I want change. Show me how.

It is often the case we do not get what we feel we deserve or that there is more that can be done. During these times, it is incredibly difficult to stop yourself falling into a spiral of demotivation and a feeling of despair. Not-for-profit social enterprise, MySociety, gives the UK’s public access to online tools so that real change is no longer a fantasy.

We believe
… that strong democratic accountability and a thriving civil society are vital to our common welfare, and that these only survive when people engage with government and communities.

We work with online technologies
… because the internet can lower the barriers to taking the first civic or democratic steps in a citizen’s life, and it can do so at scale.

In three connected areas of civic life
– Our Transparency services make it easy for citizens to surface information
– Our Democracy tools help people hold their parliaments to account
– Our Community technologies empower local authorities and residents to make improvements in their own neighbourhoods.

MySociety, mysociety.org

You hardly hear about a practical means of impacting decisions which seem to be determined by an elite group of people sitting in an ivory tower. MySociety is groundbreaking in this respect. Chief Executive, Mark Cridge, is driving away the stigma that as members of the public, we are just bystanders to what our government decides to do or not do. They believe we are active citizens who deserve the right to make a difference and not just mark X on the piece of paper going into the ballot box.

Online technologies are endless. Some are futile, some fun, but some, like the tools MySociety has built, are powerful. Powerful enough to create real change for civilian life through research, partnerships, local goverment support, international collaboration and a passion to increase the impact any one citizen can have.

SDG 16, Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions is one of the harder goals to achieve because of the number of dependencies its progress relies on. Dependencies on government, on large corporations, on smaller businesses, on legal and justice systems and most importantly, the dependency on us. Though, not us as bystanders, but as civilians who strive for better. Thanks to MySociety, we now have tools to help us achieve this.

Specifically within SDG 16, they progress target 16.6, to develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions, target 16.7, to ensure responsive, inclusive and representative decision-making and 16.10, to ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms.

Let’s hope MySociety continue to grow the reach of their impact and the development of their civic technologies, so that the feeling of despair when decisions do not go your way can be acted on and not left to manifest itself into something far worse! Learn more about this awesome enterprise on their website linked below.

Links:

MySociety Website
mysociety.org

New power unlocked to support London’s homeless.

How many times have you walked past a homeless person in the last month? Quite a few. How many of those people you walked past have you stopped for and given something to? None. How many of those people you walked past have you spoken to? None. How many of those people you walked past do you think have hopes and dreams that they wish they could achieve? Every single one. So what are you going to do about it? Or better yet, what can you do about it?

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Beam is the multiple award-winning London based company that makes the hopes and dreams of homeless people in London far more of a reality than their hardships typically allow for. Put simply, Beam is a public crowdfunding platform for homeless people in London, with the funds raised going towards the training and support they need to land stable, paid jobs like electricians, accountants, beauticians and so much more!

The concept of this business is inspirational. By harnessing the power of the web and the crowdfunding tools available, Beam targets the public’s goodwill to donate for causes that truly change lives for the better. The number of awards Beam has received is beyond admirable and its recognition by Forbes, the BBC, Financial Times and so many more, just goes to show why this 2019 Tech4Good Finalist is the epitome of progress for SDG 8 Good Jobs and Economic Growth and SDG 1 No Poverty, specifically through its decent job creation, access to financial services and promoting an active labour market program (albeit non-government lead).

Being a Londonder, I can appreciate how difficult it can be for homeless people in the city, particular in the colder months when nobody has time to stop walking, let alone donate something. Beam have effectively empowered the public to do more for the homeless in London than just dropping the odd coin or left overfood, which to be clear, does go a long way during hard times – it’s just that there is more that we can do to change the longer term hardships of the homeless and now we know how!

So much respect for the team at Beam for their impactful work, having so far drastically changed the lives of 156 people for the better already, getting them into stable, paid jobs. Please do check out their platform and feel inspired to donate, even a small amount, for the awesome cause of giving the homeless in London more than a fighting chance to achieve their dreams!

Links:

Beam Website
beam.org

Are we sending untapped power to the dumpyard?

If you had to take a guess, how many lithium-ion batteries do you think you have used in your life? “That’s a tough one; too many.” Okay, of all those batteries you’ve used, how many of those were completely depleted when you threw them away? “Obviously all of them! Why would I throw away batteries which still have power in them?!” Fair response. Let’s have a look at why such an obvious response, maybe isn’t so obvious and why there’s more to be addressed on this issue to make for a better tomorrow.

Co-founders Amrit Chandan and Carlton Cummins, have created Aceleron, a clean technology company based in the UK. The start-up came to life after their realisation that lithium-ion batteries are not typically designed to be completely depleted when they stop powering your appliances, due to unsafe leakages as a result of their (poor) design and nor are they designed to be maintained. Their use today and in the future must, therefore, be coupled with a means of tackling both the untapped power and its respective waste. Keeping sustainability in the forefront of their strategic thinking, they have come up with a range of battery pack products and services that have stirred up the energy market.

