A list of questions and answers about Global Buildings Performance Network’s (GBPN’s) Pitch To Policy (P>P) programme in South East Asia and India in 2020-21.
What is Pitch To Policy P>P?
Pitch to Policy (P>P, also PtoP, P2P and P_P) is a competitive (gamified) learning experience for professional with cash rewards and the potential for greater impact funding support.
GBPN the Global Buildings Performance Network is an NGO funded by international donors. The goal of our donors is impact investment. This means they fund us based on outcomes. GBPN pursues a number of ways to reach the outcomes. We provide educational programmes to improve the sustainability of the built environment (also called built area). India and South East Asia are our area of activity because many nations here do not yet have sustainable building codes, or they do have codes but the codes are not enforced. GBPN’s own (2018) study found that people who write and influence policy lack access to technologies and techniques for sustainable buildings. GBPN had previously identified that new or updated building codes and regulations are the most effective way to bring about large scale buildings sustainability.
In 2020 P>P was a trial. It ran as an open competition and was paid for by GBPN. In 2021 it will be targeted to specific organisations with innovation opportunities appropriate for government interest.
P>P will admit professionals who can most benefit from micro-credentialled education to support their own personal and professional activities as change makers in buildings sustainability.
Pitch to Policy is thus a competitive educational programme intended for certain active professionals who are close to or most able to make change in the built environment that can be supported by government.
How does Pitch To Policy work?
GBPN and its partners will advertise for professionals, activists, managers and others who are currently working on a problem which could lead to reduced emissions in the built environment. The criteria of the specifc competition may vary depending on the local context. A set of teams will be selected. Teams attend an intensive 5 half-day activity which provides general government, business and pitching education that is the same for all teams. Next, P>P will select and provide high quality information and education specific to each team. For example, case studies of policy trials, government backed techology trials, public education programme reports and other relavant to accessible sustainable housing (GBPN's focus). GBPN and partner network experts will also help and may mentor teams.
This experience trains the teams to pitch - present their idea in a convincing, informed, motivating way.
The best three pitches win USD2000 from GBPN along with potential support for greater funding from GBPN and connected NGOs.
What is a Pitch To Policy pitch?
A pitch is a carefully written presentation which is for a certain audience and the pitch attempts to convince the audience of the feasibility of an idea. In P>P all pitches have 8 slides. Each slide has a strict theme. For example slide number 3 is about what research the team has done to substantiate what they want to do. The team might have a great idea but they may find that the idea is impossible (due to the law, or the laws of physics or OH&S etc). Slide 3 explains what the team looked at to make sure the idea has a strong basis in reality, in the current culture, in the law and whatever other grounding is needed. The eight slides cover all the main foundations of a really promising plan. In blue below are some of the tools or outputs needed to support the slide and the spoken narrative. The slides are visually very simple and the narrative is friendly, slow, accessible and motivating.
The pitch is given in 5-8 minutes with time for interaction with judges. The pitches are graded via a strict rubrick. This includes an “X Factor” type mark. Pitches are in English but GBPN may require participants to create a version of the pitch in their home language. The pitch decks are intended as reusable so that GBPN and the teams can take them to different audiences to gain more support.
Will GBPN actually support me to intervene in public policy or company policy?
GBPN will provide high quality education, it will provide prizes and it will provide access to experts. However, you are responsible for your intervention. If you want to start a social media movement to demand sustainable housing, that’s great. You can mention GBPN helped you but in the end you are responsible for your social media messages and GBPN is not. Likewise if you use GBPN information to build a new kind of green building, GBPN is not responsible for it. But on the bright side, if your green building is a great success, it’s your success.
Your P>P project may be examined for inclusion in GBPN regranting. This may provide you with direct funding. This would allow larger projects such as demonstration construction, research studies, product development and public awareness or social movement creation. Again, you own your project, GBPN is an education organisation that wants to address climate change risks through improvements to the built environment.
Will GBPN work within the law? What if laws prevent climate action?
GBPN works entirely within the law. It has agreements with SEAsian partners and it has an important network of experts who help us and who respect regional and international laws. So if you have in mind any kind of action that might be illegal, GBPN can’t help you! Our advice in this case is to try to find other ways to bring about the change you want, which respect local and international laws. If you think the problem is actually an overly restrictive law, you shouldn’t break that law, you should start a programme of law reform. GBPN would help you with this!
