of cooperation between educational institutions with a special focus on the so-called "Eco-schools" in Latvia. In the context of our project partnership with Valmiera, Latvia, I came across the Eco-school programme, which plays an important role in environmental education in Latvia. I was particularly interested in the cooperation of the Eco-schools with the city administration and other external stakeholders; e.g. the format of the "municipal eco-council", a kind of advisory board of representatives of the Eco-schools and the city administration who support each other and network in Valmiera and plan joint activities. In addition, I want to investigate through my bachelor thesis to what extent these forms of cooperation can contribute to sustainable urban and municipal development. 

3. That means you travelled to Latvia for your research?

Exactly. I lived in Valmiera in Latvia for one month, from 15 February to 15 March 2023. The research stay was funded by a PROMOS scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

4. Would you like to tell us what exactly you did there and how you liked it?

I would love to! My research stay in Latvia was really exciting and very versatile. During my stay, I lived in a student dormitory of the Eco-University "Vidzeme University of Applied Sciences (ViA), where the real-world experiment of the joint research project is currently being carried out. In the experiment, new waste separation systems are being tested. A new EU law will soon make organic waste separation compulsory in Latvia. 

As part of my research, I conducted stakeholder interviews with representatives of the Eco-schools and the Municipality of Valmiera to learn more about their activities and cooperation in the field of sustainable development. I also had the chance to participate in the Eco-school Winter Forum 2023 in February, where representatives of all Latvian Eco-schools meet once a year to exchange, train and develop joint results and plans. There I was able to gain many exciting insights and make contacts for interviews. In March, I also visited my fellow student Anne Terhardt in the project partner city Viljandi in Estonia and supported her in the implementation of her workshop. You can read more about that here

5. Now that you are back in Germany, how is your research going and what will happen with the data you collected during your research stay?

At the moment I am working on my bachelor thesis, for which I am analysing the data collected in Latvia. I have already transcribed the semi-structured interviews and coded them according to aspects of "collaborative governance", "collaborative learning" and "sustainable development - social, economic and environmental aspects". Based on my findings, I plan to formulate recommendations for action on how city administrations, eco-schools and other external stakeholders can cooperate in a transdisciplinary way to initiate sustainable development processes in Valmiera and other cities and municipalities. The results will also be used in a publication by Professor Raimonds Ernsteins and Daniels Truksans from the University of Latvia, Riga, entitled "Eco-schools as resource and instrument for municipal environmental governance development: communication frame for collaboration partnerships", which will be published later this year.

6. What role does your research play in the ESD for 2030 project?

My research stay enabled me to further expand the collaborations and networks that contribute to progress in transdisciplinary project cooperation. Furthermore, in my bachelor thesis I am dealing with the topic of education for sustainable development and how it can contribute to sustainable urban and municipal development through transdisciplinary and collaborative governance. With these insights, the course of the project "ESD for 2030" can be meaningfully supported and evaluated.

Thank you very much! That was very informative. 

You're welcome. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at Paldies! 

Exhibition of the future visions from Eco-schools. ©Merle Dreessen
Exhibition of the future visions of eco-school students and teachers for a sustainable Latvia 2050.
Eco-school Winter Forum 2023 ©Merle Dreessen
Presentation at the eco-school Winter Forum 2023 in Valmiera.
Recycling Workshop at Eco-school in Valmiera. ©Merle Dreessen
Recycling Workshop at Eco-highschool in Valmiera.
Eco-school Winter Forum 2023 ©Anne Terhardt
Merle Dreessen at Eco-school Winter Forum 2023.