Their technology is built upon the idea that lithium-ion batteries sent to waste are not entirely depleted and better use of the technology can allow for up to 40% longer use than traditional lithium-ion batteries and importantly, allow for reusability. Using modular technology and innovative battery formations inside a battery pack, they have pioneered products which have multiple applications, all whilst remaining within the realms of sustainable development with their circular economy approach i.e. not for single use and then to the bin, like most batteries. Applications such as home energy storage, back up power for buildings and telecommunications are just a few examples of their far-reaching impact.

By coupling technology innovation and a sustainable mindset, Aceleron has created an alternative to the damaging impacts of single use batteries on our planet and so prove their progress towards SDG 7 Affordable and Clean Energy, in particular the target to increase the proportion of population with primary reliance on clean fuels and technology. Respect and gratitude to all the team at Aceleron for paving the way for a cleaner future! Check out Aceleron’s website to learn more and about why they’ve been shortlisted in the Top 10 for 2019 Telegraph Tech 4 Good Pioneers!

Links:

Aceleron Website
aceleronenergy.com

U4Society Network.

The idea of institutes of higher education actively working together is something we hear about often, yet exclusively, in specific fields of research, wherein there may be a need to collaborate based on required expertise or available facilities, but the U4Society Network takes a different approach.

U4Society Network is a European University Network of Ghent University (Belgium), University of Göttingen (Germany), University of Groningen (Netherlands), University of Tartu (Estonia), and Uppsala University (Sweden).

By just identifying themselves as partners for common goals, they set themselves apart from the majority of universities in Europe, and in the world for that matter. Further than this, through their action they promote the importance of partnership through the variety of values and principles the European universities are based on (see below for more details). These values and principles are not just for show either – they bear results. Powerful results. The network continues to produce ground breaking research and international impact through their partnership and it is inspiring to see this, as partnerships like these are what SDG 17 Partnerships for the Goals really refer to.

Mission
The first aim of the partnership is to provide a supportive platform for joint cooperative initiatives in the field of educationresearch and institutional management, as well as to offer a solid framework for cooperation as preferential partners in international projects and contexts.

Vision
The ambition of the U4Society Network is to strengthen the international position and visibility of the individual partner institutions through intensive cooperation.

The U4Society Network aims to broaden the partner universities’ educational offer, facilitate and enhance the U4Society students’ international experiences, strengthen the research output, and share knowledge  and pooling resources within the field of university management.

It further seeks to provide education based on the overarching European values and principles of human rights, openness, and democracy, actively promoting universities’ rights to autonomy, academic freedom, and sustainability, as well as strongly advocating the notion of European citizens.

U4Society Network

Sustainability is certainly one of the areas that the U4 Society Network focuses on and not just because of this, but also through their colourful fruit-bearing partnership, they embody SDG 4 Quality Education and one target in particular; ensuring that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development.

Another key feature, one that can often be taken for granted where it does exist, is the trust between the universities within the partnership and the open dialogue this facilitates between them. This trust is key to achieving true progress without the fear of losing out to a competitor, be it financially or as a matter of reputation. The network also prides itself on its unique governance shown in the diagram below, courtesy of the U4Society Network website. Each cluster is led by a particular university, but each institution is brought together as equals using the hub and spoke governance structure.

U4Society Network’s Governance Structure
Credit: u4network.eu

Learn more about the U4Society Network on their website and be inspired by the power of partnership!

Growing Health.

Sustain, an alliance for better food and farming, representing around 100 national public interest organisations working at international, national, regional and local levels, has partnered with Garden Organic, a charity that has built an increasingly massive community who believe that organic growing is a key driver for a healthy and sustainable world.

The output of their partnership is Growing Health, a UK national project promoting health and well-being by working with the UK’s health and social care services to use organic food regularly grown by communities across the country. Here’s a video from their site about one such project in Brighton.

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By giving the opportunity to grow their own food to different groups of people, such as those with mental health problems, physical impairments, long term conditions, learning difficulties and in recovery and rehabilitation, the project provides a means to exercise, addresses physical and mental health issues, encourages social interaction and skill development and provides access to fresh, locally produced fruit and vegetables. The inspiring yet effective nature of this project continues to attract more health and socal care providers to get involved and through its positive impact on these groups of people and on the health and social care providers, it embodies SDG 3, Good Health and Well-being.

The fruit and vegetables produced through the projects are then used by health and social care providers and the concept of sustainable produce, being grown by those who benefit most from the related activities, to then be used by health and social care providers, is one that is also in line with SDG 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities.

