Why taking a systems perspective could be the key to success: findings from a meta study.
The Birthplace of the Centre: A Neglected Site
In the municipality of “Independencia” in Chile, there was a rubble dump. The dump was a dangerous area, marred by violence and not safely connected to the grid.
The local authorities decided to take action: they teamed up with WISIONS and transformed this neglected site into a community energy centre and eco sustainability park.
The Development of the Centre: Green Energy for Green Ideas
Initially, the project’s main aim was to establish a venue equipped with a renewable energy supply, solar thermal water, solar photovoltaic power and a domestic scale biodigester. Over time, the sustainable initiatives of this project were expanded – not only because of the Centre’s own need to establish new environmental projects but also in response to suggestions from the community.
These developments include the creation of urban/community/medicinal gardens and recycling and organic composting centres, as well as the promotion of different training sessions on diverse topics including energy, recycling, greenhouses and agriculture.
The Centre has also been used on occasion as a demonstration space. For example, a photovoltaic energy course took place which was financed by the government. It targeted people from various backgrounds with the aim of providing professional training in photovoltaic energy.
The Centre has become a space for learning, meeting and experimentation for the local residents, where sustainability projects can be devised and implemented. In this way, green energy has created a place where green ideas are born.
Energy is not an End – it is a Means: A Green Community
The Centre now has free green energy (electricity, hot water and biogas) which makes other activities – such as cooking – possible. Most importantly, the individual activities have created much more than the sum of their parts: they have resulted in a strong sense of community.
The local residents who have become part of this community consider the Centre as a space where they can undertake their own sustainable projects.
‘I am very committed to the environment so I am obviously thrilled with the Centre. It is as if it were already part of my home.’
– A community member
One of them told us how the Centre has allowed her to return to a passion she had abandoned since childhood. When she was a child, she lived in the countryside and was very much into farming – inspired by the idea of growing her own food. However, when she moved to a flat in the city, this hobby came to an end due to a lack of space. The opening of the Centre has allowed her to rediscover her childhood passion by creating an organic vegetable garden.
The local residents and project leaders all hope that the Centre will serve as an inspiration for residents in neighbouring communities to develop and take ownership of similar projects in their own areas.
‘While the project has reached out to the community and provided a powerful tool for environmental education, more people need to be included.’
– A community member
In the future, the community in Independencia hopes to involve more citizens in raising awareness of environmental issues and possible solutions. The involvement of young people is particularly important as the community considers the younger generation to be the “seeds of awareness”.