On Monday 6 March, the CSC was delighted to welcome Professional Fellows from the 2023 cohort, along with representatives from their host organisations, to Edinburgh University’s Climate Change Institute (ECCI) for two days of networking, cross-organisation engagement, and learning centred on the theme of this year’s Fellowship programme: Clean Energy, Air and Oceans. This was the second welcome event of its kind for Professional Fellows and their hosts, following last year’s very successful event to welcome the Girls’ Education Professional Fellows to the UK.

Fellows at the Welcome Event

Fellows at the Welcome Event

The Professional Fellowship Programme

Each year, the CSC offers Professional Fellowships for mid-career professionals from low- and middle-income countries to spend several months at a UK host organisation for a programme of professional development. The Fellowships provide recipients with an opportunity to enhance knowledge and skills in their given sector, and to have catalytic effects on their workplaces and beneficiaries after their placement.

In 2022-23, the Professional Fellowships were offered as part of the CSC’s Time Limited Programme (TLP). The TLP is a year-long programme of activities and events which have a particular focus. This year, the focus is on climate change in the fields of renewable energy, improved air quality, and sustainable use and conservation of marine environments.

The 2023 Fellows and Host Organisations

The 19 Professional Fellows on the programme this year represent 6 different Commonwealth countries and are joining specially selected host organisations across England and Scotland: University of Edinburgh Earth Initiative, Knowledge 4 Change, Lifegate Outreach Centre, University of Salford Energy House 2.0, and University of Strathclyde.

The Event

The welcome event was the first in a series of events being held for this year’s Fellows, enabling them to build lasting connections and share knowledge on their various areas of expertise, with a view to supporting future collaboration in the area of Clean Energy, Air and Oceans. The event began with a series of introductions: from the CSC, from the Edinburgh Earth Initiative and the Scottish Communities Climate Action Network, and from the Fellows themselves.

Professor Jamie Cross speaking at the Fellows Welcome Event

Professor Jamie Cross speaking at the Fellows Welcome Event

This was followed by a presentation by Nighat Anwar, Evaluation Officer for the CSC, on the enduring value of the Fellowship programme. In her presentation, Nighat highlighted that since the programme’s inception more than 20 years ago, 96% of all Commonwealth Fellows have gone on to share learnings from their Fellowship with colleagues at their institutions ‘all of the time’ or ‘often’ within the first three years of completing the programme.

The keynote talk delivered by Professor Jamie Cross, Director of the Edinburgh Earth Initiative, focused on the historical context of the current climate crisis and how his organisation is supporting the acceleration of engagement and collaboration to create real-world impact. The Fellows also heard from Jean-Mattieu Gaunand from the Scottish Communities Climate Action Network (SCCAN), who discussed the importance of the local community groups that his organisation works with, and how engagement can be achieved at a number of levels to address climate challenges.

The Alumni Community Engagement Fund

During the event, Fellows also heard from two Commonwealth Alumni who joined the event virtually to discuss their experiences of delivering activities under the CSC’s Alumni Community Engagement Fund (ACEF).

The Alumni Community Engagement Fund is an annual fund that supports Commonwealth Alumni to raise awareness of key development issues at the community level through the delivery of a specific engagement activity. This year’s Professional Fellows will have the opportunity to deliver an ACEF activity on the theme of Clean Energy, Air and Oceans later this year.

The first speaker was Tabemonso Tabeagbor, a Girls’ Education Professional Fellow, who spoke about his ACEF activity on ‘Promoting skills development opportunities for girls and young people’ in Limbe, Cameroon. Tabemonso also shared memories of his Fellowship in 2022 and encouraged this year’s Fellows to make the most of the opportunity.

The second speaker was Patience Kiyuka, a science communicator whose ACEF activity was funded under the current TLP theme of Clean Energy, Air and Oceans. Patience discussed her activity on ‘Promoting blue economy opportunities over the airwaves in Kilifi, Kenya’ and shared useful insights for the new Fellows to consider about activities they might take on.

Read more about Patience’s ACEF activity on the CSC website and look out for the report on Tabemonso’s activity coming soon.

The discussions

Group discussions between Fellows

Group discussions between Fellows

Between sessions and in the group activities, there was time for Fellows to connect, learn, and exchange project ideas, and several common themes emerged during the discussions. These included a desire to develop effective projects, learn from other Fellows about climate change in different country contexts, and secure funding to help local communities mitigate the effects of climate change. The Fellows all shared an interest in learning about how technologies that are used in the UK could be deployed back home to support their work.

The ideas that came out of these discussions were dynamic and exciting, and the event provided the perfect platform for Fellows to begin their Clean Energy, Air and Oceans journey.

Thank you to all the Professional Fellows who participated in the event and to the ECCI for hosting it over the two days. We look forward to following the progress of this year’s Fellows and seeing how the conversations evolve over the next three months. Find out more about the work of this year’s Fellows as we introduce the whole cohort over the next few weeks and share their plans for climate change impact.