"Don't delay acting on your convictions", says Forum almunus turned solar entrepreneur
Since 1996, Forum for the Future’s Masters in Leadership for Sustainable Development has been training the sustainability leaders of the future. Each issue, we track the career of a Forum alumnus.
Class of: 2008 – 09
Currently: Project Director, Brighton Energy Co-operative
Why I chose the MProf
I chose to do the Masters as a mature student at 38 – a bit different to most. I’d done a degree in Business Studies back in the ’90s, although I’ve always had an interest in environmental issues. I picked the Forum course due to its great reputation and the alumni network, but predominantly for the practical projects. Having worked for several years, a purely theoretical Masters didn’t appeal.
What I learnt
That being ‘good enough’ is ok. Sustainability is about trying to fix everything that’s wrong with the world, and that’s a huge task – bigger than any of us are going to achieve. It’s important to recognise when you have enough information, or know enough people, to just act, give it a go. You can then reflect on that experience and move on. It’s important to have confidence in yourself and understand that you don’t need to have all the answers, because all the answers probably don’t exist.
Career to date
Since the Masters, I’ve been working on the Brighton Energy Co-operative. Our aim is to raise £1 million by selling shares in the co-op to fund solar PV installations around Brighton and Hove. We’ll then use the revenue to fund further low-carbon projects. Raising the funds is more challenging than it would have been 18 months ago, when there were grants around like the Low Carbon Communities Challenge – but we’re taking hope from other successful projects.
What I plan to do next
My immediate focus is to make the Brighton Energy Co-operative successful by Christmas, as the legislation and incentives will change in March 2012. Beyond that, my ambition is to apply the lessons from this to other community energy projects around the country. I’m working alongside people in Carbon Leapfrog, DECC and The Low Carbon Hub in applying for European grants. We have a common agenda: to use our experience to create guides for energy resilience around the country.
Advice for future leaders
Don’t leave it so long to act on your convictions. On the Masters, I was finally surrounded by people who share my values, and that was very stimulating. It may sound like a cliché, but doing something you’re passionate about attracts people to you, and makes you much more likely to be successful.
Damian Tow was in conversation with Katie Shaw.