A Different Kind of Conversation on Sustainable Development: Clean Energy Access Socials

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There’s a new conference on the block: the Clean Energy Access Socials. These sessions, started by MSc student Morgan da Silva, are a great opportunity for everyone, whether a lecturer, university staff, PhD student, undergraduate, or postgraduate, to come together as ‘like-minded individuals’. The goal of these socials is to stimulate discussions on complex topics to ultimately make a positive difference.

What is clean energy access?

Clean energy access is about securing access to electricity, sustainable energy, clean fuels and technologies for all – whether in developed or developing countries. Access to warmth, cooling, lighting and energy to power technologies is necessary to promote better standards of living globally. Energy poverty, defined as a lack of access to these modern energy services, is a serious challenge many individuals are currently facing. It impacts several aspects of development, such as physical and mental health, education, production, farming and industry. There is international commitment to reduce energy poverty, as illustrated by the seventh Sustainable Development Goal: Affordable and Clean Energy. However, there is still much to be done, and the Clean Energy Access Socials hope to promote and raise awareness of this cause.

Want to learn more? See SDG 7 target & indicators: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg7

Graphic by the United Nations

What are the Clean Energy Access Socials? How are they different?

The Clean Energy Access Socials (CEAS) are free, informal, deconstructed discussions between motivated audiences and experts working and researching in development fields. Instead of the classic rigidity of formal conferences, the CEAS offer an opportunity to talk with professionals on an equal footing in a casual setting: local Edinburgh pubs – think of it as a relaxed and fun networking session with friends and course mates!

The goal is to facilitate interaction and conversation on topics related to sustainable development in the developed and developing world. Attendees come from a variety of educational and cultural backgrounds, which make for thought-provoking interdisciplinary discussions.

What’s the benefit of this new approach? Not only do you make new connections with members of the Edinburgh community, but you also could learn about and/or provide insight on different perspectives on key issues facing our societies today.

How are the socials structured? 

The socials start at 6 pm, and last for as long as you would like them to – you decide for which parts of the session you’d like to stay for.

One of the great things about the CEAS is that what you take away from the event, and how you engage with it is entirely up to you. Whether you like to ask a lot of questions, prefer to remain quiet, or fall somewhere in the middle, you will be able to learn and take away something new when you leave the pub.

The event begins with a brief introduction, contextualising the event and the topics that will be covered. The speaker will then present them self, their work, experiences, and projects. This lasts for approximately twenty to thirty minutes, followed by a question and answer session. Once the ‘official’ presentation and questions are over, participants are encouraged to continue discussions with each other and the speaker over a casual drink.

Photo by Chris Moore on Unsplash

How many CEAS have there been?

This academic year, there has been one CEAS event on the 3rd of October. The speaker was Cecilia Ragazzi – a Senior Advisor in Humanitarian Partnerships in Energy Access for Mercy Corps. She has over 10 years experience working humanitarian aid and development projects, with a special focus on the global South and the empowerment of women and girls. In particular, she has worked on energy access, peacebuilding, agriculture, good governance, and WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene).

So she’s pretty cool – and we had a lot to learn from her. In her presentation, she introduced some of the projects she managed, such as her work in the Sahel region (Mali, Niger, Senegal) which focused on the economic empowerment of women in local communities through renewable energy. This program was EU-funded, had several partners (Plan International, CARE, ACRA, Ministries of Women and Energy): it was a great success, reaching 4,650 small-medium enterprises, and 21,000 women. Inspiring!

Following her presentation, the floor was opened for questions, and the CEAS participants did not disappoint! Several questions were asked on topics such as the practicalities of local stakeholder engagement and participation, the difference between aid and unwanted intervention, and the challenge of local cultural and social norms, and generally obstacles she faced in her projects. Cecilia answered all the questions, and did not shy away from telling us some of the challenges and failures she faced in the field. This honesty, openness and frankness are key to what makes the CEAS a great learning and engagement opportunity!

Photo by Tikkho Maciel on Unsplash


When is the next social?

The next social is happening very soon: the 21st of November! It will feature Rowan Spear, a research fellow at our very own university in the School of Social and Political science. He is also a Product Designer and Product Owner at Connected Energy: a tech company that seeks to improve living conditions for the under-electrified poor by helping local business to provide customers with economic and easily accessible clear energy. Rowan will certainly be an interesting guest to have, as he has experience in both the academic and industrial sectors – I’ve already booked my ticket!

How can I attend? 

It is super easy – just follow the Eventbrite link below, and register yourself for the event! It will start at 6 pm, at the Soul Nation pub on Potterrow. See the Facebook event or the page on Eventbrite for more information:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/420354721963936/

Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/clean-energy-access-social-tickets-80721876305

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