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About the Energy Change Lab 

The Energy Change Lab works with pioneers and changemakers to build an energy system that is sustainable and people-centred. We do this by developing leaders, incubating prototypes for sector change, building evidence, connecting people and sharing ideas.

Jointly initiated by Hivos and IIED, and working with local partners, the lab started in Tanzania in 2015. In Tanzania, we are focusing on three priority areas: accountability in the energy sector, job creation, and improved coverage of decentralised energy solutions. We work with partners to run learning and leadership programmes for young people, aspiring entrepreneurs and energy professionals. As we grow, we share our approach and results globally.

Why a Change Lab approach?

The causes of the challenges faced by Tanzania’s energy sector are complex, interrelated, and wide-ranging.

A profound shift in thinking that embraces sustainable energy as a win-win, ensures energy access for all and recognises the role of citizens in the energy transition. A system shift of this scale must involve all key actors, who are willing to use new and diverse policy and finance levers to deliver change.

The Hivos – IIED Change Lab approach uses a phased multi- stakeholder process that moves from problem analysis to idea development and prototyping of solutions. In this social innovation process, stakeholders work together to address and solve complex challenges in a sustainable and equitable way.

Beyond technology, these innovations can take the shape of public policy, new business models, (re)framing cultural values and, ultimately, behaviour change.

Underlying barriers in the energy sector

In our programmes, we employ an inclusive Change Lab process to tackle the following underlying barriers to change faced by the global and Tanzanian energy sector:

Top-down culture

Across the world, the energy sector is essentially ‘top-down’. Initiatives often fail to grasp local realities and decision makers tend to believe that grid expansion and fossil fuels are the best and only route to quick development.

Silo ways of working

The sector lacks joined-up thinking and action. Holistic approaches that bridge sectors (energy, water, agriculture, ICT, gender, design and health) are urgently required.

Capacity gaps

Training for young people is overly technical and fails to explore important (social/cultural) dimensions of energy provision. In Tanzania, local entrepreneurs lack the skills or resources of foreign counterparts.

Limited consumer engagement

People struggle to resolve their own energy needs and there is little interest in engaging in energy debates. Policy-making happens behind closed doors and consumers lack ways to hold their service providers to account.

We believe that innovation and breakthroughs can happen if we enable and connect pioneering people and organisations and stimulate joint problem solving. Our cyclical lab process is designed to create a conducive environment for trust building and innovation. We move through 5 phases, which are fluid and flexible: from defining the problem to unleashing new solutions.