You may also find that your government provides conditions under which laws and regulations are relaxed (with oversight). For example, there are “regulatory sandboxes” in many countries to support innovative experiments that interact with (highly regulated) public infrastructure. It is very likely that improvements to building emissions are going to require changed building codes. Finding out how to work within the current building laws would be a critical task for many P>P teams.
Why aren’t you running a start-up company competition like Fortum.com (or similar)?
GBPN’s P>P was inspired by a startup competition called KIC EIT (in Australia, climate-kic.org.au). KIC EIT is a fantastic programme encouraging sustainable businesses and we encourage you to take part in it when it comes to your region. KIC EIT is about market solutions. That is, every start-up idea they support anticipates a new product or service in the market that is going to make money and also lead to avoided GHG emissions. P>P wants to find and help people who are going to bring about avoided GHG emissions but who can cooperate with governments. This is because governments often need to regulate the market before new products and services get a chance!
For example, the market has incumbent suppliers. This means products like cement are the dominant building material - cement has been versatile and inexpensive. However, governments are legislating against high carbon produts and processes like cement. P>P would encourage projects to reform how cement is made, perhaps with less energy. It would support building material alternatives such as bamboo. It would encourage more prudent uses of cement such as composite materials. Governments will generally be interested in promoting transition materials or transition work. Neither the cement manufacturers nor government want stranded assets or market failures. Transitions are understood processes that can be rapid, low-risk and beneficial for all participants. A market failure might see customers totally abandon cement, even if it is provided in a low-carbon product or it has effective CO2 offsets.
P>P will provide the education you need and help you make a great pitch to some part of the government, a government innovation agency, a government influencer or to other important players who may enter a coalition with you to support the government. In return, your employer might expect to benefit because they will be positioned well relative to market changes (first to market, best to market, centre of market). As an employee you would benefit from helping your employer, advancing your own area of expertise and interest, and helping the greater world in an open, considerate manner. You will achieved something for climate action, occupant health, the employment market and you may even help incumbent industries that are high carbon.
P>P does not provide business start up support because many other great competitions are available for startups. P>P is in fact a lot broader than this because while P>P teams can pitch market interventions and market pilots they can also pitch social programmes, education programmes, design ideas and so many other ways to improve the built environment.
You don’t need to be a CEO to be disruptive and innovative. There is plenty of international aid for whole organisations and governments. But there isn’t much support for employee-led change. Employee-led change is how computers were introduced to many organisations, not through a top-down company policy of digitalisation, nor a bottom-up demand for better stock control.
Promoting a known technique or product is an example of a post-market intervention. Others may be pre-market such as raising awareness of the emissions burden of the products your company uses (like windows) to make other products (like houses). Glass, steel and concrete require vast amounts of energy to make them. Reducing their use in buildings makes those buildings greener right off the drawing board. Also interventions can be very subtle: perhaps you only need to set up an important meeting between two people and facilitate it. This is up to you because you know best what the opportunity is. However, no matter what you plan to do you are going to have to pitch some idea to someone. P>P will help you get this right.
What kinds of applicants is Pitch To Policy looking for? Politicians?
Pitch to Policy (P>P) is looking for people who are able to bring about positive change. We call them changemakers. These people may be influential in their company or field, or they may simply be aware of an opportunity they personally can act on. P>P is not, as such, looking for executives, CEOs or politicians because these people are already well enabled to bring about change. Funding and support for heads of industry and government is very welcome and it is highly productive. P>P is not looking purely for academics and inventors since GBPN is a network of academics already standing by to help P>P. We want people who want large scale change.
P>P supports projects and people who are the managers and workers closest to opportunities. For example a politician can create a policy of zero net emissions, which is great, but this has to be reflected in building codes and enforcement to really lead to zero emissions. How certain practices and technologies change so buildings emit less GHGs becomes the work of designers, managers, inventors and activists. These people see the opportunities, they see the obstacles and they have an idea how to bring about progress. If this is you, we want you! If this is not you, perhaps you know someone like this and can tell them about P>P!
