Ayush Chauhan (l.) and Elizabeth McKeon (photo Gerrit Serné)

‘There was such an interesting mix of past, present and future in the winning ideas,’ says Ayush Chauhan as international jury member for the Clean Energy Challenge. ‘The different entries integrate traditions of the past, give present technologies new purposes and innovate for new future concepts.’

As co-founder of both Quicksand and UnBox Festival, Chauhan is surrounded by design thinking as a driver for social change. ‘Quicksand is a creative agency for human centered design, applying design methods and processes to policies for organizations like the World Bank, Unicef and Rockefeller. Whereas UnBox is a three-day design and arts festival giving participants intellectual challenges and sensorial experiences.’

Ayush Chauhan (photo by Gerrit Serné)

Inspiring multicultural setting

Chauhan tells us what it was like being on the jury: ‘It was an inspiring and informative multi-cultural setting and was valuable to understand the context of different cities.’ Concerning the Clean Energy Challenge, Chauhan explains, ‘the challenge in India is to get decision makers to think proactively about the impact of design, while they are bringing basic energy needs to the larger population in the next 10 years.’

‘The challenge in India is to get decision makers to think proactively about the impact of design’

He quotes William Gibson’s ‘The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed’ as Chauhan talks about the relevance of international exchange: ‘That’s the power of a global challenge. It is really amazing to see an energy utility platform in Hawaii and the relevance it has for India. Across the world you can borrow ideas and cross-pollinate and that is what we need to do.’

Old tradition, new design

The winning ideas which grabbed Chauhan’s attention are Beehive, Electric Water Heater Retrofit and Block E. He was inspired by how Beehive ‘brings back a dying livelihood, taking the old tradition of terracotta clay as cooling system in a new design.’ Whereas for the present, the Electric Water Heater Retrofit ‘utilizing water heaters which are already installed in homes through a central platform, storing surplus energy from sustainable sources. Potentially a very exciting idea.’ And lastly, Block E ‘looks to the future in how citizens can use energy as a currency, by for example charging a battery while cycling and selling this to a café.’

‘The winners of the Clean Energy Challenge have so much potential. Sometimes all it requires to get the attention of policy makers is demonstration,’ says Chauhan. ‘Proof of concept is a beautiful opportunity to cross-pollinate, learn and apply. And by doing this, the scale of impact afterwards can be manifold.’