SDG 17 – Partnerships for the Goals: Bringing Global Goals to the Last Mile

Together with local in-country partners, Green Empowerment brings sustainable development to the last mile. The UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 17 Partnership for Goals strengthens the means of implementation and revitalizes the global partnership for sustainable development. As a U.S. based organization with access to resources, Green Empowerment considers it our duty to share these resources with smaller in-country organizations around the world who are best equipped to build sustainable, culturally relevant solutions. We partner with local organizations offering technical expertise and program design as well as strategy and fundraising together. Green Empowerment’s Executive Director, Andrea Johnson, explains, “We are co-designing [the projects], we are strategizing, we are bringing resources in but we are not the face of the project, our partners really are.”

Partnerships for Renewable Energy Access in Southeast Asia

We believe that the foundation for a strong partnership is built on shared values, transparency, and the drive to grow and innovate together. Through our partnership with SIBAT and TONIBUNG, we are supporting the development of affordable, local, open source technology that makes renewable energy microgrids smarter and more reliable for rural communities in the Philippines and Malaysian Borneo. 

Imagine that the sun has just set, your kids are doing their homework and you are preparing food to sell at the market tomorrow. Suddenly, your lights go out. In rural communities of southeast Asia, it is not uncommon for households to experience these kinds of electrical service interruptions, especially during peak hours. The Smart Grids for Small Grids initiative promotes sustainable and resilient systems that are financially viable and appropriate for small-scale community-managed grids, all while meeting the needs of families in rural areas. 

Small but Mighty: The Power of Local Organizations

One of the many benefits to working with in-country partners is their connection and understanding of the local communities. This was especially advantageous during travel restrictions due to COVID-19, with our partners able to move projects forward thanks to their local teams. Andrea recounts, “We believe that these organizations better understand the culture, the language, the environmental factors, political factors… As outsiders, we might not understand some of those dynamics. So, what can we bring to the table?” 

While SIBAT and TONIBUNG lead the strategy of these projects, Green Empowerment collaborates with them to “fill the gaps” based on technological challenges that the organizations have identified within their programs. Developing new technology with local technicians means that the end product will meet the actual needs of the community.

“Before [the microhydro], the kids would study using a kerosene lamp and they could barely stay awake. After 30 minutes you see black soot around the table and on the noses and the kids would be falling asleep. With proper lighting now, the children can study better at night.” – Irene Kodoyo, Headwoman of Kampang Buayan in Malaysian Borneo.

Green Empowerment’s Partnership with SIBAT

For 12 years, Green Empowerment and SIBAT have worked together in the Philippines to help communities build microhydro electrical systems. As a technically savvy organization, SIBAT’s engineers are able to leverage Green Empowerment’s technical expertise through trainings, collaborating on innovation projects, and accessing other peer organizations through our network.

This partnership has opened the doors for both organizations to share expertise in order to develop smarter technology that decreases power outages in rural communities. Deputy Director of SIBAT, Shen Maglinte shares that “In relation to [Smart Grids for Small Grids], Green Empowerment helps SIBAT in building its capacity through research and innovation, like the load management configuration.” Shen further elaborates that one way we work together to strengthen the project is through, “being transparent and open to sharing difficulties and challenges and working closely to hurdle these critical elements…”

As part of the first phase of Smart Grids for Small Grids, both SIBAT and TONIBUNG completed social and technical surveys to gain further understanding of the electrical needs, habits and priorities in the partner communities we work with. In addition “Technical staff from SIBAT and TONIBUNG have been invaluable in technical data collection and field testing of some of the technology we are considering for the project” explains Green Empowerment’s Project Engineer D. Frydman. “It’s also been important to gain quite a detailed understanding of how appliances load power utilities.” For example, how a typical locally available refrigerator performs in local environmental conditions. Learning detailed specifics about each system allowed us to outline the core strategy of this project. Thanks to our partners, we are able to specify what technologies will be used, and the process through which loads will be prioritized and de-prioritized as electricity demand increases and decreases throughout the day.

Local partners SIBAT administering community evaluations in Balbalasang, Philippines.

At Green Empowerment, we aim to focus on supporting local organizations with their mission and goals. With SIBAT, our objective has been to innovate and improve existing programs together. “We hope SIBAT and Green Empowerment can continue their partnership and work cooperation carrying the same elements and values of mutual sharing, transparency and openness,” Shen says. “We look forward [to] enabling support especially in research and development, which SIBAT will be pursuing with greater emphasis in the next level of its project implementation.”

Expanding Our Impact

While SDG 6, 7, and 17 are core to our mission, they are also the foundation to expand our impact to other key SDGs through our integrated projects such as: SDG 1 – No Poverty, SDG 3 – Good Health & Well-Being, SDG 5 – Gender Equality, SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities & Communities, and SDG 13 – Climate Action. In 2019, Green Empowerment was awarded the GPSEN Sustainable Leader Award in recognition of our global efforts to advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Our projects improve health outcomes, build climate change resilience, empower and educate women, create opportunities for income generation and more. The UN Sustainable Development Goals inspire us to think globally and act locally. We are proud to be a part of a movement that supports a more sustainable and equitable future for all.

This concludes the Green Empowerment SDGs series, thank you for learning with us!

Partner Organizations:

A special thank you to Efficiency for Access Research and Development Fund and WISIONS of Sustainability (read more below) for your support in the Smart Grids for Small Grids initiative. We would also like to give a shoutout to all of our partner organizations, training partners, and network collaborations around the world- we could not do this work without you!

More about our sponsors:

Green Empowerment has received support from the Efficiency for Access Research and Development Fund. The Efficiency for Access Research and Development Fund is supported by UK aid and the IKEA Foundation. The Efficiency for Access Research and Development Fund aims to accelerate the availability, affordability, efficiency, and performance of a range of appliances that are particularly suited to rural developing country contexts and promote social inclusion. Since inception, the Efficiency for Access Research and Development Fund has supported 37 projects with over £5 million in funding and facilitated a further £1.6 million to 11 electric cooking projects with funding from UK aid. Energy Saving Trust manages the Efficiency for Access Research and Development Fund. The Efficiency for Access Coalition is coordinated jointly by CLASP and the UK’s Energy Saving Trust.

WISIONS of Sustainability is an initiative of the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, organized with the support of the Swiss-based foundation ProEvolution to foster practical sustainability energy projects. email: [email protected]

Kleinschmidt provides practical solutions for complex problems affecting energy, water, and the environment.

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