20th anniversary and the long haul.
“Samsø isn’t so big that you lose sight of what’s happening, but big enough to be considered relevant.”
Anders Eldrup, former CEO of DONG Energy
Around 5,000 foreign visitors come to Denmark annually, but not to see the statue of The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen. Instead, they head directly to the island of Samsø and the Samsø Energy Academy in order to see Denmark’s Renewable Energy Island for themselves. The number of visitors continues to grow year by year.
Today we’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of Samsø Municipality sending in our proposal for a renewable energy island to the Danish Ministry of the Environment. We won the competition over several other Danish islands that participated. It’s also the 10th anniversary of the establishment of Samsø Energy Academy. We’re celebrating both anniversaries on October 14, 2017 on Samsø, including conversation salons, speeches, and an energy fair.
Anders Eldrup: Samsø’s potential lies in its practical examples
Samsø Energy Academy is very much about promoting hope. Based on our experience and sharing of knowledge over the past 20 years, the anniversary is a welcome opportunity to look back on our timeline and understand the appeal of the dream that the many visitors are seeking.
“Where do you see Samsø’s potential?”, we asked the former CEO of DONG Energy, Anders Eldrup, in conjunction with the manifesto we wrote as part of the anniversary celebrations. Anders had no doubt, pointing to the size of Samsø as being crucial. From a global perspective, the world is yearning for places that take the lead, presenting us practical examples.
“Denmark’s biggest opportunity to influence the global society to go in a greener, more sustainable direction is by being a ‘demonstratorium,’ in other words to show other countries, regions and cities how it’s done. Samsø has played a unique role by showing how sustainability can go hand in hand with the development of a modern, prosperous society. Samsø isn’t so big that you lose sight of what’s happening, but big enough to be considered relevant,” replied Anders.
Søren Hermansen: When Faith, Hope and Resistance leads to progress
To be doing so well and able to celebrate a 20th anniversary is a question of perseverance and committing to the long haul:
“If we look back in time, the past 2,500 years of civilization has been a roller coaster ride of ups and downs for humanity. There’s almost a steady type of biology inherent in the way that we develop our society, with things we build, and which then break or fall apart, and which then reemerge in new ways. Antiquity was the first time that modern civilization created such a system, but the Greeks and Romans weren’t able to maintain it, and things crumbled and then reemerged as the feudal society revolving around the Church and Monarchy. The Renaissance was another peak that declined because of financial crises and epidemics. In Denmark, the country went bankrupt in 1813. However, that crisis resulted in a new consciousness of the strength of the Community, and the Cooperative Movement and community colleges multiplied. Looking at Samsø’s timeline, we’ve had our own crises, yet those setbacks have made us stronger and more focused,” says the CEO of Samsø Energy Academy, Søren Hermansen.
“The Renewable Energy Island project should be looked upon as a large ship sailing in the wind and on the waves. Yet progress is also about all the whirlpools in the water which aren’t immediately apparent. Even though they create countercurrents, they’re still part of the collective movements that enable the ship to reach harbor.”
“In addition, progress is created by Faith and Hope,” says Søren Hermansen. “Maybe it sounds somewhat rambling, but these concepts are paramount in a society that is fighting for its survival, and where you’re constantly placing the next footboard in front of you in order to maintain your balance,” he explains.
Jørgen Hald: The Renewable Energy Island project has broken down prejudices
Something that back then could easily be seen as a negative countercurrent was the challenge of getting all the residents of the island to agree on the decision to make Samsø Denmark’s Renewable Energy Island. One of the heroes from back then and who launched the project is the former headmaster of Nordsamsø Boarding School and the secretary of the Paludans Flak Wind Farm, Jørgen Hald.
“The residents of Samsø are good at mixing with each other. People who usually don’t have anything to do with each other and therefore maybe have somewhat of a wrong impression of each other, are coming together to achieve results. This in turn broke down their prejudices, something that lasts to this day,” says Jørgen Hald.
The Renewable Energy Island project became a unifying factor where the cause was more important than the individual, and the process benefitted from so many different people becoming participants. Perhaps it also has to do with the dream of unity and diversity finding common ground, providing the community with a far greater meaning that attracts people? The many travelers who visit Samsø Energy Academy ask about the glue that binds unity and diversity together.
Peder Bang: Inspiration helped us achieve our goals
The long haul consists of both negative and positive influences. From resistance, which also nourishes progress and provides inspiration. “Inspiration” is a key word for Samsø Energy Academy’s Chair, Peder Bang:
“I was very occupied with embracing inspiration that would lead us forward. At Samsø Energy Academy, I was inspired both inside and outside the building. We have a very dynamic leader who brings in exciting projects that create economic opportunities for Samsø. From the very start we asked ourselves, “How can we do things better?”
Why do people say that Samsø Energy Academy is one of Denmark’s most influential NGO’s?
“The fact that Samsø Energy Academy has lasted so long is due to the things that make us stronger. The challenge for a community our size is that we never really know how things are going to develop. That has forced to be very conscious about what it happening around us, and to be robust in relation to societal changes which otherwise pose challenges to typical NGO’s. For an NGO to remain relevant, it needs be very flexible and very robust simultaneously. We have an incredibly strong underpinning at Samsø Energy Academy consisting of the various groups of staff and the diverse Board of Directors. Some of us are focused on the robust aspect, while others are curious and open and focused on the fragility that causes us to be constantly creative and keep developing ourselves and our organization. These two contradictions create incredibly cool dynamics that tighten up all the soft and unstructured aspects that an NGO otherwise risks drowning in,” concludes Peder Bang.
Are you curious about terms such as robustness and fragility? Read about these contradictions in our new blog The Positive Change.
Checking out with Samsø Energy Academy – what we did this summer:
In the latter part of the summer we traveled around Denmark, had a lot of visitors, and carried out the following activities at Samsø Energy Academy:
August 17: Visit by the Danish Folk High School organization, which wanted to learn more about sustainable transitions:
August 28: Visit by the Danish Parliament’s Executive Committee/Greenland’s Executive Committee.
September 2: For the fourth time in a row, UNG ENERGI (Youth Energy) held their annual meeting on Samsø, including a workshop at Samsø Energy Academy.
September 4: Samsø Energy Academy held its second listening salon at KLUB in Copenhagen, where the theme was center/periphery, with Malene Lundén and Uffe Elbæk, based on the latest blog post at www.denpositiveforandring.dk
We were invited to lunch at the Japanese Embassy in Copenhagen together with State of Green.
The English and Arab TV distribution company www.manototv.com visited us at Samsø Energy Academy.
September 21: Samsø Energy Academy produced a presentation at Nordvestjysk Folkecenter for EU INFORSE’s annual meeting.
We got a visit by politicians, senators and NGO’s from the State of Washington, who traveled to Samsø to learn about Samsø Energy Academy’s work.