News Archive: 2012

 

Our Power to the People programme aims to support UK communities reduce their energy consumption and install much needed renewable energy.

As part of this TCW has been working with Tessa Munt MP for the Wells Constituency and with South Gloucestershire Council to help them support their respective communities in understanding their energy use, how it can be reduced and how much renewable energy they can realistically expect to be able to install.

Our Power to the People programme is committed to supporting communities, parish councils and other interested groups access the information they need to make informed decisions in their local community.

Following our initial work with Tessa Munt we were invited to present to Vince Cable and Ed Davey in their office in Westminster, Their interest is to understand how we can best support communities in the UK access affordable sustainable energy over the longer term.

We look forward to presenting Tessa with the final sustainable energy assessment for the Wells constituency and working alongside her in the community to turn this into action. 

TCW has brought together young leaders from  Mumbai and Bristol. Through the TCW Global Citizen Twinning Programme, young people have been encouraged to think about shared issues, such as food miles and energy consumption, and to explore and communicate with each other through digital media around a range of environmental and cultural themes. The programme aims to support young leaders to play an active role in the global society and to develop aspirations to tackle shared issues.

This short film shows you what happened between Mumbai and Bristol:

In August last year, Wendy (our CEO) and John (our co-founder) were introduced to Vidya of the Ramakrishna Sarada Samiti Centre (RKSS) in Mumbai. The centre is on the edge of one of Mumbai's largests slums with a population the size of Bristol. Vidya and her team support the slum community by providing local health care, vocational training and a Young Leaders Support Programme. It was this latter activity that caught our imagination, and so TCW funded the Knowle West Media Centre in Bristol, who work with their local community, to develop a programme that brought together RKSS and Greenfields Primary School in Bristol.  

What followed was inspirational!

In Mumbai, our young leaders (aged 11-14) decided that they wanted to know more about food and how to grow their own. They went out of the slum every Sunday to a field centre to learn about soil and growing vegetables. Brimming with their new knowledge and bags of enthusiasm, they are now keen to turn part of the RKSS yard and roof into a vegetable patch. And not only that, they also want to clear up a rubbish tip on the edge of the slum and transform it into a beautiful garden.

In Bristol, the young leaders have been growing vegetables on a dedicated patch at the school. They also cooked curry (and some liked it for the first time!), made a film about the project and engaged over 90 people in the local community with the project.

The young people in both countries learnt many new skills, and all partners observed an increase in the young people’s confidence and self-esteem as a direct result of the project.

We started this project thinking that we could teach young people how to become global citizens, but in fact they have taught us that they just need a little support to enable and empower them to just get on with it. Through their action and energy, our young leaders are inspiring and challenging us to be better, more pro-active global citizens.

Planning for the next phase has already started and we are all excited about what lies in store. If you would like to support this programme through time or donation, please contact Anita Beardsley (anitabeardsley@theconvergingworld.org) for more information.

TCW (The Converging World) has been working with the local community group Sustainable Backwell for a couple of years. Last autumn we supported them to secure around £40,000 of LEAF funding from the government Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) for an energy assessment project. The work revolved around assessing the potential for saving energy and generating it locally in the village of Backwell, near Bristol.

The work has now been completed and here are some of the project's achievements:

  • 95 household energy surveys carried out by 6 home energy visitors using our newly developed home survey tool. This tool is currently trialed with another community group before we roll it out to more communities. It allows communities to easily collect house condition data from their community and to use this to work out the potential savings through insulation or energy efficiency.
  • Energy modeling of potential savings identified through surveys.
  • A wind turbine feasibility study carried out by Communities for Renewables.
  • 40 home energy performance certificates (EPC).
  • 3 community building EPCs.
  • 12 Energy Roadshows with local schools and other groups.
  • 3 events: Project launch, Backwell Green Doors and Big Green Energy Day.
  • 8 Think Energy email newsletters.
  • A thermal imaging camera purchased. This is a great resource that will be used by TCW/Backwell to identify energy loss in houses during the colder months.

The project was featured on BBC Points West and on the front page of the North Somerset Times.

The next steps for the community of Backwell are to take their feasibility study to the next stage and to secure funding for developing the wind turbine. If you would like to find out more about this project or get some ideas about how you might be able to take similar action in your community, Chris Richards, the project manager from Sustainable Backwell (sustainablebackwell@yahoo.co.uk), or Tim Barker, from TCW (timbarker@theconvergingworld.org), are more than happy to share their experience with you.

Sébastien Duyck, from RioPlusTwenties, reflects on the history of and recent developments in the Rio process and Wendy Stephenson, TCW's CEO, discusses the importance of the Rio+20 summit

Sébastien Duyck: Where did the road start and where is it going?

