From March to December 2022, START successfully implemented the ProGREEN Leadership Fellowship Program for early career researchers and professionals specializing in renewable energy in West Africa under the Promoting Gains in Renewable Energy (ProGREEN) – West Africa program, supported by the Fonds de Recherche du Québec. The Leadership program used a mix of asynchronous and synchronous modules covering diverse topics such as Impactful Collaborations, Systems Thinking, Foresight, Reflexivity, Empathy, Flexibility, Learning and Growth in the Face of Uncertainty, Power Dynamics, Gender, Intersectionality, Justice, and Dealing with Stuckness in a System. Additional labs addressed communication skills, current landscapes in solar and bioenergy, renewable energy finance, and proposal writing.
One year later, the fellows have experienced professional growth and are actively applying the knowledge gained from their ProGREEN learning experience. Read the testimonials of ProGREEN fellows and founders of the Association of Young Energy Actors (JAE) below.
1. Are there lessons that you learned during the ProGREEN program that you’ve been able to apply during your work since the program ended?
Yes, throughout the ProGREEN training, we gained extensive insights into navigating complex environments, fostering empathy, embracing systems thinking, and more. As the association progresses into a more advanced stage of development, the challenges I face as the primary manager are becoming recurrent and progressively intricate. The team is expanding, and my ability to navigate these challenges is sustained by the valuable lessons and skills acquired through the program.
Personally, I continue to implement specific insights gained from the ProGREEN program. In both collaborative teamwork and community engagement – where encouraging volunteerism is essential – fostering a collaborative spirit holds great importance. There comes a juncture where showcasing emotional intelligence, which, in my perspective, aligns closely with empathy, becomes crucial for effective team management and the cultivation of strong teamwork capabilities.
The principles acquired through the ProGREEN program have proven highly beneficial to me both in my professional endeavors and personal life. Professionally, I’ve collaborated with various researchers and stakeholders in the development sector to craft research proposals aimed at securing funding. Through this experience, I’ve encountered both successes and setbacks, underscoring the need for ongoing refinement in this process. Additionally, I’ve actively participated in several research teams, employing transdisciplinary approaches to conduct research. On a personal level, these learned concepts have enhanced my interpersonal skills, fostering attentive listening, empathy, and various other qualities in my relationships.
2. Have you maintained connections with others who participated in the training, and if so, have there been opportunities for collaboration or other valuable aspects of these connections?
Yes, I’ve stayed in touch with the majority of the Fellows. With Fatim and Néhémie, we are actively progressing in the pursuit of a shared vision to establish an organization of young experts in the field of renewable energies in Africa through the association of young energy actors. Additionally, due to frequent travel in the sub-region, I frequently cross paths with individuals in their respective countries. Beyond professional connections, some of these individuals have evolved into great friends upon whom I can rely.
I stay connected with several fellows, although the connections may not always be strictly professional, except for Dimitri. However, being linked on the LinkedIn network enables us to broaden our professional networks, gain knowledge, and discover additional opportunities.
I maintained contact with Dimitri, Grace, Chysmelle, and others, but I collaborate much more with Dimitri as part of the establishment of the Young Energy Actors Organization in Benin. The overarching vision is to establish a West African network of Young Energy Actors. Furthemore, I stay updated on the activities of other fellows through their social networks.
3. What were the most significant changes that occurred or milestones reached in the Association of Young Energy Actors in the past year?
In 2023, we officially launched the Malian chapter of JAE. In Benin, we’ve established a dedicated team working diligently to coordinate various projects.
In Burkina Faso, 2023 marked a year of significant achievements. We successfully forged partnerships with new collaborators such as ENABEL and Christian Aid, facilitated through WEP Burkina. Additionally, we hosted the International Round Table of Energy Actors in collaboration with the EURICA project, supported by the HORIZON 2020 program of the European Union. Notably, for the first time in our organizational history, a delegation of four representatives attended COP28, where we organized two side events to showcase our association’s work. This achievement is noteworthy as it underscores our ability, despite our relatively young organizational age, to earn the trust of international donors.
At the organizational and administrative levels in Burkina Faso, a decision was made during the general assembly to establish a research and development group. This group aims to propose concrete solutions to address the energy challenges faced by our country and subsequently the continent. Additionally, we initiated efforts to engage younger audiences, particularly in middle and high schools, through the creation of JAE school units.
The most positive aspect from my perspective was finding a dedicated and skilled core team. Although we are still in our early satges, I now have individuals whom I can rely on to sustain our ongoing activities.
In Benin, we’ve been actively working on assembling a dynamic team that is currently gearing up for the inaugural edition of the Energy Debates in the country. We are approaching a pivotal milestone for the association in Benin—official recognition. Concurrently, we are establishing partnerships, and the Benin Chapter of Young Energy Actors has become a member of the INDEPENDENT GLOBAL STOCKTAKE West Africa Regional Hub (iGST WA Hub). This collaborative platform is dedicated to fostering climate action, knowledge sharing, and advocacy across West Africa.
4. What are the key priorities and goals for the association in the coming year?
In 2024, our primary focus is to secure consistent partnerships to facilitate the expansion of the association. In fact, we have carried out several projects with occasional partners and the level of impact is already very good. But to create more impact, we want to collaborate with partners interested in undertaking ambitious projects related to energy access, youth and women empowerment, and the promotion of renewable energies in all its facets.
In terms of objectives, we aspire to spearhead “energy debates” at a sub-regional level and establish a firm institutional presence in all the countries where we operate. Our goal is to be recognized as a youth organization that can be trusted across the entire renewable energy value chain.
We are currently in the process of launching the Academy of Young Energy Actors, which will serve as a showcase for capacity building. It will provide young individuals with a series of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). This initiative is set to expand gradually and might extend into physical spaces contingent upon resource availability.
The primary goal remains unchanged, it’s to enhance the involvement of young individuals in achieving energy self-sufficiency in their respective countries. In the context of Mali, the key priorities include:
- Enhancing our visibility, especially through active engagement on social media and participation in national workshops
- Expanding the membership base significantly
- Organizing additional virtual or in-person events
- Starting the inter-school activities, if feasible.
JAE’s priorities in Benin include:
- Organizing the first edition of the Energy Debates in Benin.
- Reinforcing the community of Young Energy Actors in Benin.
- Coordinating an exhibition showcasing innovations in the Renewable Energy Sector for Food Security.