Impact, Pollinate India

Hi, I’m Chris Austin-Berry (left), a project manager based in AECOM’s Christchurch, New Zealand office, where I manage a large program of work repairing earthquake-damaged properties. Together with my AECOM colleagues Megan Aspinall (centre) and Kate Crowley (right), I’m taking part in Pollinate Energy’s second Young Professionals Program, helping this thriving “social” business assist communities in India to achieve long-term sustainable energy generation. Like AECOM’s first Young Professionals Program cohort of last year, the three of us are blogging about our adventures in India over the next two weeks. Below is my first post; leave a comment, share it around. We look forward to sharing our journey with you!

The wait is over! Fully charged and ready to go, we arrive in Bangalore with 31-degree C heat at midnight! The drive to Pollinate HQ is comparable to how a fish swims in the sea, meandering through all types of traffic moving in all directions. I instantly notice the construction of roads, bridges and buildings and am reminded of the rebuild efforts back in Christchurch.

The excitement and enthusiasm within the group is contagious. The co-founders have done an amazing job to coordinate the program and make all of us feel welcome. Their gratitude for the contribution we can make is humbling.


There are 17 young professionals this time around: 11 Australians and New Zealanders as well as six locals. To help run the program this time, a volunteer from the U.S. and another from Australia join the team.

The swell in team numbers since the inaugural Young Professionals Program last August reflects the enormous growth Pollinate has achieved. More than 3,000 solar lights have been installed and over 14,000 people reached across 450 communities. It’s inspirational to be working so closely with the co-founders and invaluable to hear firsthand how their innovative social business has taken shape.

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Our first few hours have been action-packed! Final tweaks to our data collection plans for the impact assessment are frantically made before a visit to the urban slums on the first afternoon. My team is responsible for collecting 30 evaluative stories over the two-week period and so far so good. Some lessons learned on our first visit identified the need to further refine our approach before training the wider team on our collection method.

Our local pollinator, Tamil, introduced us to a slum community in the east of Bangalore, and seeing the solar panels sitting on top of many of the tents gave us evidence of the impact Pollinate has made in this area. The residents are friendly and welcoming and show an immediate interest in our arrival. There is a strong feeling of community, and connections made are apparent in children playing and adults socialising.


Engaged and inspired, my desire to help make a difference here continues to grow.

Until next time,


Originally published Apr 2, 2014

Author: Chris Austin-Berry