Bolstering community connections
In 2013, AECOM’s Australia and New Zealand business partnered with fledgling social business Pollinate Energy to help eradicate energy poverty in India. Through Pollinate Energy’s Professionals Fellowship Program, AECOM has sponsored places each year for employees to support the organization’s work of promoting safer, more affordable, clean-energy solutions for India’s urban slum communities. The following blog is part of a series highlighting the work of this year’s program participants.
Namaskara! Greetings from Bangalore as our Pollinate Energy team continues its second week of the Professionals Fellowship Program.
Our team of 14 professionals from around the globe, in partnership with seven local fellows, have been collaborating to reach our target of completing more than 160 surveys with Pollinate Energy customers across 83 temporary slum communities in the city. The responses collected will feed into Pollinate Energy’s annual impact assessment, as well as our reports and presentations, which are due at the end of the program.
While visiting these communities, it is awesome to see the impact Pollinate Energy is making through the distribution of products that help meet a number of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, including 1) No Poverty, 2) Clean Water and Sanitation, and 3) Affordable and Clean Energy.
A key element of Pollinate Energy’s success is the relationships formed between ‘Pollinators’ and the families they serve. Many Pollinators become close friends with their customers, sharing time and experiences and creating additional community connections. The friendship between one of our local Pollinators, Krishna, and Vishalamma, a 62-year-old widow, is evidence of these strong bonds. Vishalamma is always so happy to see Krishna when he checks in!
Krishna, a local Polllinator, visits with Vishalamma, a community resident.
In addition to improving the lives of India’s poor, Pollinate Energy has a mission to empower local Indian entrepreneurs, in particularly women Pollinators. Last week, we had a panel discussion with the Pollinators, during which we heard women share feelings of increased confidence as a result of their involvement with program.
One of the women Pollinators – Pankaja – listens to a customer describing his experience with the products.
That focus on empowering women will no doubt continue following Pollinate Energy’s recent merger with fellow social enterprise Empower Generation, which focuses on tackling energy challenges in poor communities in Nepal. Given that it is currently made up of 20 women-led businesses, the combined enterprise’s aim to recruit, train and support more than 1,000 women by 2020 seems to be on track!
A side benefit of our work here in India is the ability to experience this amazing culture. Saturday was our day off and a group of us headed to the ‘Chickpete’ markets. As soon as we exited the metro station, all our senses were awakened — there were so many colours and smells, lots of noise and sweltering heat (classic India)!
First up, we had to get a picture in front of a pretty mural on the metro station building.
Next stop was the food section of the markets…
There was also a large section of the markets dedicated to flowers, routinely sold as temple offerings. This is particularly common in Bangalore (‘The Garden City’) because the climate is slightly cooler than in Northern India, meaning a greater variety of flowers can be grown.
Finally in the evening, the Pollinate Energy team is back at home base drinking our electrolytes and getting ready to tackle the last five days of the program!