Speaker Series: Tim Helweg-Larsen of EnergyBank

It’s interesting to me that when people sit down to talk about a socially entrepreneurial solution, pill there is always some initial discussion about what exactly social entrepreneurship means.  Sure, it can be nebulous and complex, and the clarifying discussion is important.

But for me (who believes social entrepreneurship boils down to purpose, market orientation and system disruptiveness), I’d rather just dive straight in with the entrepreneurs getting things done.

After our most recent Skoll Centre Speaker Series, I think it’s fair to say Tim Helweg-Larsen would agree.  Tim, the founder of EnergyBank, shared his personal priorities of combating climate change through renewable energy.  It was great to see how Tim has put those priorities to work as the driving force behind EnergyBank.

EnergyBank envisions a Europe-wide market in energy-bonds, backed by renewable assets and owned by the people and businesses that use them.  In short, customers are turned into investors/owners and capital is unlocked for renewable energy sources.


Why this make sense

1)      When customers become investors/owners they future proof the costs of their energy.  Production costs charged by traditional systems are avoided.  This makes a big difference when you think about monthly average energy consumption and rising costs!  Plus any extra energy produced by customer-owned renewables can be sold for profit.

2)      Do you know how much an off-shore wind farm costs?  Trust Tim, it’s a lot.  EnergyBank’s system could raise enough capital to help build such renewable infrastructure.  (It’s great for the average Joe who wants to fight climate change, but doesn’t have 1 billion pounds lying around.)

3)      It’s good for the environment (more renewables mean less fossil fuels), customers/owners, and business.


Why not?

With so much common sense embedded in EnergyBank, it seems simple. It makes me think, “why haven’t we just done this already?”  But I think we all know (including Tim) it’s going to be very challenging to change the existing energy system.  All the “wrong” things are incentivized. Plus it’s complex, multi-faceted and been functioning “happily” for several decades.  Think about the “people factor” and it becomes even trickier.  For every one of someone who thinks like me, I’m sure there are 100 of those who say, “why should we do this?”  Pile on the fact most energy users probably don’t even think about the system to begin with, and you’ve got an idea of how much work needs to be done.

Nevertheless, it was great to hear Tim’s commitment, priorities and progress thus.  With a strong purpose, market orientation and serious potential for disrupting the system, I’m sure EnergyBank will have us all saying “why didn’t we do this sooner”.

Speaker Series: Becky Buell of Meteos

In our latest edition of the Skoll Centre Speaker Series, store we heard from Becky Buell, viagra sale Founder and Director of Meteos.

Meteos, through its EnergyFutures project, is working to map perspectives on how to change our deeply embedded energy system. How do you compel businesses and their investors to reconceptualise what the future of their industries- and their investment portfolios- will look like in the next 20-30- years?

EnergyFutures, an investor-led dialogue, brings together companies from across the energy, utility and automotive sectors to explore the long-term value drivers that will reshape their industries. This space for discussion brings to light some interesting themes, and often conflicting views.

Most interesting to me was how Becky and her team frame the dialogue not about climate and environmental responsibility per se, but about financial bottom line.  For example, a company is valued at x, but in pratice, if a climate policy caps the production of one of their assets, then their full valuation can never be realized. Fund managers, then, are taking a second look at the reality of their investments and valuation, which clearly have a trickle effect into changing the system. The context that sticks with fund managers and senior company executives is around maintaining stable and predictable returns from energy investments in an uncertain operating environment.  Ultimately though, this translates into significant impacts for the future of energy, conceptualised both equitably and sustainably.

Becky shared humbling facts and posed challenging questions:

  • We are struggling to meet milestones of current International Energy Agency (IEA) climate scenarios.  If we keep doing business as usual, we’re looking at a 6 degree (!!) increase in temperature worldwide
  • The cost of energy is rising.  Who carries the burden of this cost?  And who has access to begin with?
  • Climate change is impacting infrastructure, which is under extreme pressure to meet demand and may be on the verge of collapse. Impacts in infrastructure in turn impacts investment portfolios.
  • Reinsurers are requiring insurers to have more cash on hand to cover a 1 in 200 year catostrophic event. Investors are waking up to the reality of climate change.

What are the game changers? What is helping move the system in the right direction?

  • Safety and insurance requirements
  • Efficiency standards
  • Unburnable carbon
  • Removal of oil and gas subsidies
  • Carbon price
  • Public investment in energy efficiency and innovation

With all the complexity surrounding the issue, we’re glad to see the major players coming together in dialogue. It seems that change is imminent, but the question is how will happen?  Admittedly, Energy Futures is just one player in the wider ecosystem of climate change agents, but as Becky says, EnergyFutures is giving companies and investors the “wind in their sails” needed to transition our destructive system into a sustainable one.

Goodbye Michaelmas. Hello Hilary.

What better way to kick off a new term here at the Skoll Centre than to celebrate the highlights of the previous one! A few top highlights of the 2011 Michaelmas Term:

  • Days of Conversation on Social Innovation:  Over half of the MBA class joined us for a vibrant kick off to the year. We gathered to talk about the mega-trends and global challenges of the future, advice and the business opportunities these present. Entrepreneurs and academics alike weighed with their perspectives about how to use markets to create social and environmental value.
  • Emerge 2011: The Emerge Conference did it again!  It connected university students aspiring to drive transformational change with current global change-agents leading.  We had a packed house and welcomed over 60 international speakers over the weekend.
  • The Associate Fellowship Programme:  In its third  year, viagra the Associate Fellowship programme supports leading students across Oxford University working at the forefront of social entrepreneurship. We selected our 2011-2012 cohort this autumn, and gathered for our first retreat to plot what we and the world will look like in 2020.
  • The Skoll Centre Speaker Series: Social Entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs covered everything from waste collection to at-risk youth to BOP access to health care.  These engaging, practical discussions raised some great questions and maybe even provided steps toward the answers too.

