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COP26 Day 4: The Importance of Intrapreneurship

COP26 imagery

It’s all good to talk about finding new ways to innovate and new models for putting ideas into action, but existing organizations also need support. And intrapreneurship can also be an effective vehicle for innovation. In a panel event hosted at the Nature Pavilion on creating systemic change for a more regenerative economy, panelist Peta Milan Zoomed in from Portugal to talk about her work as CEO of JET Group.

JET group specializes in regenerative innovation where they work with everyone from cities, boards to project teams. Ms. Milan talked about regenerative ecological design as going beyond the ‘neutral’ sustainable, to actually adding value to a system. Within regenerative innovation, the focus is on how we think of and understand ourselves as part of a complex system. 

In a series of slides, Ms. Milan talked about the need for effective action and making an intervention that has real impact by identifying the right leverage points. I was pleasantly surprised to see something familiar on the next slide. It was Donella Meadows’ seminal piece on leverage points in a system, last seen during my Perspectives class my very first semester as an MEM student at then-FES. Ms. Milan talked about how businesses are protective of the way they have always done things, even when they don’t always add value. 

When innovating, hence, we must ask ourselves where we add value to a system. My biggest takeaway from the presentation was that taking action was imperative. But perhaps more importantly, understanding what kind of action would actually be effective.

I walked away from the pavilion with a renewed sense of inspiration to continue questioning existing systems and finding new ways to create impact, albeit with the knowledge that they must add value to be effective.

I wanted to check out one of the Action Zone Climate Action Rooms next. The next event there promised to showcase initiatives and innovations driving the energy transition, and I was curious to see if I might discover another model of innovation on the same day. What I didn’t know was that the next couple of hours would also include the opportunity to hear from several high-profile ministers and officials from countries across the world.

As someone with limited exposure to the world of policy, I was excited to hear about some new partnerships that were being formed and innovative mechanisms that allowed for the acceleration of clean energy. Green hydrogen featured heavily on the agenda, with speakers talking about how innovation in its production and falling costs meant that a technology that seemed hard to develop was being increasingly adopted in sectors deemed as those with hard to abate carbon emissions. The common thread across these conversations talked about how strong policy needs to support any innovative technology, to be able to convert its potential into actual benefits for communities. 

COP26: Reshaping the fossil-fuel powered economies

I was particularly excited to hear from Andrea Meza Murillo, the Minister of Environment and Energy for Costa Rica, who talked about how social protection systems will play a critical role in the transition to clean energy, and how mobilizing funds is a complex issue. There needs to be a balance between energy access and a just transition, with social innovation playing a big role, according to Irene Karani, Africa Director for the Children Investment Fund Foundation. 

The event ended with calls to action for policymakers to support the process to accelerate the transition to a clean and just future for energy. As I made my way back to Edinburgh to take my return-to-the-US COVID test, I realized how effective policymaking is perhaps the strongest backbone for implementing effective innovation. And to identify the most effective leverage points within the system, we probably won't get far if we are limited by the silos we tend to work in. From personal experience, especially with leading the GreenLight program as a student and now managing the Planetary Solutions Generator, we’ve seen that by putting students from different disciplines in the same room (physically and virtually), we’ve been able to create values for clients and help create a new set of ideas to tackle the climate crisis.

I encourage you to seek out opportunities to chat with someone whose work you have no idea about. That conversation might just change the trajectory of your life!