This month we’ve been inspired by the winners of the 2012 Ashden Awards. These awards celebrate local energy solutions that reduce carbon emissions and protect the environment, while also reducing poverty. The creativity, entrepreneurial spirit and sheer hard work of the winners make us want to roll up our sleeves and work harder than ever!

But one can’t help wondering whether events like the Ashden awards simply serve to make us feel good, or do they play a much more significant role?

We’ve found that while many awards schemes are primarily celebratory events they should not be dismissed as mere “pats on the back”. There are several ways in which well-designed celebrations can have significant impacts:
  • Events can raise awareness and educate, and need not be of an international scope like Ashden to have an impact. In Belarus, for example, we’ve used “energy marathons” as a clever way of educating youth about energy and environmental issues. These types of contests reward outstanding groups of children and individuals: the best schoolchildren’s project on energy saving activities, the best creative activity conducted by schoolchildren to promote energy efficiency and even the best teacher at promoting energy saving attitudes among schoolchildren.
  • Awards events also inspire and motivate. As mentioned above, we at Eco are inspired annually by the hard work of Ashden winners. But motivational events can target any audience. The SPARE project – where awards ceremonies showcase the best school projects focused on energy, climate and environment – inspires and motivates more than 7 000 schools and 300 000 students participating in over 16 countries. As a consequence of the school events, pupils may even be drawn to work in the sustainable energy field when they grow up! (It goes without saying that parents and grandparents will not remain unaffected by their offspring’s enthusiasm…)
  • Celebratory events also are great for networking and advocacy. One example is the Sustainable Energy Europe Awards 2012, which is being held this week in Brussels. These annual awards, held in association with the EU Sustainable Energy Week, bring together people and organisations that are active in the fields of energy efficiency and renewable energy from over 30 countries. Another example is a biomass project that Eco designed in Moldova, where we’ve included a national renewable energy and energy efficiency award event. With external sponsors and high-level patronage, this national event is an opportunity for some serious networking.
  • Awards events can even form part of capacity building initiatives. At Eco, we’ve designed energy efficiency buildings projects that build capacity in part through national competitions. For example, as part of a broader energy efficiency project in Turkmenistan, we’ve included a national competition for architecture and engineering students where they submit designs for highly-efficient buildings. An advisory committee judges the building designs, winners are celebrated at an awards ceremony and the best designs are exhibited to ensure high visibility. The competition was itself inspired by a similar competition in the Czech Republic funded by the GEF a decade ago.
  • Finally, we’ve found that these types of events are cost-effective. Competitions are usually quite low-cost, and they generate more visibility than most other “soft” interventions, both in professional communities and among the public in general.

Isn’t it great to know that celebrations and awards can be used to increase the effectiveness of our projects and initiatives?
So don’t forget to let us know about any upcoming awards that you are involved in. We can all benefit from celebrations!

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