Recently, I spent two weeks in Bangalore, India participating in the Pollinate Energy Professional Fellowship program. Pollinate Energy is a social enterprise, based in Australia and India, that brings life-changing products to those living in poverty in India’s urban slums.
Bangalore is a major global technology hub and has a strong startup culture, so it was really exciting to be in the city and working on projects that progress the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and contribute to Jacobs’ social responsibility activities.
The Fellowship, with 12 participants from Singapore, India, Canada, USA and Australia, worked on strategic projects that addressed Pollinate Energy’s most pressing business challenges including diversifying the product portfolio with non-solar products (to manage the risk of potential electrification) and empowering women (to address the under-representation of employed females).
My project team, of five Fellows, focussed on key deliverables which were to recruit females who were leaders within their community and demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit; design a training course for these women to assist in succeeding in this new role; hold events at communities to support these women in generating sales leads and selling products; and develop a mentoring program for newly recruited females with high performing females.
Our team worked hard to meet all deliverables and made actionable recommendations to the business, which will be implemented over the next 6 – 12 months.
In addition, during the community visits, I observed that the cookstove used by the families were producing significant amounts of smoke (from burning wood or kerosene) which remained trapped in their tent, with negative health and environmental impacts.
Another Fellow and I researched alternatives including a solar cookstove and a biofuel cookstove, and surveyed diverse communities to determine the market demand for a solar cookstove, daily activities (and therefore estimated energy demand) and the current cost of collecting or purchasing wood/fuel. We used this information to present recommendations on how an alternative cookstove could be included as a potential product offering.
The Fellowship saw me build skills in design thinking, rapid prototyping, cross-cultural communication, social business, problem solving and leadership. In addition, I broadened my professional perspective on the triple bottom line as I worked towards the co-management of economic, social and environmental performance within complex global challenges of climate change, energy poverty, sanitation and education.
The opportunity to work closely with professionals from across Asia and North America not only developed my ability to efficiently live and work with others within a very short time, but it also exposed me to diverse ways of working and solving problems.
The highlight of this experience was being able to use my professional skills to influence positive change. The Fellowship program allowed me to directly empower people, from vulnerable communities, to improve their standard of living by addressing energy poverty and female employment. Overall, it was a really rewarding experience!
Kate is a Graduate Engineer at Jacobs.
- The Fellowship group with Pollinate Energy CEO Alexie Seller, and Program Leaders Meenal Khare and Tim de Ridder (Kaushik Reddy).
- Mahadevamma, from Chokkasandra P2 community, who we recruited for the employment program (Meenal Khare).
- Running an event to support and train one of the women on the program, Siddlingamma, at HBR Layout community (Leong Jang Chia).
- Explaining the role, business opportunity and recruitment process to women at Chandpasha community (Krista Singh).
- Traditional cookstove in one of the urban slum communities (Leong Jang Chia).
- Chandpasha community with solar panels, installed on tents, which power a solar light inside the tent (Kate Selvaratnam).