My year in a nutshell: by Malek al Jebaie

April 24, 2023

In 2019, I discovered a MOOC course offered by Lund University on Greening Cities that introduced me to the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics (IIIEE) and MESPOM. Four years later, I found myself walking around the historic corners of Lund, exploring its libraries and town, and receiving knowledge inside the iconic Aula classroom.

As an applied research student in urban transformation and governance, I had the opportunity to meet inspiring scholars and discuss tough questions such as the ownership of our cities and how to tackle wicked urban problems. I grappled with complex issues of urban resilience and transition management in diverse contexts and was introduced to a range of frameworks that helped me better understand urban systems and interpret effective solutions to pressing urban challenges.

The MESPOM program provided an excellent platform for networking and building partnerships for personal and career development. After having significant interactions with MESP students at CEU, I was delighted to meet yet another two different batches (EMP Batch 28 and Batch 29 at IIIEE) of like-minded students who share similar purposes. Also, sharing the cozy potluck dinners, and celebrating milestones and achievements during the last year, were particularly memorable. This was especially important to boost morale during the long, dark Swedish winter. Furthermore, as a batch representative in Lund, I had a pleasant experience testing the institutional mechanisms in place to seek a better MESPOM experience. Sometimes, my dedication to improvement was a bit ambitious, but I believe MESPOM deserves no less.

During the fall semester, I learned about emerging concepts in the circular economy, sustainable business model innovation, prevention strategies, clean technologies, voluntary sustainability standards, life cycle assessment thinking (LCA), and environmental management systems (EMS). I also had the opportunity to visit industry leaders like the paper manufacturing company Stora Enso and the polymer technology frontier Trelleborg Group.

One of the most eye-opening experiences of the program was diving into the institutional framework and policy instruments of the European Commission. Directives and regulations like WEEE, RoHS, Energy efficiency labels, and eco-design of products have driven the capacities of the commission. Carbon trading schemes (ETS) and Extended Producers' Responsibilities (EPR) are all niche practices with rigorous impacts that can be mainstreamed globally for a true societal transformation.

The program also provided space for empowerment and experimentation, which I personally experienced when I pitched an extension to my MESPOM internship. This led me to lead a joint thesis research project with IIIEE and Ecologic Institute that aimed to understand the trajectories of urban governance practices in European cities and identify patterns in the design and implementation of policy instruments that promote nature-based solutions. To achieve this, I analyzed a database of 150 urban policy instruments. Using a combination of advanced statistical and data science techniques, as well as qualitative content analysis, I was able to extract meaningful insights from the data.

Of course, this journey was far from straightforward, but it provided me with valuable learning experiences. During this project, I acquired essential skills such as effective communication, managing ambitious research goals, navigating science-policy interfaces, analyzing city-scale data, utilizing advanced statistical analysis techniques, and conducting research validation interviews with renowned scholars, experts, and practitioners in the fields of urban governance and citizen engagement.

My MESPOM journey has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will cherish forever. The inclusiveness of the program and the diverse array of cultures, urbanism, and well-being that I was exposed to was simply awe-inspiring. The guidance of Aleh Cherp and the dedicated consortium that designed and maintained this program has nurtured a cohort of future leaders equipped to tackle the most pressing environmental challenges of our time.

To all my professors, friends, and future fellows, I want to say a heartfelt thank you. We have shared the best of what this world has to offer, and I am forever grateful for the experiences and memories we have created together.