An organisation that helps young people find direction through ocean exploration brings the age of ocean innovation to an outport of the sailship era.
A lone fishing boat chugs along the narrow sound separating the mainland from Lyngør, a tiny community of legendary charm known for its white wooden houses and bustling summers. Gone are the summer months of endless leisure boats and summer guests gobbling down the taverna’s famous fish soup. Gone, too, is the era when the great sailing ships docked here to trade and restock.
Lyngør is quiet now. Like many of Norway’s old outports, few still live here all year. Businesses have moved to the mainland. The once lively school on the middle of the island is abandoned, the white paint peeling off in the wind.
Turns out, it might be a perfect place for a new learning centre for the ocean.
EntrepreneurShipOne (E/One), which works to connect the Nordic entrepreneurial community with our greatest ocean challenges, is in dialogue with the local community here to establish a new center which would serve three purposes: Part headquarters for Windjammer, a social learning platform for young people; part learning center for the Norwegian ocean innovation ecosystem; and part community hub.
An added bonus, the project would make Lyngør - or wherever the centre eventually ends up - a port of call for E/One's flagship the legendary tall ship S/S Christian Radich.
“Radich, hailing back to the sailship days of Lyngør, makes this the perfect location”, says Johan Brand, a co-founder of E/One. “After all, the best way to build attention around the ocean’s importance is through activities that let people engage with it”.
Jamming with the wind
Windjammer is a program for young people in need of direction and a reason to get up in the morning. It is built around 4-week voyages where groups 40-50 young people encounter their own feelings of shortcoming by coexisting and collaborating in intimate quarters, in a closed ecosystem where everyone is dependent on one another in sometimes rough conditions.
The onboarding and offboarding sessions would make the new Windjammer Center an all-year learning center.
“Windjammers are resourceful people with a great potential for learning, even if some did not fit into the traditional school system’s definition of what it means to achieve”, Brand says.
“With Windjammer Centre, we want to use our resources and experience to strengthen this important work - and to connect Windjammer with entrepreneurs and local initiatives.”
E/One estimates that there will be a minimum of 100 operative Windjammer days every year.
Which is not to say that the centre would stand empty the rest of year.
A diving board for startups
As part of a broader national and global ecosystem of ocean-related initiatives, the centre will be fed with off-season activity and income.
“Windjammer Centre is intended to be a place where the startup community is invited to live and develop projects in periods”, says Sindre Østgård, co-founder of E/One.
E/One is founded on We Are Human's “Learners To Leaders” methodology (previously used as the foundation to grow Kahoot!), which is equally applicable to a weather-beaten entrepreneur as it is to a fresh Windjammer. E/One connects entrepreneurs with the knowledge on how to solve our greatest ocean-related challenges such as sustainable production of food and medicine; green transport; climate friendly energy; and the exploration and preservation of ocean resources.
“We work with some of the planet’s leading scientific communities in these fields”, Østgård explains. “We also, however, see a need to develop the next generation of talent and startups that are researching entirely new solutions. We need a place away from Norway’s traditional ocean capitals where we can work long-term with these questions.”
The ocean ecosystem is lining up to use the centre as an offsite to build new local and global companies.
“We are strong supporters of this project and want to contribute to a lively arena for education and entrepreneurship”, says Fredrik Winther, CEO of Katapult Group.
Every year, Katapult’s development program brings between 20 and 30 sustainability-focused companies to Norway from all over the world. Its subsidiary Katapult Ocean has recently closed its second fund, and has invested in approximately 40 ocean-related companies. It is part of an Oslo Fjord innovation ecosystem that has gained tremendous speed in the last 3-4 years, as family offices and investors with ocean experience have connected with the startup community, pulling the established maritime industries with them.
Creating local life
The third pillar of Windjammer Centre is the local community of full-time and part-time island dwellers, local sustainable businesses and institutions.
Even before the bid for the building has been decided, architects and sociologists are researching how the centre can become a multi-use ‘open house’ addressing local needs and community. This would entail activities like cafes, workout facilities, galleries, yoga, outdoor cinema, and sleepover facilities.
“There are some incredible places down the coast with strong connections to the sail ship era and our maritime past. The people who live and work will obviously have strong feelings about the activities they invite in. For a centre like this to thrive, they must be involved”, says Mette Mossige, founder of service design company Prologue.
E/One’s efforts to tie local resources into a larger national and international context in a way that creates activity and employment is generously supported by the public Regional Innovation Program. E/One is already collaborating with coastal municipalities Oslo, Bærum, Tønsberg and Sandefjord, and hopes the Windjammer Centre can further expand their range.
“To succeed, we have to collaborate closely with local resources, businesses, voluntary organisations, politicians and public stakeholders. We do with a long term perspective, and believe it will create ripple effects for everyone involved that will create life and strengthen the local community”, Mossige says.
“Because that is how you create places that work”.
Facts: Windjammer & The Windjammer Centre
- Windjammer is a social learning platform for young people between 16 and 25 in need of inspiration and direction, initiated by The Christian Radich Foundation.
- EntrepreneurShipOne is working with The Christian Radich Foundation to establish a Windjammer Centre to act as an anchor location and expansion of the program.
- Program is built around 4-week voyages, with shorter gatherings before and after. On each voyage, 40-50 young people learn to collaborate and understand their own importance in an ecosystem of people.
- The Fundatum Foundation is responsible for practical operations. The foundation works with leadership development and knowledge building for young talent.
- Established and tested through three pilot projects in 2018-19, now embarking on a new three-year pilot project with aim to help up to 1,000 young people out of passivity, develop scientific verification of the program’s effects, and establish long-term public-private funding.
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