As part of an ongoing series, we will be interviewing members of our Selector Panel to get their views on the challenge and see what they’re looking for from the entries. We also hope to find out more about them and their own work…
Methuli Mbanjwa is a dynamic young South African, who is passionate about renewable energy, technology and socio-economic development in South Africa and Africa at large. The Better Living Challenge is excited to have him on board as a Selector in the Comfortable Home Category, due to his broad understanding and expertise in renewable energy and business project management.
An MBA graduate from UCT’s Graduate School of Business, Methuli currently works as a Project Manager at G7 Renewable Energies. He has held the role since 2010, and is involved in the pioneering stages of utility scale wind energy development. He was, until recently, the Chairman of the LandUse Working Group of the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA), of which he remains an active member.
Methuli is also the founder of Future Beyond, a social enterprise whose focus is the advancement of broader communities through facilitating inclusive participation in the renewable energy sector and the broader green economy. Through Future Beyond, he has initiated a World Design Capital 2014 project that aims to introduce and promote sustainable living in ordinary homes in Cape Town townships, called Turning Homes into Innovation Labs (#WDC449).
The Better Living Challenge caught up with this immensely busy Selector…
What sparked your interest in the Better Living Challenge?
I first heard about the Better Living Challenge from 110% Green, with whom I have a project running (Turning Homes into Innovation Labs – #WDC449). I especially like that it is a design competition focused on ordinary people’s design ideas and home improvement solutions. It is an initiative about change – such projects are not only worthwhile but should be encouraged particularly in a society like ours.
Why is the Better Living Challenge so valid?
The competition is valid mainly because of its genuine intention to provide opportunities for budding entrepreneurs and to create a difference in people’s lives. The very end goal of the competition is what makes it a great initiative. Real life issues are being discussed – access to safe, sanitary, flood and fire proof housing is a basic need and any competition that addresses these needs is a valid one. From a business point of view, getting people’s solutions into a market and providing them with tailored business support, amongst other bespoke prizes, is what makes this competition unique.
What are some of the exciting aspects of being part of the Selection Panel? What are you looking for as a Selector?
I have absolutely enjoyed meeting the fellow panelists, all of whom are highly esteemed in their respective fields and many of whom I would not have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. It has also been highly exciting and encouraging to see the high level of diverse thinking, problem-solving and innovation in South Africa – it’s eye-opening to see just how limited I am in my views. As a Selector, I am looking for a solution that is aligned to the goals of the initiative. That is to say, solutions and concepts that fit into and meet the judging criteria. I am also looking for solutions that are not only practical but designed with the end-user in mind.
What skills are you having to call on in your role as BLC selector?
I have a diverse background in science, project management and business so I am able to draw from various skills. For instance, my background in business helps me to see the marketability of certain solutions, whereas my experience in renewable energy helps me to ensure that the solutions or concepts meet the judging criteria, one of which is the sustainability of the solutions entered.
What would you like to see the Better Living Challenge achieve in the long run?
I hope that the competition achieves its aims. I believe it is the start of something greater – more innovation and more conversations about facilitating the change we want to see together. I hope that even after the competition comes to an end, a real difference would have been made. That people have the opportunity to not only showcase their ideas but to receive feedback, mentoring and have the growth of their businesses facilitated.
What green product/s do you use in your own home?
Being green or environmentally conscious is more than just using certain products. It is a mindset – a way of thinking and living. I personally promote thinking around energy efficiency in my home, be it recycling, using energy saving light bulbs or switching off electrical appliances that are not in use. It is not the product as much as it is what you are trying to achieve.
Your experience of the Better Living Challenge selection process so far – in one sentence please?
Just one? (Laughs) Fun, rewarding, exciting and educational. But definitely fun.