Katrin Schweigel

Katrin Schweigel manages the international sustainability networks for Freie Universität Berlin and facilitates strategic governance processes to realize the goals of the climate emergency declaration the university published in 2019.

Big Idea(s) for Advancing Sustainability in Higher Education

What does the world need most right now?

In my opinion, we need the determination to translate our knowledge of the climate and biodiversity crisis into concrete, serious action. Now this may sound a bit trivial. However ultimately, for me, this is the essence of the debates of the past decades: we have the scientific evidence, we have developed strategies, and now we need the will, the courage, and the resilience to implement them. That this will not be easy is clear, also because there are so many different interests and circumstances to consider. I recently read this old slogan that made me think about just that:

"Everyone said it couldn't be done,
then someone came along who didn't know and did it.”

Leadership and Inspiration

What does excellent leadership look like to you?

Good leadership starts in my eyes with the ability to listen carefully. It is about bringing people together and creating an atmosphere of respect and trust. Leadership means to encourage people to reach to the best of their abilities - and it means to be able to have a good time together. The climate crisis confronts us as individuals, but also our institutions with huge tasks. Sometimes it all can seem too much. Leadership that motivates and shows how great it is to actually work on solutions to address these problems can build resilient and inspired teams.

Tenacity and Perseverance

What is the biggest implementation barrier you see, what would you need to overcome it?

I am convinced that sustainability is a crosscutting task that must be addressed in all areas of an institution. Individual initiatives, projects or sustainability managers cannot achieve the level of implementation and institutional transformation that is needed in our time. One of the biggest challenges is to find a way of addressing diverse stakeholders in diverse areas that can trigger the motivation needed to think about sustainability in their day-to-day business. Be it in the planning of business trips, teaching or in green space management. Integrating sustainability into all areas, decisions and plans of a complex institution like an university requires a culture of sustainability - that is, a self-image of the university community that is characterized by visionary leadership on institutional level and intrinsic motivation of individuals.

Fun Fact

Favorite activity in your spare time?

I love to spend my free time outdoors with my family. Exploring the forest, garden or playground together and (re)discovering the world through my little daughter's eyes is the greatest thing for me. Now in the approaching autumn you will find me again in the moor to watch cranes or in the forest looking for mushrooms!