Teresa Belkow attended the social sciences program in high school. At that time, she dreamed of a creative profession and therefore studied art history for two semesters at Stockholm University. But Stockholm felt too small so she took time off from her studies to travel.
– I did not really know what I wanted to do then, but I could imagine starting my own business so I studied a Bachelor in Business Management at the University of Westminster.
World metropolis London
The university was located in the middle of the world metropolis London with proximity to a rich cultural life and other activities. She enjoyed it, but Teresa Belkow realized that she wanted to pursue entrepreneurship with a focus on values other than the purely pecuniary ones.
– I became extremely interested in sustainability issues, climate and volunteer work. I asked myself what I can do, how I can influence global development from the local level and with the skills I have and may develop.
Her interest in sustainability issues took her to University Collage London, UCL, where she earned a master's degree in Environment and Sustainable Development. It was a stimulating, interdisciplinary, environment with classmates who contributed to the program through their different perspectives based on what they had read before. At UCL, her eyes were opened to action research.
– We read many practical courses on how to conduct research to actively achieve a more sustainable society.
Trainee at Greenpeace
She continued her stay abroad as an intern at the Greenpeace office in Amsterdam. There she worked, among other things, with media campaigns and media analyzes.
– I learned a lot about how industries affect the environment and people who are far from the companies' headquarters and what conflicts can arise between different interests.
After her education, Teresa Belkow went to Peru, where she had a number of environmental and sustainability-related work roles. The highlight was the work she did as a research assistant for the project cLIMAsinRiesgo, an initiative of University College London. There, she worked with local people, local universities, organizations and authorities to find strategies that can improve development opportunities in the city's poor neighborhoods.
– There is an enormous entrepreneurial spirit among the population. My job was not so much to help the poor as to create the conditions for them to realize their own ideas.
Risk minimization in everyday life
The project was about how best to make investments to minimize everyday risks in the Peruvian urban environment and thus create conditions for sustainable development.
– For example, new credit systems can be developed that make it possible for the poor to invest in their homes. Then they feel better, physically and mentally, and therefore become more productive. It's the best work experience I've had. I had to be in the field all the time, find solutions to problems, and get to know both locals and create a broad network of government institutions.
Teresa Belkow was also employed as a project manager for the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung with the task of creating a new regional network for local leaders in the public, private and non-profit sectors in order to create cross-border alliances for knowledge exchange to better manage climate change.
Before Teresa Belkow returned to Sweden and started working as an administrator in Järfälla municipality, she also had time to teach urban and regional planning, theory of science and research methodology, as well as a workshop on the environmental impact of buildings at the National University of Engineering in Lima.
Circular business models
Her doctoral project is conducted within the framework of the graduate school Creaternity coverning the topic how to create circular business models. The participants in the graduate school come from many different research subjects. Teresa Belkow's interdisciplinary background contributed to her admission to the project. She looks forward to working with a large number of different actors, from industry, the state and society at large.
– As a researcher, I hope to continue to contribute to good decisions being made. I am driven by the idea that we can organize society in a better way than today. I have seen so many situations with great potential but with locked positions. It is important to highlight this in order to renew systems and enable sustainable development.
Teresa Belkow has not been to Norrbotten since she went snowboarding in Gällivare many years ago.
– It feels exciting. I look forward to experiencing the local environments, hiking and learning more about life here. I always want to get to know people who are different from myself to get new perspectives on things and look forward to all the new encounters.