School of Power and Organising sparks a lasting legacy

As summer slowly approaches we look back at a programme that lit a fire under potential community leaders

When you think of Repowering London, you probably think of community energy co-ops, carbon emissions cutting and creating a fair, clean, energy future – at least we hope so!

But nothing we do to reach those goals happens without moving people to take action, which brings us to the Summer School of Power and Organising. Over the course of just two weeks, this programme held in August 2023 packed in discussion and learning in community leadership, digital skills and much more.

It began, says Éva Goudouneix – Repowering London’s Community Engagement Manager – when she saw the effects of a Trust for London funded volunteer project in Lambeth, which involved educating residents on fuel poverty and empowering them to become agents for social change in the energy space. “I began to reflect on my community engagement work, and how we could make the topic of energy a little bit more attractive and interesting for new audiences,” she says.

Éva formed the idea of doing another volunteer programme that was something different and defined the role of social change agent more broadly – somewhere people could come and explore the things that matter to them.

She quickly put together a plan that was all about community organising, with elements of energy, of co-operatives, art and culture – something we’ve been developing recently also in our Creative Energy Clubs. The location: Papa’s Café, a local Brixton landmark that offered street-level access, great Caribbean food and a playground that provided a venue for built-in childcare, freeing local mums to take part.

The mums were important, says Éva, who – with the example of her colleague Ewure Esi – knew the potential impact of local mothers who want to make a difference in their area or and only need a bit of help with training, connections and exposure to new ideas.

“I began to reflect on my community engagement work, and how we could make the topic of energy a little bit more attractive and interesting for new audiences”

Street university style
With the Summer School, Éva aimed for: “The vibe of a street university, somewhere people could come in and out, have a break and check on their kids. In the end, people joined in from all walks of life and brought different experiences of Brixton as well as a range of interests. For example, one person was very interested in recycling and reusing litter and making art out of it, another looking at how young black men could have access to more information about health.“We also learned so much from each other,” Éva says, in an atmosphere that was “nice and chilled and where we do stuff together”.

Idea Factory comes together
One key takeaway for her and the team: “To make things long lasting. That’s how you bring real value. Even after two weeks people felt they were just getting started.” With that in mind, she has found a way to continue the programme in a new form – as the Idea Factory – which will keep organising events: “So far these have included a poetry night for women, a litter-art project, digital skills workshops – so we’ve created something more durable.”

When it comes to the summer programme, “What made me happy,” says Éva, “was that most of the participants didn’t know about community energy, so there was a lot of appetite to learn about everything Repowering London did. We had really good feedback and one of the best wins we had is that one of the participants has now joined Repowering London as a team member.”

An important aim of the summer school was also potentially to enable people to become Directors of one of our local co-operatives. Buoyed by how much interest there was in the subject of energy and understanding of the problem of a privatised energy system, Éva is hopeful people will take new steps. Maybe just looking into their local community energy group – but perhaps more.

“What we most hope is that people who have experienced being disadvantaged by the energy system will go as far as becoming Directors of one of our co-ops. That’s the dream.”

Would you like to be involved in a future Summer School of Power and Organising – whether by running a session or being a participant? Email the Idea Factory for info. Follow on Instagram here.

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