Taking inspiration from some of the great hackathon examples by social start-ups and entrepreneurs, we organised a rapid explore, design, build and test event that took place across two days in January, 2018.
The aim was to explore whether we could help the sector innovate in its efforts to support vulnerable consumers. Our intention was to inspire others to be creative but also informed in how they approach this challenge.
The focus for the two days was to create a tangible prototype that could show how innovation can have a real impact on fuel poverty in the UK.
Attendees came from a mixture of backgrounds, sectors and roles. They were all working within the energy sector and were open to thinking about how the future for fuel poor households might be different.
We wanted to extend the usual thinking about fuel poverty as just an ‘energy issue’. Participants brought with them knowledge and experience of social housing, new entrant energy suppliers, consumer advocacy, policy campaigning, national support schemes, sustainability consultancy and academia.
Our Board Member Laura Sandys – energy policy innovator and previous ex-MP – gave a keynote address.
Laura Sandys gave an engaging talk which posed questions about how we think about fuel poverty and what we could do to make more progress.
The group discussed the fact that so little, if any, of the effort in trying to alleviate fuel poverty is spent trying to learn how to tackle it more effectively. This is in stark contrast to most other areas of public spending, where some proportion of effort is devoted to continuous improvement.
The range of talent in the room encouraged a lively debate about what fuel poverty really means and how to address it. There was a broad consensus that innovation could play a key role in addressing fuel poverty more effectively.
This culminated in a shared letter to the Committee on Fuel Poverty highlighting the potential for innovation to help tackle fuel poverty more effectively.
The group then worked together to create a first-of-a-kind tool called LetsBetaFuelPoverty. This scores how well innovative concepts could address the issues of fuel poverty. It is now being used by organisations to stress-test their ideas for tackling fuel poverty more effectively.