It’s hard to explain to family and friends precisely what I do at Energy Cities. That’s why I often choose to tell them about the POTEs network – the French acronym means mates, or buddies, who are Ordinary Pioneers for Ecological Transition. This aspect of my work is more down-to-earth and local. My friends can relate to it.
When people ask what industry I work in, I answer that I work in energy and ecological transition. My job is to find people who are already committed to it in their daily lives and bring them together to boost ecological transition in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region. It might sound a bit pompous.
The POTEs network was founded in 2017 and is led by the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region and Energy Cities, in partnership with ADEME (the French Environment and Energy Management Agency). It started out with about fifty people, for the most part technically-inclined and working in fields related to energy transition. These genuine pioneers take action, lead initiatives. They are movers and shakers
In 2020, the network expanded to include ecological transition, which led to greater diversity in the profiles of POTEs members (entertainment industry, food/short supply channels, etc.), and also to a better gender balance.
So many of the members are both passionate about what they do and fascinating people – a mayor leading a revolution in his town and its population, a committed entrepreneur, motivated citizens, and individuals who are always willing to help or volunteer their time. They’re a friendly, supportive group of people who live up to their name!
This is no small task in such a vast region, especially amidst the chaos of the past two years. But the main purpose of this network is to build relationships and create a synergy between members and the local territories. Discussions emerge during the POTEs meetings, working groups, and virtual coffees that we started in April 2020 to keep relationships going, along with on-site visits.
And to give visibility to the network, the opening of the Festival of Ecological Solutions (an initiative of the BFC Region) is dedicated to the POTEs. This year, POTEs members have hosted creative workshops to discuss slow tourism ideas.
These discussions have generated a few promising projects, including “Habiter Heureux en Bourgogne-Franche-Comté” (living happily in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region), which involves renovating a building to create condos for seniors, a micro-nursery and a municipal laundry.
We regularly find out that, after a POTEs meeting or coffee break, participants exchange contact information to discuss an idea or project further in a less formal setting. It’s a real success!
This is how the POTEs operate as a network. They are heading in the same direction, each at their own pace, with their own tools, feeling free to explore side issues that occasionally lead to a giant leap forward.
It’s a lot more appealing to describe my work as facilitating this friendly POTEs network than simply saying “I work in information and communication”!