What was your initial motivation?
We were frustrated with the state of the world. It’s like our society is a train racing towards a cliff, and everyone can see it, but no one is taking action to change direction. We are going to fall off that cliff very soon, and we need to wake people up and make them aware that each and every one of us can make a difference. Today, there are many initiatives that can help us live a more sustainable lifestyle, but they remain hidden because they lack a lobby. People are also stuck in their old habits.
Back then, I was working in a design agency as a project manager on a progressive project, but it was still a commercial environment, and I hated it. So many human and financial resources are wasted in commercial advertising! I was struggling to find a more meaningful job because most of them either required a lot of experience, or were just ‘greenwashing’ for big companies. I had a Master’s degree in environmental management and was highly motivated to make a difference in this world, so my situation was pretty depressing.
Our co-founder Martin Kæstel Nielsen had spent a number of years in the same industry as a developer, but had decided early on to go freelance because it gave him the flexibility to work on more meaningful stuff on the side as well. With experience from several start-ups, he was looking for a new way to put his ambition to set the world in motion. But a rational mind needs someone to dance with.
So when we met, we talked a lot about how to really make a difference and we agreed that the way to go was to make people aware of their power – of the fact that their choices have an impact on our society and environment – and how they can make use of it.
How does it work in practice?
You just need to show up at the centre in Østerbro! We host around 20 events each month, from documentary screenings and talks on herbal remedies or mindfulness, to bicycle repair workshops and open source programming courses. We also have work groups on different topics, like education or food, that everyone who thinks that there is room for improvement can get involved with.
If you have a paid membership, everything is free. Otherwise, some events are free, but most cost a small fee. This also allows you to host your own event. So if you want to accelerate change yourself, you can just fill out a form and we’ll put it in next month’s schedule. The only criterion is that it should support our mission of accelerating the change of society towards a more sustainable lifestyle.
And who can get involved?
Anyone, really! Our community of members is made up of people who want to make a difference – people of all backgrounds and all ages. What unites them is that they don’t just want to be bystanders while the world goes to hell. They want to do something about it, either by hosting their own events or by supporting us in some way.
We also have the support of some wonderful volunteers who help us with social media or other tasks that we otherwise would never get to work on – so if anyone is out there who is looking to put their time to a good cause, don’t hesitate to come by!
Why is think.dk relevant today?
Because everyone knows about sustainability, but many only associate that term with planting trees or driving their car less. And yes, the environment is an important part, and our natural habitats are suffering a lot because of how things work today. We urgently need to shrink our ecological footprint, use fewer resources, and start applying more environmentally-friendly alternatives. But people forget that sustainability is not only about ecological matters – social and economic sustainability is just as important. Almost everyone in our society is running every day to make ends meet, to be able to pay the rent. People are stressed, and there is hardly time to reflect on the choices we make, let alone to take time to research sustainable alternatives.
Most people also have some awareness that things are broken, but they don’t know what to do about it. Think.dk is a place where they can get inspired, empowered and receive support in accelerating change themselves. We want to make it easier to translate good intentions into actions.
We are also a melting pot for changers of all kinds. If your friends think you’re weird because you try to save energy or don’t like shopping, you will find new friends here that share that mindset. We think it is important for these people to connect with each other because they have a lot in common, even if they come from different places. Yoga students and open source programmers most likely share some ideals, but they would probably never meet in the world out there, because everyone is mostly moving around in their own bubbles.
We want to show people that they are not alone and that they do have the power to make a difference. We provide a platform for anyone to experiment and explore new forms of collaboration. And we want to grow the sustainable businesses of the future.
How do you fund think.dk?
Good question! So far, the project is completely self-financed. We hope that we can finance the centre through a combination of membership fees and ticket sales for special events, but for now, those remain dreams for the future.
What are your long-term goals?
First, of course, we aim to make the centre in Østerbro self-sustaining in terms of growing the community and getting more people on board. But our long-term goal has always been to support the development of a bigger network. We hope that people in more cities get inspired and want to start a think-centre themselves.
Our whole concept is open source, so anyone can use our concept, design, and infrastructure to start a centre themselves. Imagine it like a franchise, only without the royalty fees. Think.dk is a non-profit, so as soon as a centre makes more money than it needs, we will direct the surplus toward growing the project and setting up more centres in new locations.
This is a very ambitious goal, of course, but we believe that there are many more people out there that are ready to take action before it is too late. Building local communities and empowering people to act is how we can stop the train from going over that cliff. M