So until next year Michaelmas Term, we at the Skoll Centre say farewell!  And to Hiliary Term, we offer a warm hello and say get ready for making and sharing more highlights!

Speaker Series: Dorje Mundle of Novartis

Can multi-national pharmaceutical companies tackle the systemic challenges of global health for the poor?  Wait a minute…should they even be trying?  Dorje Mundle, tadalafil Global Head of Corporate Citizenship at Novartis, vialis 40mg asked these questions and more during his visit this week to the Skoll Centre.

First, capsule what are some of the challenges?
Poverty, lack of health education, limited numbers of heath care providers, and barriers to resources (e.g. infrastructure/medicines) are all big factors. Philanthropy is not enough, policies need to be changed, and new technologies need to be implemented.

So, how does big business fit into the picture?
I think it’s safe to say that Dorje and Novartis believe sourcing and driving innovation is one of its key roles.  In its Arogya Parivar initiative (“Healthy Family” in Hindi), Novartis is implementing a social business model in rural India.  It strives to increases both accessibility of health education and medicines and promotes health seeking behaviour for 42 million people at the base of the pyramid.

How does Novartis do this?

It’s a two pronged approach:
1.    The first focuses on community healthcare education activities.  Community meetings and health camps are run to teach about prevention and health on a general level (never about brands).  Consultants are also on hand with medicines to increase accessibility and lower costs (travel/time) for health camp attendees.  In addition, products are tailored to the villagers (small quantities mean lower prices and packaging in local languages is a plus).  And most importantly, all of this is done by locals in local dialects while external advisors are used to make sure information is factually correct.

2.    The second focuses on the business model.  Obviously, the health educators drive demand (as health seeking behaviour increases).  The product portfolio is communicated to doctors and pharmacists and systems are implemented to ensure supply chain continuity (stock-outs are not good).  Add in external MFIs providing loans to pharmacies and doctors, and you’ve got a model that’s going places.

Or is it?  Should Novartis continue with this innovative model?  Will it be able to continue/increase its slim profits?  Are there more conflicts of interest or ethical concerns that haven’t been addressed?  Are more partners needed?  In general, is it “appropriate” for multi-national corporations to be operating in this space?

Personally, I think it’s a great step.  The challenges of global health aren’t getting smaller and traditional methods of solving them aren’t keeping up.  Maybe what we need, as Dorje showed us, is a bit of creativity and experimentation along the way.

Speaker Series: Albina Ruiz of Ciudad Saludable

Trash. Garbage. Waste. Recycling.

It’s not a topic you would usually think elicits much inspiration. (Nor be a fitting topic for a discussion over lunch!)

But last week, order Albina Ruiz opened up our eyes to the incredible potential of leveraging this dirty business into transformational change.

Albina Ruiz, ailment the Executive Director of Ciudad Saludable, buy visited us from Peru. She shared valuable insights on how Ciudad Saludable has helped small micro entrepreneurs build a community-based waste management system whilst improving the social and environmental status quo of communities.

So what is the key to their success?  Obviously, there are many factors. But her main insight: you need a holistic approach.

Almost a decade ago, Albina and her team saw a large problem: public- sector solid waste disposal services in Lima were not functioning.   But they realized if they could flip this gap into an opportunity, they could create employment for local citizens whilst providing a public service for the community at large.

Today, Albina works across the board with social leaders, local and national governments, waste collectors, teachers, the media, and communities at large.  (And of course don’t forget the ever important change agents at even the smallest levels, e.g. mothers.)   In the process, Ciudad Saludable has changed national policy around sanitation and waste collectors rights, provided educational training (about waste, health and the environment), and generated serious profits, for government and families alike. What started as a small initiative in Peru has now been scaled to several countries in Latin America and most recently in India.

With an approach like this and tremendous results in scaling successfully, it’s no wonder that Ciudad Saludable has won several international awards.  It’s a model, I believe, that has the potential for even greater adoption.  As mega-cities around the world  continue to boom, Ciludad Saludable shines a light on how to build sustainable cities, in terms of its public, environmental and financial health.

Speaker Series: Patrick McDonald of Viva

Are entrepreneurial approaches to development bringing impacts to children fast enough?

At the latest Skoll Centre Speaker Series brownbag, viagra Patrick McDonald, CEO of Viva, led an intriguing discussion on social ventures working with vulnerable children.  He shared his experience (yes, the ups and the downs!) of over 20 years in the field, and then posed the question of how we can continue to move forward, faster.  Can a funding and incubation platform supporting child-focused social ventures be the answer?

What transpired was a brainstorming session on how to scale successful models, barriers to progress, and new insights on how to collaborate.  We broke down our assumptions (what is “scale”? what is “success”?) and shared ideas for redesigning the flow of support and funding from ideation to scale.

Have any ideas? Get in touch, as the conversation will be continuing among Patrick and the students as his new venture evolves.

Don’t miss your chance to be a part of the next Skoll Speaker Series event!  Albina Ruiz, Executive Director of Ciudad Saludable, will be here on the 25th November at 12:30-1:30.  Bring your lunch and appetite for all things related to social entrepreneurship!