Climate action is about challenging conventional thinking and overcoming the fear of change. But people need a purpose to act. Experience shows that a community is more receptive to change when it can see the benefits. Back in 1997, the island community of Samsø, Denmark, home to 3,700 people, invested in renewable energy with community engagement, social innovation and local ownership and has become a brand name worldwide. The Samsø Energy Academy brings people interested in community development together.
The Energy Academy led a pilot project funded by the KR Foundation to share its experience, build capacity and provide leadership development opportunities to community leaders, businesses, public authorities, research and educational institutions around the world who are involved in sustainable community development. This initially included communities in mainland Japan and Victoria (Australia), and also in the islands archipelagos of Maine and Hawaii (US).
Community leaders and community-driven organisations worked with the Samsø Energy Academy through international workshops or site-visits to strengthen their personal leadership, empower local stakeholders to engage in community development, share information, ambitions, best practices, capacity and skills with each other, and set up a way to monitor and evaluate their community work. In addition, the Energy Academy also started or resumed cooperation with communities in Canada, Texas (US), Aruba, Mali, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Indonesia aiming to expand the network and inspire or strengthen community development hubs in these regions.
A hub is meant as a cooperation between local actors within or connected to a community that facilitate community-driven climate action and other initiatives. It can be a cooperation among citizens, a public authority or policy makers, community groups or NGOs, local businesses, academic institutions, innovation centres and any other local or regional stakeholder willing to support the process. This has similarities to how local and regional energy agencies in Europe bring different actors together to facilitate the energy transition process locally.
For the Samsø Energy Academy, community-driven initiatives can at the same time deliver effective local climate action on the ground, provide good business opportunities and most importantly improve a community’s perspective for the future.
The Energy Academy invites more communities around the world to look at the island of Samsø as a reflection point from which they may get inspiration and take elements and lessons to other societies and cultures, test them and see how they work in different contexts. Such international cooperation can allow communities with similar challenges and concerns to realise their potential for change and become more confident about the prospect of designing their own future.
Learn more on Samsø Energy Academy’s website.