People who write or advise on new policies really like to manage risk. Progressive policies have many risks of unintended consequences. These may be risks to people or they may be windfalls to merchants - both are to be avoided! One way to understand risks is to see how future policy may play out in practice. If there is a small example of a solution demonstrated (and a P>P team behind it!) then it is easier for policymakers to see the potential and understand risks.
We just need more education. Why doesn’t GBPN just teach us?
GBPN provides the best available information on sustainable building practices for free, on BuildingPolicy.net. GBPN is partnered with a number of universities that are very keen to educate adults and professionals in advanced technologies and practices. So people who want to advance their careers can visit GBPN resources or sign up to do distance education with a university. What is different about P>P is that it is intended as Just In Time (JIT) education. It is also aimed as people who are already busy and fully consumed with activities that could really benefit from new knowledge.
P>P attempts to bridge a very well known gap called the Two Communities (Caplan, see cartoon below). This is the basis of the fact that policy is not usually supported by evidence. There are lots of reasons for this to do with how different the political process is compared to the scientific process. However, evidence is crucial in making choices that do not have unexpected risks, do not repeat bad history and which fully expand options for politicians to choose from. Still the path from a research finding to an implemented policy is very long, seventeen years on average in the health sector. P>P wants to support evidence informed policy but it wants to introduce new knowledge where it can be acted on quickly. To do this P>P has to align people, opportunities, knowledge and influence. Not just education!
Why are you doing this (all the way from Australia and the EU)?
New buildings in SE Asia up to 2030 will make up half of all the buildings there will be in the world in 2050. These buildings should be as sustainable as possible so that they impact the environment and their occupants positively. Many buildings have been built that have resulted in huge CO2 emissions and others have been made that are not good for their occupants in terms of heat and cold, air quality, light and durability.
Expertise and experiments in the EU and in Australia might be very helpful for professionals who are part of the built environment industry and governance. Certainly we know builders ask for exposure to new building techniques and education. We are confident that a careful alignment of knowledge and knowledge recipients will have the best, largest outcome for buildings.
My country already has a lot of aid for built area. Why don’t you just add funding to these existing streams?
We are very much in support of dedicated funding for government and industry to help advance the capability to design and construct sustainable buildings. Our funding is fairly modest and we decided the best way to use it was to pick very specific target opportunities and do what we can do there. In fact it is applicants to P>P who identified the opportunities because GBPN is not as such a member of the building industry. Anyone can have a good idea and many people see opportunities right in front of them. Waiting for policy to change or for top-down innovation is not always an option given target emissions for countries by 2030.
Is P>P for academics, researchers or people interested in the built area?
P>P wants to inform, educate and motivate specific people to act. The actions should occur soon, should be practical and should bring about further change and further actions. People who are observers of the built environment field may well also have ideas about potential near-term actions. However, the key is that the applicant can execute the action soon. Biophilic design, for example, is a very promising area of design. It is the use of plants on walls and roofs. Many academics pursue research in this area. In addition, builders are also looking at this. Those people are already paid to think about opportunities. But someone is also needed to actually get biophilia away from largely being a luxury decoration to being a widespread technology used in social housing.
Within even within large building companies, for example, there are staff who are regularly in the position to promote design ideas. It is these staff that P>P would reach and outfit them with what they want to best promote biophilic design (in this case) with government cooperation. These people are our most desired targets because they can act immediately to cause sustainability changes in upcoming buildings. These staff do not as such typically get research funding or support to go over and above their job.
Is this really important? Why can’t people just go to school to learn new techniques?
This is very important. Global heating (a component of climate change) will raise temperatures for example, in Kuala Lumpur and there will be 10 extra days a year over 35 by 2080. The Heat Index 35 (primary tool of the IPCC) predicts large changes in high risk heating across Malaysia. This increased heat is caused by CO2 emissions, 40% of which come from the built environment and building activity.
Previous efforts to control emissions have had only a limited effect and emissions continue to rise. There are very few sustainable buildings in Malaysia because of a locked-in cycle of incumbent techniques and product development for niche markets only.
It can be seen that any of the problems above in fact could originate at any of the positions shown and so solutions can be introduced at all of these positions. How each position is held in place requires the knowledge of people within design, governance, marketing, consumer groups and others at each position. P>P reaches the people within this cycle and helps them break the loop. In other words, “disrupt local high-emissions path dependencies”. This situation is common throughout SE Asia (and other places).