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Innovative training programme to ‘power up’ climate comms

Energy systemsStrategic Communications

With wintry temperatures setting in across Europe this week, the global energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is becoming increasingly urgent. Yet, while dependence on fossil fuels is driving this crisis, there is a way out: greater investment in renewables will enable communities to access cleaner, more secure, and more affordable energy.

In order to address the challenges posed by the energy crisis and hence help prepare communications professionals working on energy issues for ECF grantees, the European Climate Foundation organised the first edition of the PowerUp Academy: a training and networking programme for energy communicators at the local, national, and European levels.

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Launched in April 2022, the PowerUp Academy’s goal is to raise participants’ confidence and ability in key communications skills as well as to create a network of communications professionals working on energy issues. In addition, the programme aims to enable personal and professional development through mentoring and to continue to fulfil the ECF’s role as a network enabler by bringing grantees together.

After a careful evaluation of the potential audiences and candidates that could help define this project, an invitation to apply was sent out across the ECF network, with applications coming from campaign NGOs, think tanks, and policy and legal groups.

Building capacity amidst converging crises

The 3-day in-person training event was an important opportunity for colleagues from the ECF network to connect, and sometimes reconnect, after months of online meetings. In addition, for the first time, they had the chance to meet experts from other organisations and exchange stories, learn from best practices, discuss challenges and listen to innovative ideas.

The in-person meeting, however, was just one of the four pillars of the PowerUp programme. The initiative also included a set of online skills workshops with leading experts. The PowerUp Academy also offered a mentoring programme, training mentees on their communication strategies while mentors joined an intensive training that equipped them with the skills needed to be effective mentors now and in the future. Finally, the PowerUp Academy included a series of ‘mini grants’ intended to stimulate innovation by providing ‘strings free’ resources to allow communications colleagues to experiment with new approaches.

What is next?

Europe’s transition to a modern, renewable energy system is well underway, but we are not moving fast enough, nor working at the necessary scale, to fully free ourselves from dependence on foreign fossil fuels, secure affordable energy, and meet the commitments made in the Paris Climate Agreement.

ECF grantees and partners are already working to tell this story every day, but there is an increasing need to make sure these stories resonate with citizens across Europe. How do we address energy poverty, how do we ensure structural change, how can we hasten the energy transition and how can we guarantee interested and concerned voices are listened to? These are some of the many questions that the PowerUp Academy participants are tackling.

While the current cohort of PowerUp participants continue their mentoring journey, plans are already underway for a second edition of the Academy that will evolve in parallel to the changing context. More information about eligibility and how to apply for the ‘class of 2023’ will be published early next year.

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"I am very happy to have been part of the PowerUp Academy in Ghent. As we PowerUppers have already discovered together, we live in different cities, scattered all over Europe, but we work on similar challenges and face similar limits on a daily basis - this knowledge is bonding and also empowering. After the three intensive PowerUp Academy days, I not only feel strengthened in the feeling that we can really make a difference in the climate movement, but I also feel that I have found many inspiring allies along the way."
Gloria Watzinger, Social Media Manager Agora Energiewende
"The PowerUp Academy was an unexpected, intensive but completely amazing experience. I have never felt so content and safe among so many people. The atmosphere you created for us was really special. I'm excited to start our almost year-long mentoring journey"
Anna Michalčáková, Analyst Energy Team Czech Republic Frank Bold
"A workshop with a view. Had an invigorating few days at a mentoring event in Ghent for the PowerUp Academy with allies from the climate movement all across Europe. It was both fun and worthwhile. Change is in the air. Thank you, Anton Lazarus and the European Climate Foundation, for inviting me"
Khaled Diab, Director of Communications at Carbon Market Watch