The Rio+20 conference, officially called UN Conference on Sustainable Development, is approaching rapidly, with just over two months before representatives from 190 countries and thousands of NGOs meet in the vibrant Brazilian city.

Just twenty years ago, the city of Rio hosted a major international conference dedicated to environment and development. During this Rio 1992 conference, governments recognised a set of principles, such as the polluter pays principle and the precautionary principle. They also negotiated three major international agreements dedicated to biological diversity, climate change, and desertification. In addition, Agenda 21 was adopted, a work program expected to guide governments and local communities towards a more sustainable development pathway.

This year, Brazil will host another international summit to provide the international community with a chance to find collective solutions to common crises. The conference will be the tipping point of a longer conversation among states and civil society, with two main themes. First, discussions on the transition to a green economy will focus on how development can simultaneously deliver environmental, social and economic benefits, which is a fairly controversial topic. The second track of discussions addresses the question of how to reform the UN and other levels of governance so that they can deliver better decisions that would better integrate the three dimensions of sustainable development (the environmental, social and economic dimensions). Finally, some states have proposed to develop new Sustainable Development Goals, perhaps as a follow-up to the Millennium Development Goals.

It is still very unclear whether governments will provide the political will that is required to ensure that concrete outcomes and effective solutions are adopted in Rio, instead of this conference simply becoming another talking shop. There is still much uncertainty as to what to expect, and at least two meetings are scheduled for the coming months for all governments to prepare the conference. However, perhaps more importantly, Rio+20 offers a unique opportunity to mobilise all stakeholders, from governments to NGOs and the science community, to focus their attention on sustainable development. It is hoped that the conference in June can stimulate, and perhaps inspire, all actors involved to re-engage in discussions on how to develop a model of society that would leave a healthy planet for the generations to come.

About the author: Sébastien Duyck is a passionate environmental advocate, working to support the active participation of young people in intergovernmental conferences related to sustainable development. He has been involved in UN negotiations in various capacities and is also writing a PhD dissertation on human rights and climate change at the University of Lapland, Finland.

Wendy Stephenson: More practitioners please!  

It is 20 years since the Rio Earth Summit and 20 years since I took the decision that I wanted to work in this field. I was first inspired by a picture of a wind turbine and thought that it just made sense. Twenty years later, I see some changes, some of these quite significant, such as the development of a carbon market, or the introduction of feed-in-tariffs to stimulate the deployment of renewable energy. Yet, although the mechanisms themselves are significant, progress on the ground, like implementing projects and social change, has been frustratingly and worringly slow.

Will another round of conferences, another round of talks deliver much more? Policies, regulations and schemes take time to develop and even longer when they need international agreement. Progress has undoubtedly been made and we must acknowledge that, but it has taken far too long to deliver far too little.

Everyone is talking about doing something. We have strategies and policies, conferences and networks, but can we find a way to convert this energy to action? Can we use this summit not just for reflection but as a call to action? Plant a tree, buy a woodstove for a family in a developing country, support a water project, or provide loans or donations to all those wonderful organisations that are doing stuff on the ground, often through volunteers, and making a difference!

Here is something really radical: Can we stop talking and start doing?

Environmental and social charity The Converging World launches Green Loans, a unique financial vehicle that allows individuals to participate in an alternative way

Published on PR Newswire here.

For the first time for an environmental project, charitable individuals can move beyond being just a financial donor and become pro-active lenders of money. The Converging World, (TCW), www.theconvergingworld.org, a UK-based charity investing in renewable energy in developing countries which reinvests the profits to fund social, health and environmental projects in the host countries and in the UK, has launched a new green loans initiative aimed at individuals wanting to contribute to communities locally and globally in a sustainable way.

The groundbreaking loan scheme enables communities and individuals to lend as little as £5 for five years earning 6% annual interest. The money raised will be used in multiple ways. First, to fund two new wind turbines in India which will be in addition to the charity’s two existing power generators that produce 6.4 million kWh per annum of renewable energy. Then, profits from the sale of energy will be reinvested in building more wind turbines as well as channeled into long-term community-scale sustainable development work in India and the UK.

Another unique part of the green loan scheme is that at maturity, TCW will also donate the same 6% sum each year to the lender’s choice of charity for a further 10 years. One of the first nominated charities to benefit will be Bristol’s Vassall Centre, a unique barrier-free environment for disabled people.

Although the loans are unsecured, they provide a way to recycle funds back to the lenders, who can choose to re-lend again to the next social or environmental project, which would not be possible with a traditional donation.

The green loans can be pledged quickly online through TCW's partner Buzzbnk at www.buzzbnk.org/tcw. The offer is open until 30th April 2012.

