Action Labs and Facilitators

Xiaoao is a startup enthusiast through and through, and he has profound knowledge of the different stages of a startup’s life cycle due to his intense community-building work within the past five years for the Austrian startup ecosystem. He has built a vast network of international ecosystem key players and has held several keynotes in universities and schools. As a jack of all trades, he is always eager to support innovative sustainable business ideas with his passion and enthusiasm for founders who want to solve problems in the world. Due to his work in company scouting, investor relations, and partner support, as well as his responsibility for three equity-based and lending-based crowdfunding platforms, he has a deep understanding of business planning, business modelling, investor acquisition, and pitching. Ultimately, his DNA lies in the online marketing field, where he shows his creativity through working with founders to create meaningful campaigns that add value for the community, instead of simply maximising reach. As a tea lover and foodie, he is currently starting his own business in the tea segment and is also responsible for the marketing of his family’s restaurant.

Sustainable Startup Lab

By Xiaoao Dong

At the Sustainable Startup Lab, participants will learn more about key areas of starting a sustainable business, such as finding, testing, and successfully presenting ideas. Trained and mentored by Xiaoao Dong, a startup and crowdfunding expert from Austria, participants will develop and discuss their own ideas on potential sustainable startups, create a short business plan, and study examples of ethical and sustainable business models. Moreover, in a brief pitch training, Xiaoao will pass on his knowledge on how great ideas can be presented in an exciting and effective way. At the closing ceremony, participants will have the chance to pitch their own ideas to a broader audience and thus gain attention and valuable feedback for their sustainable startup ideas.


Dominic is a project manager with Foresight Intelligence. Previously, he worked in the field of medical and nursing science, focusing on questions surrounding new and emerging technologies. He has taught in medical and management programs at several German universities and moderated coaching events for companies. Dominic has dealt with issues ranging from micro-logical analysis to complex political questions for the automobile industry, NGOs and labor unions, in research and development, and for small, medium, and large businesses.

Scenario Workshop: Cities of the Future – What does Sustainable Urban Development look like in 2050?

By Dominic Depner

At this Action Lab, participants will learn key methods of scenario development and consider possibilities for cities of the future. Participants will discuss key factors and uncertainties related to the future of sustainable urban development and construct different paths of future developments. Their scenarios will address the three dimensions of sustainable development and incorporate the Sustainable Development Goals. While the final year of the scenarios is 2050, key milestones will be identified along the way – such as 2030, the year in which the international community will evaluate whether the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was achieved.

Foresight Intelligence is an organisational consultancy based in Berlin. It supports strategic foresight and planning processes in organisations. Foresight Intelligence conducts interdepartmental strategic planning processes for the German government, implements intercultural and multi-stakeholder strategic dialogues for global leading think tanks, supports collaborative research projects with foresight methods for international research institutions, and consults for Fortune Global 500 companies. Since 2014, Foresight Intelligence has conceptualised and implemented more than 50 scenario, visioning, road-mapping, backcasting, and strategic conversation projects with more than 900 managers, officers, and researchers.

Holger holds a MA in Political Science and Public Administration from the University of Constance, Germany and York University Toronto, Canada and a BA in Social Sciences and Economics from the Universities of Erfurt, Germany and Tartu, Estonia.

He worked as a research fellow at the Environmental Policy Research Center at the Freie Universität Berlin for seven years. During this time, he worked both in basic research as well as a consultant for policymakers in the German national government as well as for the European Union and non-governmental organizations. His research interests focus on sustainability policies, environmental innovations and renewable energies. In recent years, he developed and curated an exhibition on a wide range of future challenges.
Holger has been involved in Model United Nations since 2003. He served as Secretary-General at the National Model United Nations in New York as well as other conferences. For several years, he also served as Model UN faculty advisor at the Universities of Trier and Erfurt.

Simulation of the COP 24

By Holger Bär

At this Action Lab, we will simulate a brief session of the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, just a few weeks before the actual COP 24 takes place in Katowice, Poland. The committee will be directed by former Secretary-General of National Model United Nations • New York, Holger Bär. Participants will take on the roles of delegates representing different Member States of the COP, deliver speeches, negotiate how the Paris Agreement should be implemented, and write joint working papers. Key elements of the resolutions that are adopted during voting procedure will be presented at the closing ceremony of SDiA 2018. In addition to the traditional elements of Model United Nations simulations, such as formal and informal sessions, participants will receive information and support on different negotiating techniques. Moreover, they will be able to discuss how simulations can help develop understanding of global challenges and foster sustainable practices.

Sanam currently serves as the executive manager of the Heidelberg Center for the Environment (HCE), where she focuses on coordinating and strengthening interdisciplinary environmental sciences at the University of Heidelberg. Her academic background is in environmental physics; she has engaged in measuring and modelling of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and designing an international measurement network. As part of her work at HCE, as well as through voluntary commitments, Sanam has coordinated and initiated projects, campaigns, and lessons on human rights, sustainable development, climate change, and the carbon cycle. In 2017, Sanam was awarded the environmental prize of the Sigrid and Viktor Dulger Foundation.

Design Thinking for Sustainable Development

By Dr. Christina West and Dr. Sanam Vardag

At this Action Lab, participants will analyse current sustainability challenges and use Design Thinking methods to develop feasible solutions to foster sustainable development. Dr. Christina West and Dr. Sanam Vardag will introduce the participants to basic techniques and methods of Design Thinking and support them in creating prototypes of their products or services for sustainable development, which will be tested and enhanced throughout the Action Lab. First results will be presented at the closing ceremony of SDiA 2018.

Christina is leading the project „Future-oriented urban development“ and she contributes scientifically to the project “digital city” both are part of the research-based transfer project “s:ne – system innovation for sustainable development” (University of Applied Sciences Darmstadt). She is project leader and directorate member of the real-world laboratory “Asylum Seekers in the Rhine-Neckar-Region” (Pädagogische Hochschule Heidelberg, Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung, University Heidelberg). Further she is first chair women of the charitable organization “Urban Innovation – Stadt neu denken e.V.” Christina West is presently persuading her research approach „Transversal City – Transversal Society“.


From 2015 to 2018 she was research coordinator and executive manager of the real-world laboratory “Urban Office – Sustainable Urban Development in the Knowledge Society” at the Institute for Geography, Heidelberg University. Before, she worked as senior reseracher at the Chair for Economic Geography (Mannheim University), as visting professor for didactics of geography (University Koblenz-Landau) as scholar and research leader in the programme „Urban Innovation“ (Hong Kong Baptist University) and as guest researcher (Institute for Cultural Industries of the Shenzhen University, Peoples Republic of China). Christina West studied geography and German philology and philosophy (University Mannheim) and did her dissertation studying dimensions of individual and social change in Barcelona from 1986-2005 in an inter- und transdisciplinary manner.