This first Youth Energy Academy held at the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand, on 28 October-3 November, brought together 27 participants, from 13 countries from South and Southeast Asia for an innovative programme that combined sessions exploring the role of decentralized renewable energy and communities in addressing energy related challenges, with practical workshops on energy systems design and construction. Informal roundtable discussions took place in the evenings on topics such as gender and energy and the role of youth in promoting SDGs.
"I highly appreciate the fact that the Academy incorporated both lectures and hands-on workshop together which made it very useful for participants. I love the enthusiastic and supportive organizing team who inspired me a lot. After this program, I became more confident and committed on taking true actions to apply what I learn to real life. I hope to stay connected with people in this network to keep learning and sharing with each other." - Participant from Vietnam
The Youth Energy Academy aimed to empower young people to take a leading role in addressing the region’s energy challenges by providing participants with tools for action and by letting them try new things without fear of failure. The Academy showed that empowerment comes from being involved in the change process and actually co-creating that process. During the 7-day programme, participants understood the real meaning of sustainability and that renewable energy is not an end in itself, but also the means for socio-economic development and for fostering more self-reliant individuals and collectives.
Using tools like design thinking, problem tree analysis and the social business canvas, participants discussed and refined problems, explored solutions and possible business models for their project ideas. They visited and learned first-hand from a community energy project and learned from case studies in the region.
Through a “do-it-together” approach participants with various backgrounds (from engineering to public policy, or liberal arts) built an array of energy systems - a solar box oven, two parabolic ovens, a solar dryer, a solar sound system/charging station, 15 power banks and a solar water pump (that was donated to the AIT community farm on campus), using reclaimed materials whenever possible - in just under 30 hours! Most knew nothing about electricity and had never used a power tool. Our team of trainers encouraged participants to self-organize, to explore different methods and being creative in designing their projects and overcoming the mistakes made.
In the end, by understanding how energy and electricity work and by building energy systems with their own hands, participants left the 7-day Academy with the” can-do” attitude and the inspiration to take a leading role in their communities. Some are already taking actions to apply the learnings made and to spread the inspiring energy they gathered in Thailand. The group of 8 AIT students that participated in the Academy will be providing support to the recently established community farm on campus where the solar water pump was installed
The YEA was based on the previous work of the Sustainable Energy Youth Network (SEYN) in engaging youth in energy in Europe, combined with AIT’s Regional Resource Centre for Asia and the Pacific extensive networks and experience in providing training in Asia. The Academy was made possible by the kind financial contribution of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) and the participation of several partners that enriched the programme, namely: Chiang Mai University, Nexus for Development, Leeds Becket University in the UK, Yunus Centre at AIT, UNESCAP, UNDP Altfinab, among others. The energy systems built were donated to the Klong 6 Community Learning Centre in Panthum Thani, visited during the Academy, and to the AIT community farm.