‘I had two really exciting days on the jury for the WDCD Clean Energy Challenge. We had 12 jurors, all from different backgrounds, bombarded with 57 brilliant ideas to solve real problems in 5 cities,’ says Edward Mungai, CEO of the Kenya Climate Innovation Centre.

‘Our job was to use our collective knowledge of so many fields — humanitarian, financial, engineering, design, enterprise development — to arrive at 20 worthy winners. That was a superb experience. We had different views but agreed about the winners. There were no big fights.

‘Another great thing about the jury was the local expertise. I come here with a knowledge of Nairobi, Kenya, Africa. Each of us understood the conditions and complexities in a particular culture. When Ayush Chauhan spoke about New Delhi, we sat up and listened. Amazing how WDCD gathered so much diversity on the jury.’

Edward Mungai (photo by Gerrit Serné)

Identifying talent

‘The Challenge is about identifying talent and concepts and bringing them into the limelight. They need a period of incubation and acceleration to take the next step. That’s also my work as CEO of the Kenya Climate Innovation Centre (KCIC). We help small and medium-size enterprises to think about climate change as an opportunity. We provide policy and business advice, mentorship, technical services, access to facilities, space. Since 2012 we’ve assisted around 260 enterprises in getting off the ground. What I do at KCIC and what we are doing with the WDCD Challenge is similar: helping enthusiastic people to optimize their designs and products.

It was interesting that so many winners resulted from so-called ‘design jams’. I plan to borrow quite a bit from WDCD in organizing similar events.

‘An important takeaway from WDCD for me is to find out how to deal with the nominations that didn’t win. The first thing I want to do when I go back to Nairobi is to look closely at the 6 projects on the shortlist that did not win and see how KCIC can help them. It was interesting that so many winners resulted from so-called design jams. I plan to borrow quite a bit from WDCD in organizing similar events.’

Local solutions, modern packaging

‘It was great that most winners were locals. Paulistanos with solutions for São Paulo problems. That’s a success parameter that WDCD got right. Only very credible, committed and passionate people with relevant local knowledge can succeed.

‘Stand-out projects for me included Ecolana, a network of waste collection centres in Mexico City. I enjoyed the passion and drive of the people involved.

Nairobi’s Energy-Food Nexus also impressed, because it tackles problems of water, energy and food together and gives people access to affordable and healthy food through vertical farming. And Solar Freeze will help to save a lot of food. In Kenya, fridges and electricity are for the rich. This project provides cooling at the bottom of the pyramid, empowering people most in need.

‘What all these projects share is that they are local solutions, but packaged in a very modern way, using new technologies. Now we can show these projects to the city mayor and prove to him they really work. Time to push them to the next level.’