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Win-win partnership

Success for Birkbeck's Ambassador for the GLA's Low Carbon Entrepreneur Competition

Win-­win partnership

Volunteering, at its best, can enable students to gain valuable experience while contributing to society.

It is a process Birkbeck is exploring with Team London, City Hall’s section for volunteering, and is keen to explore further via partnerships with more groups providing opportunities by which volunteers can acquire top quality work experience.

One current opportunity is the role of volunteer ambassador for the Greater London Authority (GLA) Low Carbon Entrepreneur competition.

The competition invites London's students and recent graduates to submit ideas to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions. The top prize for 2016 is to be £20,000 and support from City Hall, the GLA’s headquarters, to get the winning idea started.

Each year, the ambassadors help to spread the word about the competition and encourage people to send in their proposals.

This year, one exceptional Low Carbon Challenge ambassador was awarded a two week internship this November at City Hall – step forward Arisera Tongchaitanawutti, 22, currently taking Birkbeck’s BSc in Financial Economics with Accounting.

“Arisera really went the extra mile, and was very active in finding ways to involve students,” said Matthew Pencharz, Environment and Energy Advisor to the Mayor of London.

The internship is to include work on next year's Low Carbon Challenge and other projects, such as a pan-­London event for businesses working with the GLA to reduce energy usage, offering the chance to network with businesses across London.

Arisera is enthusiastic about where she is studying: “Birkbeck is such an inspiring place: there are so many people juggling so many different things: working and studying full-­time – they inspire you to achieve.”

Her ambassadorial involvement ran from late October 2014 to the submission deadline in February this year. City Hall provided ambassadors with an afternoon’s communications training and competition fliers, and required weekly records of activities. Beyond that, ambassadors largely determined their own campaigns.

Arisera prepared an information sheet, and enlisted Birkbeck staff in organising a social media campaign and a one-­day stall in the Main Building last January.

Being an ambassador widened Arisera’s perspective: “I’d always come up with loads of ideas, but I never thought in terms of environment; it opened things up for the people I spoke to and myself.”

What does she think won her the ambassador prize? “It’s about being proactive and organised, constantly thinking about ideas and what I could do to get people interested.”

How would she like to build on 2015? “I’d like to focus on teams and teambuilding – within universities and also across them.”

To help students develop ideas, Arisera is also interested in the possibility of workshops for the competition, like those Birkbeck‘s School of Business, Economics and Informatics has organised for other entrepreneurial competitions: “I think that would really help participation rates.”

What advice would she give budding low carbon entrepreneurs? “Keep it viable. A lot of winning ideas are the simplest. Stick to the rules. Do your research. Send prospective emails. Can you check who’s on the judging panel? What are their interests?”

What’s next for Arisera? After further study, she has ideas for her own business, which is still hush-hush.

What is her favourite Low Carbon Challenge idea? Solarbox, a 2014 runner up from an LSE team, which repurposes old red telephone boxes as solar powered charging stations for mobile phones.

Which reminds me: “Couldn’t you put solar panels on electric cars to help charge their batteries? Even if current panels don’t supply the whole charge couldn’t they top up the main charge provided by other power sources?”

Arisera laughs. Others are already working on such an idea. Oh well, back to the sustainably sourced drawing board.

Further Links:

Team London - Speed Volunteering

London City Hall

Siemens UK (competition sponsor)