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Summer School model has proved itself – now who will fund its expansion?

Between the completion of our last ‘Summer School’ in July (with the ICPT in Trieste) and the closing date for applications to our next one, which is 27 October for the 2024 Energy Modelling Platform in Latin America and the Caribbean, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on their success and think about how to make them even more successful. From a very small online start two years ago, we are now at the stage where in 2024 we will be running four Summer Schools globally with more applicants than places.

First of all, a quick explanation; our Summer Schools (an informal name that stuck) are events at which we provide in-depth training on energy modelling tools. The participants often come from government ministries and other parts of the public sector, in policy or energy related roles where they are involved in planning future provision and aiming to attract outside investment for large infrastructure projects. By supporting them to use energy modelling tools effectively we are ‘capacity building’, by which we mean our partner countries are empowering themselves to make informed policy and investment decisions based on data-driven scenarios. We feel that it’s vital for these critical decisions to be based on the facts provided by national specific data so that they are absolutely relevant to the communities who will be affected by them.

We’ve been organising Summer Schools for the past two years. Every Summer School has more applications than the one before and the need for them is clearly there and growing. Our approach has been to build country-owned capacity, where the local researchers and analysts are empowered to conduct their own analysis. This has been done in the spirit of cooperating with as many international organizations and institutions as possible.

So, what’s been achieved so far? Since 2021 when we had our first Joint Summer School with ICTP and our first programme in Africa, we’ve nearly doubled the number of alumni who’ve been through an Energy Modelling Platform School and added one in Latin America. Of those alumni, the majority work in the public sector – usually in policy or energy-related roles – but we have also trained academics in local universities to ensure that these skills are embedded for the future. Most participants are aged 18–40, and there are currently twice as many males as females, though we are working hard to level out that ratio. Satisfaction among our participants is extremely high, with over 90% recommending it and finding it extremely useful. We have many testimonials including this one from Joshua Oduor: “This in-person training was an incredible opportunity. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the amazing team at Climate Compatible Growth for making this opportunity possible. Your dedication to fostering sustainable practices and empowering individuals like me is truly commendable.”

Picture of the participants and trainers from the 2023  ICTP Joint Summer School on Modelling Tools for Sustainable Development

Of course, we haven’t achieved this alone, we have many partners to thank for their support which has come in the form of co-funding events and helping to promote them, providing trainers and sharing their knowledge products and methods for free. The UN Economic Commission for Africa, the International Energy Agency, Sustainable Energy for All, 2050 Pathways Platform, the World Bank Group and the OpTIMUS Community are just a few of the partners who have co-ordinated their efforts with ours to reach more people more efficiently.

This collaborative approach to working efficiently has kept costs down and our use of open-source materials such as the energy modelling tools and the introductory courses on Open Learn, have ensured that the money goes where it is needed most – to sponsor participants from across the Global South. In just three years, by working and sharing with our partners, our curriculum has evolved to become comprehensive and dynamic with twice as many options as when we first started. This gives us greater flexibility and our participants tools that are specifically relevant to their individual challenges. At Trieste, for example, the tools offered were Geographic Information System-based planning, the Open-Source Spatial Electrification Tool (OnSSET) and the Global Electrification Platform. OSeMOSYS, MAED and FlexTool were also offered.

It’s important to realise, though, that our intention with the Summer Schools is not to continue to deliver the training ourselves but to empower our partner countries to ‘grow their own’ experts in energy modelling, who can themselves become teachers of the next cohorts of students. This has recently been achieved in Namibia where alumni from our courses took the role of trainers. By training some of the alumni from our courses, such as Michelle Akute, we are creating home grown trainers and empowering them to pass on their knowledge with the benefits of superior local knowledge about context and practices. We are also developing a readymade master’s curriculum that local universities can adapt and teach to strengthen and sustain capacity. We call this the ‘flatpack MSc’.

In the same way, at the strategic level, CCG capacity-building programmes aim to empower decision-makers in low- and middle-income countries to make their own decisions on future energy policy, by equipping them with the skills needed to run data-driven scenarios with energy modelling tools. These, in turn, create credible business cases for investment in energy infrastructure projects, which increases the likelihood of attracting that all important investment from global finance organisations.

It’s a real success story so far and one we are very proud of. However, we have reached the point where demand is outstripping our ability to supply and this year, for every student trained, we have had to turn away two students due to lack of funding. Interest is growing from across the developing world so this challenge, without an injection of finance, will only become more pronounced.

The training our participants leave the Summer School with, will only have a sustained long-term impact if they receive ongoing support and further professional development and that, again, costs money. We need more sponsorship for students in order to meet this growing demand and we need certainty that this finance will be there for a number of years, not just made available at short notice. Longer-term collaborations with academic partners across the Global South are also important to provide a certainty to this programme of Summer Schools which has more than proven itself in the short time it has been in action.

To find out more about how you can support CCG and its Summer Schools, email the author of this blog Rudolf Yeganyan (CCG Capacity Building Lead).