The Converging World CEO, Wendy Stephenson says: "With so much pressure on charities and donors everywhere, we worked hard to find an inspiring alternative to simply appealing for donations. The TCW loan scheme benefits everyone, including communities in the UK and India and could help other charities to secure their long-term future.

We have several years of experience in renewable energy and wanted to raise funds which not only contribute to the combat of climate change but also gives back to the community. Lenders can see exactly where their money has been used and join The Converging World in a new way to support environmental and social change. Plus, where else can people create an additional fund to support a charity that is important to them?"

 

Editors' notes:

The Converging World is a UK-based charity working to relieve poverty and distress and to promote sustainable development. All income is invested directly into renewable energy projects to create long-term funding for vital health, education and environmental projects, which help to break the poverty cycle in the UK and around the world.

The Converging World CEO, Wendy Stephenson is available for interview.

Please contact: Wendy Stephenson +44 77 59 411 119

The Converging World
Bush House, 72 Prince Street
Bristol, Avon
BS1 4QD, UNITED KINGDOM

+44 117 927 7089
www.theconvergingworld.org

Company Limited by Guarantee #3010221
Registered Charity #1043572

---
Buzzbnk is an on-line crowd-funding platform to bring social ventures looking for startup or growth capital together with like-minded people keen to fund social change. Buzzbnk is a social enterprise owned 63% by leading charities and foundations in the UK.

Buzzbnk, a registered trademark of SellAVenture LLP, OC351199
16 Lincoln's Inn Fields
London
WC2A 3ED, UNITED KINGDOM

+44 20 7396 3562
www.buzzbnk.org

In December 2011, the Government’s Department for Energy and Climate Change announced a £10M Local Energy Assessment Fund (LEAF) to support communities to find options for energy efficiency and renewable energy measures. TCW and the local community group Sustainable Backwell submitted a joint bid and received around £40,000 to model energy saving potential in the town, engage the community, and to further develop Backwell’s community wind turbine project.

With only two months to spend the money, TCW and Sustainable Backwell have been working hard during February and March to deliver the proposed work. Around 100 households have been surveyed using TCW’s online tool to assess the current levels of insulation in Backwell and to calculate how much energy could be saved in future by adding the maximum amount of energy efficiency measures. This sets the community up for the Government’s Green Deal scheme later this year which promises to make insulation financially viable for everybody.

Communities for Renewables, a not-for-profit wind consultancy, were drafted in to do extensive feasibility work on Backwell’s turbine project and the results from this will be available shortly.

The project culminated in a Big Energy day where the local community was able to learn about the results of the work. They were also provided information on how they can save money and carbon emissions by insulating their homes or installing renewables.

Over the past six months, The Converging World, in collaboration with the Knowle West Media Centre, has been developing an exciting Twinning Programme for Schools. The concept of twinning has always been at the heart of TCW. This idea of ‘connecting communities’ has remained a constant theme throughout the charity’s development and it is an integral part of our vision for how we continue our journey towards one planet living.

For its first pilot project, TCW has brought together Greenfields Primary School in Knowle West, Bristol, and the Ramakrishna Sarada Samiti Centre (RKSS) in Mumbai, India, to support young people in their respective communities. The project has encouraged and enabled meaningful and reciprocal relationships to form, and through these the young people have started to explore issues around the environment, sustainability and citizenship. The aims are (from an early age) to increase the young peoples’ awareness of common social and environmental issues both globally and locally, the importance of working together to tackle these issues, and the need for everyone to work together towards a converging world. By doing this, the project hopes to have a long-term impact on the young people’s understanding of the world and to enable them to have a more active role in the global community.

The pilot has been running since January 2012 and will be completed by April 2012. It has been a fascinating process and much has been learnt. After a period of evaluation, we aim to roll out the programme again in September of this year and we hope to be able to offer more schools the opportunity to engage.

For more information about the project, please contact Anita Beardsley (anitabeardsley@theconvergingworld.org).

The TCW team have been hard at work recently developing a new online tool to support people working in energy efficiency or renewables: Energy Map. Funding from Artist Project Earth and the Vodafone Foundation have allowed us to invest time into EnergyMap – we’re extremely grateful to these organisations for their support.

EnergyMap was borne of a desire to simplify calculations around community energy consumption. However, the project quickly developed a much wider scope, as we realised the potential for a flexible and open tool which combines geographic and statistical data on a simple Google Maps interface. EnergyMap will allow users to explore this data, be it energy consumption, socio-economic data or any other available information, in a visual way. The data can be compared across regions (from Local Authority to that of a few streets) and tracked over time. EnergyMap will also offer more specific functionality, such as comparing your energy bills with the average in your area or showing the top 10 energy consuming regions in the country.

EnergyMap has been designed with flexibility in mind and adding additional functionality or data is extremely simple. Look out for more news in the near future when we launch the tool.