Following the successful Humanitarian Accelerator Programme in 2019, DCHI together with the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) hosted a second ‘Kick-Off’ event, to look back on the Access to Modern Energy initiatives that were granted funds in April. The aim of this insightful session was to use the initial reflections of the project-leads on implementing their innovative pilots so far. Ultimately, our aim is to use these lessons learnt in order to keep improving, and supporting the current and future innovations on the increasingly important theme of Energy.
In March 2019, DCHI and RVO set out to catalyse transformation at three levels: To get Access to Modern Energy raised as a greater priority in the humanitarian context; to encourage further collaborations with the development and private sector; and to explore the use of market-based approaches to ensure that projects are being designed in a sustainable manner.
Facilitating this reflective session was key in highlighting Energy as a continued priority for stakeholders, alongside exploring the success of cross-sector collaborations and market-based approaches in Humanitarian settings. Thanks to insightful presentations and a Q&A with the project leads of AMPERE, Lighting for Learning and Energy Call Ethiopia, some key challenges for the future were highlighted and discussed.
The Funded Pilots:
In the AMPERE project, Mercy Corps, Save the Children and SNV have set up energy kiosks with refugees in the Bidi Bidi refugee settlement in Uganda, including an innovation fund for local energy companies. The Lighting for Learning project has seen UNICEF and Practical Action work together to set up a women’s sales organisation for solar lanterns in rural Sudan. Finally, Hivos, DORCAS and ZOA have joined forces in the Ethiopia Call Energy project to produce energy-saving fuel briquettes, and thereby prevent deforestation around Ethiopian refugee camps.
All three projects shared that they are gaining valuable, initial insights about implementing market-based approaches within rural settings. A key shared component was that catering to differing populations, such as refugees, adds numerous other considerations to a pilot, particularly when it comes to creating a viable business model.
A challenge to continue exploring remains in Humanitarian Organisations collaborating with private sector partners. All three projects shared similar experiences of unfamiliarity with the humanitarian environment as being a key obstacle in engaging private sectors into pilots. As their pilots develop however, these projects will be able to find ways in which cross-sector collaborations become easier, first-hand. The more the sector works to improve this dynamic through sharing insights, the more potential there is for sustainable access to resources, thus allowing projects to scale.
The wider notion of varying roles and the changing NGO space was identified as a wider question of interest. In relation to lack of knowledge affecting private sector willingness, the project-leads all shared that the pilots would most likely act as market enablers through innovation; knowing what works and what doesn’t given the right knowledge and context is invaluable when looking to create sustainable initiatives.
Ultimately, the consensus came back to collaboration being essential, and finding a way to harmonise roles always being key; Marcel Raats, a Senior Energy Advisor for RVO, concluded by saying: “We need each other, if we want to make a difference we need to work on this together”.
Following these shared insights, RVO together with DCHI are keen to continue tracking these common experiences and learnings as the pilots are implemented, in order to keep improving them, and sharing their experience for future initiatives. DCHI is committed to keep pushing the theme Energy as a priority within Humanitarian Innovation, and we look forward to pursuing the next steps in this initiative.
Access To Modern Energy Programme
Access to Modern Energy is increasingly recognized as an area of humanitarian concern. If communities affected by crises go without proper access to energy, it becomes impossible for them to meet the basic needs of life. The programme enables humanitarian organisations to be the catalysts for tackling specific energy challenges, whilst opening themselves up to receiving the knowledge and business insights from energy experts and private-sector partnerships. Ultimately, the projects will provide local insights for humanitarian partnerships to enable cost efficiency and improve quality of humanitarian work.