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Inspiring young professionals at 2019 Annual Conference

Thomas Dekker and Fons Janssen, board members of the Klimaat Energie Koepel (KEK) held a powerful and interesting session at our Annual Conference this year, triggering reflections among our members about the potential for policy action of an organisation of young professionals in energy and sustainability.

Here a short summary of their session along with 8 precious key takeaways to replicate such initiatives!

KEK is a Dutch think-tank formed by young professionals for climate and energy affairs. “KEK was founded after our first Energy Agreement of the Netherlands”, Dekker explained. Five years ago the previous government made an energy agreement with businesses and NGO’s in order to make a more consistent policy. By the end of 2018 there was a need to create a follow up after the realisation that sustainability is not only about energy, it is about the needed interaction of all interlinked sectors: Industry, Electricity, Built Environment, Mobility and Agriculture/Land Use.

The set goal by the government in the climate agreement was to reach a 50% reduction of CO2 emission in 2030, compared to emission in 1990, in order to get in line with the Paris agreement and the demands of the European Union. In Dutch tradition you invite all stakeholders and build the future together by making a consensus in a constructive way. This originated from the need to work together in order to literally keep our feet dry in such a wet and low lands. However, this generation of young professionals realizes that our entire working career determines whether we will reach the goals in the Paris Agreement or not.

With this realisation, a small group led by Talitha Muusse and Jan Sjerps argued successfully to the decision makers about their importance and organised themselves to be at every advisory table. They argue that the main reason is that they represent the future workforce, have fresh thoughts on topics. Moreover, they dare to discuss more openly on the future, bypass the stereotypic interest of their own organisations and already have some experience about the needed change after several years of work experience. When positions were successfully secured, they reached out online to enlarge the network and fill the vacancies. Within three weeks the active group grew from 15 to 300 people and currently KEK has 500 actively supporting ambassadors for the newsletters, events and marketing. Every table was joined by one young professional as a representative, with the support of their own team and a larger community. The key accomplishments resulted from the negotiations are the contributions to a higher ambition of the agricultural sector with our manifest, that connects farmers to consumers. For the Built Environment team, they functioned as an advisor to check the usefulness of all reports sent by all stakeholders, and how neighbourhoods could be planned to effectively be renovated on a large scale. The Industry team proposed a piece on how to improve public acceptance for the energy transition, as the industry will play an important role in grid flexibility by hydrogen production and more variable electricity demand and less natural gas. The Electricity team launched a manifest that took an integral view on production, transmission, consumption, governance and digitalisation. Lastly the Mobility team managed to increase the attention on electric and public mobility.

Besides the policy proposals, KEK is an accomplishment in itself. Where it’s becoming harder motivating people to join sector associations, KEK successfully brings together young professionals that feel a strong sense of urgency, commitment and ambition to voice our generations opinions about leading the sustainable transitions. Our current plans are based on gaining a strong position in the governance of the climate agreement. In this way we also create a sense of urgency for all participating organisations to take charge in the transition and create clear steps for action.

The current ecosystem of youth-led sustainability organisations, is unique in the Netherlands, currently consisting of KEK, the JKB (young climate movement), JMA (young friends of the earth), Studenten voor Morgen (university students), Youth4Climate (secondary school students) and many more. However, we know of no other type of organisation like KEK that exists.

That’s why we like to give you eight tips to start your own ‘KEK’:

  1. Switch your mentality from ‘what your country can do for you?’ to ‘what can you do for your country?’.

  2. Make good use of opportunities to make the argument that young professionals should be involved. Pitch this story to many key decision makers and don’t forget to secure formal status as a foundation or association.

  3. Focus on the positive elements young professionals bring: fresh insights, enthusiasm, flexibility, constructive and realistic criticism, social interactivity and a feel of common urgency.

  4. Share your opportunities with the mass public to grow your organisation.

  5. Enjoy being the 12th person on a soccer game: you can underpromise, but overdeliver as a team.

  6. Build your network out of diverse national youth organisations, from the very radical ones to the constructive and corporate ones. Working together helps to find our niches and create shared opportunities.

  7. Every time you gain success, do mass outreach to the media. Social media is a very powerful tool for our generation.

  8. Dare to lead and enjoy the journey together!

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