Growing Health is accessible to anyone in the UK and if you are interested in getting involved in this sustainably proactive project, check out their website. You can get involved either through taking part in the food growing and similar well-being activities or if you are aware of an audience that would benefit from such activities, you can present your proposal to the project team and if successful, they will support you with their wide ranging network to set up and deliver the impactful benefits to those who need it most.

So much admiration and respect for this project as it involves groups of people who don’t often get the privileges most take for granted, as well as doing this through developing a sustainable network of organic food growers and health and social care providers.

Links:

Growing Health Web Page
Sustainweb.org/growinghealth

Sustain Website
Sustainweb.org

Garden Organic Website
Gardenorganic.co.uk

MarinaTex.

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Lucy Hughes, a University of Sussex student, has created nothing short of disruption for the plastics industry. If it’s not already evident from the video, she has created a practical solution to one of the biggest sustainability challenges – plastic waste. Not only that, but through the use of the discarded fish skin and scales as a key ingredient for the bio-plastic, named MarinaTex she has addressed another massive problem; 50 million tonnes of waste produced globally by the fishing industry every year.

Protein Yield Infographic, JamesDysonAward.org

Plastic waste, and waste in general, is an inconceivably big problem. We are privy to the amount of waste we produce as individuals and maybe in the places where we work and maybe the cities we live in but in reality, nobody sees the entirety of waste that is produced globally. Even if you tried, you’d probably fail because there’s more waste in the place you checked 5 minutes ago. Net net – we need alternatives. Alternatives that are biodegradable and not degrading our environment. The plastics used to create the most environmentally damaging items like fishing gear, plastic bags, utensils, balloons, cigarette butts and bottle caps, are replaceable. Some are easier to replace than others and Lucy Hughes has given us one such alternative to single use plastic films and it is impressive, to say the very least.

Tying directly in with SDG 12 Responsible Consumption and Production and SDG 14 Life Below Water, the young Briton has produced a piece of work that experts in the field are equally inspired by. No wonder she has won the James Dyson International Award, as well as being recognised by the World Economic Forum, BBC, Reuters and more!

MarinaTex epitomises the type of innovation we need in order to achieve a sustainable future and so a huge thank you to Lucy for her innovative and inspiring work. The next steps for MarinaTex involve further research and development, with an aim to be in production by 2021 and what an exciting journey this will be. So many potential applications for bioplastics and so much potential for positive environmental impact as a result. Check out the website to learn more about why MarinaTex, and the young innovator behind it, is going to become the next big player in the fast-changing plastics industry.

Links:

MarinaTex.co.uk

Wimpact.

When you have spent months, even years setting aside a little bit of your paycheck to build up your savings, there comes a point when you start thinking about where to invest. If not one of the obvious investments like a new car or house, the arguably natural strategy (within your own realms of risk taking) is to invest in what will bring you the highest return on investment. Simple. Though, let’s just clarify that the ‘highest return on investment’ strategy, is pretty much always implicit in its reference to highest financial return.

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In our ever-changing world, the highest return on investment no longer needs to be defined solely as the highest financial return, but rather also its return in a sustainable development respect. Tangibly changing this definition is no easy feat, but Swiss company, Wimpact, has made their mission “to mobilise the private sector to accelerate the sustainability transition” with a vision of “a world where finance works for People and the Planet”.

Wimpact enables investors to identify sustainable investment portfolios in areas such as education, health, water and energy. They believe that public money alone will not do the job of acheiving a sustainable future and so capitalising on private money is essential to catalyse the work of those who work towards such a sustainable future.

Their platform makes it elegantly simple for potential investors to sign up and begin investing and such is their investment approach. They start by focusing on societial issues, identifying the companies working towards sustainble solutions for these issues and then financially analysing them, combining them with green bonds to build portfolios offering stability and performance.

It’s not often you hear about sustainability driven finance opportunties, with the two fields often acting more like oily water, but Wimpact are actively changing this by embodying SDG 8, Decent Work and Economic Growth, in particular target 8.4 stating there must be an “endeavour to decouple economic growth and environmental degradation”. The nature of Wimpact’s mission is challenging not only the status quo, but the one driver at the root of almost all action in the financial world – making more money; and making more money alone.

This is not to say that by investing in sustainable development you won’t make more money. It’s certainly not. In fact, it is quite the opposite with the sustainable sector growing faster than it ever has. Though, what is true, is that Wimpact are challenging the idea that investment portfolios need to be driven by financial gain alone – they give us the opportunity to also invest for change.

Admiration and gratitude for Wimpact – tackling the sustainability crisis on a different, yet all the more challenging front. Check them out to learn more about what they do and why they are exemplary in their progress for SDG 8, along with the exciting investment opportunities, exclusive to sustainable development.