When Karin Kruup joined the TalTech programme in Technology Governance and Digital Transformation (TG&DT) in 2019 to take time off from the start-up world, she could not imagine that she would also find her dream job!
Already at the beginning of the second year of her master's studies, Karin, ignited by local resilience and environmental crisis, started working as the coordinator of the Estonian pilot of the EU-funded research and innovation project CENTRINNO. The project aims to turn old industrial areas into new creative clusters, makerspaces, and community centres. Even today, a year and a half later, Karin believes she will be working in this field for many years.
Why did you choose to study Technology Governance and Digital Transformation?
After graduating from secondary school, I started to study computer science at the University of Tartu, but within the first year, I realised that I am pulled towards people, projects, and management, and therefore changed my major to economics while keeping computer science as a minor. During my bachelor's studies and a few years after, I worked mainly for IT start-ups. However, my thoughts always shifted towards major societal and economic issues, and thus I was looking for a field of study that would help me broaden my perspective on society, technology, economy, and history.
I aimed to develop systemic thinking, in particular, to solve large and complex problems, such as the climate crisis. At first, it seemed that I had to look for such an opportunity elsewhere in the world, but thanks to my friend’s suggestion, I ended up in my backyard, at Tallinn University of Technology. So, I took some time off and joined the master’s programme in Technology Governance and Digital Transformation.
This field of study had not caught my eye earlier, nor had I believed it could be something for me, as I considered the title of the study programme a bit misleading. Although, it must be hard to name a specialty that encompasses the entire social horizon. Now, when I am part of it, I know that technology governance is a very broad field that summarises my studies quite well: the range of topics expands to the various social and economic narratives that, to a great extent, are influenced by technological developments.
What kind of critical global issues are the graduates of TG&DT equipped to solve?
The graduates of TG&DT gain a valuable perspective on the causes and consequences of social change and technological development. In the field of computer science and economics, for example, I learned to solve problems mainly at the organisational, product, or a specific market, and target group level, my master's studies extended the scope to the whole society.
The main employers of the graduates of TG&DT are large organisations and institutions such as the state, local governments, big companies, and international and other organisations that face the need to solve societal problems, such as the climate crisis, inequality, and ecological crisis. One who can govern technology is capable of getting to the root of the problem and systematically solve it.
In terms of solutions, the graduates of TG&DT can undoubtedly contribute to the challenges of the green transition, and thus to the most difficult task - shaping human behaviour, creating policies, and reorganising the society in accordance with the challenges of our time. Green transition as a broad term provides ample opportunities for taking action. It is up to the individual to identify one’s area of interest in which to apply sustainability and resilience.
Every field can and must be made more sustainable and resilient (more local, more flexible, less resource-intensive), be it medicine, public administration, production, or entertainment. A technology governor can be a politician, entrepreneur, activist, manager, specialist, researcher, or consultant. It depends on the person and their interests. Advanced thinking skills are beneficial in every job.
What societal challenges do you meet in your daily work?
I have chosen the field of technology governance and digital transformation to find a way to tackle my most important concerns - the climate and ecological crisis. Stories about environmental issues and greenwashing come in through our doors and windows, but to my surprise, I have discovered that only a few people bother or know how to put the big picture together. A lot of people even do not know what would help the environment, and I think that is something that guided me to my current job.
In my work at TalTech Nurkse Department, I coordinate the Tallinn pilot of the EU-funded research and innovation project CENTRINNO. As part of the pilot, in cooperation with the city of Tallinn, we are launching Kopli 93 Community Centre, which is our local resilience experimentation laboratory. Diversification of skills, relationships, and knowledge that cover all the areas necessary for life, including growing your own food, building, crafting, and repairing, self-organisation, and so on, make a community more resilient. More diverse people create a more integrated economy, which enables us to create and provide needed services and products more locally.
In the Kopli 93 Community Centre, what topics do you deal with in terms of resilience?
We have initiated a community garden in Kopli 93 to grow food and experiment with urban gardening. Construction works have been started to open a community makerspace to revive old things and materials, create prototypes, practice handicraft, and keep better contact within the community through joint activities.
We are actively working on establishing the tools, practices, and habits for community self-organisation. Through practical joint activities and training sessions, we acquire and provide people with decision-making skills and make them capable of arranging their matters without support and assistance from the state or local municipality. In the long run, self-sufficiency and self-organisation help to ensure well-being because the community will no longer be so much affected by global events. As a bonus, it helps to make life better already today. This is a form of open governance.
How has graduating from TG&DT benefited your life from a wider perspective?
Without studying in the programme, I probably would not have the job I have today. I gained a wealth of knowledge and expertise on alternative ways of organising, sustainable production methods, alternative economic models, and trends of development in different economic sectors. The acquired knowledge and inspiration help me in my daily work. To be honest, I would not even know what to do with the CENTRINNO pilot site if I did not have that knowledge.
I also understand the world much better after graduating. Social crises, unexpected events, or just changes could have caused headache or sometimes even fear, but now, due to my ability to understand a large range of processes, the changes seem to be more logical and understandable, and unexpected situations have become more expected.
Examples could include the pandemic and the economic phenomena of recent years (resource, logistics, or political challenges), in which I can better navigate and adequately analyse scenarios of yesterday and tomorrow. It enables me to make much better decisions in my personal and professional life. A TG&DT graduate can think integrally about both short-term and long-term trends.
Which course in the programme do you remember most vividly?
I can sincerely admit that some courses in this field were among the most exciting and high-quality I have ever experienced. Many of them focused on reflecting on and sometimes criticising the technologies, solutions, and principles that are the status quo in our society today.
We were guided to think out of the box, to play with alternative ideas, and perhaps to disperse blind beliefs about society, people, or the economy that are ingrained in us. I am glad that such teachers and thinkers are now my colleagues, with whom I will continue to acquire knowledge even after I have earned my degree.
What are your plans regarding your professional development?
My career plan includes making efforts to support society in a transformation that leads us to live closer to nature. I have used the word resilience many times in my previous thoughts. Nature is perfectly resilient. People and the society are the ones that have to move towards nature, not expect nature to endlessly make temporary concessions to enable people and society to stay in their comfort zone for a little longer.
Since our society is lacking an understanding of the latter, my mission is to pass on this knowledge and apply it as much as possible. I have already started some smaller initiatives and projects, such as Kopli 93 and the creation of a social media group called “Keskkonnasäästjad” for people as concerned as myself. Also, I am working towards making my home and village more resilient as well. I believe that the ability to manage more complex and larger projects in the same field will only grow over time.