Andrew Barrett-Mold
8 November 2012

Leonardo placements - a personal perspective

The Leonardo program has been a great chance to see how sustainability organisations work in another country.

Earlier this year the IES in conjunction with Change Agents UK won a bid to place graduate members in Environmental Science and Sustainability jobs around Europe, through the Leonardo Mobility Programme. One of our first graduates to take up this opportunity talks about his experiences on a placement in the Netherlands.

I first heard of the Leonardo Mobility placement from the IES newsletter. I applied to a couple of different positions; each placement is for an environmental organisation in Europe, with the criteria that the applier should not be from that country. After a couple of Skype interviews I found out that I was successful in getting a place at Nudge, an exciting organisation based in the Netherlands.

Nudge aims to connect people and projects working with a truly bottom-up approach. They have over 27,000 registered ‘Nudgers’; members of the community that drive the organisation and determine what projects to be involved in. This approach is how they have defined themselves; working in the community on sustainability projects that are chosen by community members.

I am one of three Leonardo interns, or ‘Leos’ as we are referred to here, working at Nudge. Our main work is spent on a large scale project researching the organisation itself, trying to help them better achieve their vision for connecting bottom-up initiatives with top-down commitment and reaching as many people possible. Each of us is focused on either the community, organisation or platform. I am working with the platform, on the technical aspects of what we do. This has involved working with lots of external groups on website and mobile phone app development, trying to communicate and engage with people in a positive and fun way.

Nudge is still a young organisation, coming up to its second birthday now, but has been growing fast and managed several high impact projects already. One of these projects, which highlights Nudge’s approach, is a campaign called Love to Load. The purpose was to find locations to place charging points for electric cars. All community members had a say on where they thought the best locations were and because this information came from the community it also carried a lot of weight: When an entire community asks for something in a particular place, it becomes a lot more likely to happen.

Another example of this community driven approach is a recent campaign, named Holy Warming, that Nudge ran for a Cathedral in Haarlem. The building contains a huge amount of space and is heated by an old generator, which had to be running for a long time just to be warm by sunday. Nudge ran a competition to see who could come up with the best sustainable solution for this. The winning idea was to place computer servers underneath the cathedral; the cool air from the building would be used as a coolant and the warm air from servers would heat the cathedral.

Last weekend we held a stall at in NEMO, Amsterdam’s science museum, for Museumnacht, a yearly event where the museums are open into the evening with bars and a DJ. We were giving away a collections of little ‘Nudges’, everyday actions to be a little more sustainable, for people to do at home or in their office. One of Nudge’s friends is an organic egg producer, and they had supplied us with a crate of eggs to give away to people in the museum, only to find out that we could not give them away raw, for obvious reasons. We then had the challenge of finding something creative to do with 2,000 eggs.

Living in the Netherlands has also been a great experience. We’ve been picking up a few words in Dutch, and trying out the local foods, including raw herring. Where we’re based is just a couple of hour cycle ride into the centre of Amsterdam, but its also right on the coast at the heart of the Netherland’s surfing and kitesurfing region.

The Leonardo program has been a great chance to see how sustainability organisations work in another country. We also have the option to gain a City and Guilds qualification in personal development. One of the main things to come out from this, though, has been an enjoyable and valuable experience.

To learn more about the Leonardo Programme and how to apply for 2013, see this news story.