Connecting the dots: crowdfunding, education, workforce and climate change

#CriticalThinking

Picture of Eros Artuso
Eros Artuso

Eros Artuso, EU Liaison Officer at the GHG Management Institute’s EU office in Luxembourg

In October 2016, countries convened in Paris and forged a new worldwide climate agreement. For the first time, the world has an international climate agreement where almost all countries are pledging to do their part. However this is not enough: addressing climate change will require fundamental societal, organisational and behavioural changes on a global scale. We all – experts and not – know how to slow and reduce climate change. We have the technologies: renewable energy, like wind and solar, smart meter and appliances to install in our homes. We have decades of practice making effective policies.

The missing piece is the carbon workforce that turns these new pledges into climate change solutions. Countries need workers with skills related to climate change to help turn plans into actions, and it is vital that the population of professionals with the expertise to address climate change emissions is globally widespread. However, 80% of world’s countries struggle with resources and experience to make this happen.

When we launched the Greenhouse Gas Management Institute in 2007 we asked the global community what we should do in order to enhance and assist local people to help community, government and business leaders to reduce climate change. We asked local people, women and under-served communities representing the carbon workforce who can get the right job skills and be the one to make climate action real.

The missing piece is the carbon workforce that turns these new pledges into climate change solutions

Now the key question is how to achieve education and professionalization with limited financial assistance. A critical element that we faced in order to develop such pool of carbon experts was to provide the needed financial assistance to individuals working for non-profit, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), as well as for those working in governments and small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in developing countries, but also developed countries, to pay the tuition fees to register and attend our courses and diploma programmes.

For the first few years, we have provided financial assistance and scholarships to hundreds of learners from around the world thanks to our donors. When the financial crisis deepened the pressing needs in higher education sky-rocketed and due to the high volume of applications, we faced the challenge ‒ similarly to other organisations ‒ to re-invent our financial model to something more sustainable and to something that embraces new tools, such as crowdfunding and crowdlending.

We are not sure whether it will be the-one-and-only model but, if successful, it can provide some guidance to other programmes. To develop the type of deeply technical and pedagogically rigorous training path, consistent with university degrees and other professional designations, it is essential to leverage a sustainable resourcing model that is not solely reliant upon funding from short-term international development projects. An emphasis on professional competency, quality, and ethical behaviour provides the kind of social infrastructure that make possible for larger things to happen, which the broader society would otherwise not have confidence to undertake. This point is especially relevant where the issue involves a public collective action problem, like enacting aggressive national and global climate change policies.

Building a professional community is a challenging project for anyone ‒ doing so both globally and efficiently is even more difficult

This is where the crowdfunding comes in. Although obtaining financial assistance via crowdfunding is relatively new (as the global crowdfunding ecosystem is still quite young and it will take many years to fully mature), it is an essential element to build the bridge between finance, education, employment and climate change. Nevertheless, crowdfunding is not a panacea. Most crowdfunding campaigners expect the masses to shower their support upon their incredibly unique idea or project, but creating and managing a successful crowdfunding campaign, even for small figures, is lot of hard work. Preparation requires weeks or months of advance planning. Running an active campaign is like running a marathon and only if you finish and if you have successfully crowdfunded your project, your supporters expect to be involved for the long haul. They have bought into your vision, now it is your responsibility to keep them engaged.

Building a professional community is a challenging project for anyone ‒ doing so both globally and efficiently is even more difficult. Luckily, online tools can facilitate the process like never before through infrastructure for training, community networking and norm setting, standards development and professional certification.

It is this infrastructure that our society should be focused on building, endorse the collaboration between organisations and businesses but also individuals around the world, embrace new financial model where individuals can actually make the difference and have a word.

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