Since 2009 the Solving the E-waste Problem (StEP) Initiative has organized an interdisciplinary E-waste Summer School for PhD and post-doctoral students evaluating the ever increasing e-waste challenge from various angles. In the past years, the Summer School programme provided students with the opportunity to share their research with and gather feedback from fellow students and experts, listen to expert lectures from faculty members, take part in side-visits in order to view e-waste management in practice and work on a group project that was presented in workshops at the World Resource Forums in Davos, Switzerland.
During the Call for Applications in the last Summer School, the organizers received numerous applications and requests from policymakers as well as small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs – recyclers and refurbishers); unfortunately, the Summer School is a platform for young researchers. However, through this process, it became apparent that there was an increasing demand from e-waste practitioners for a similar training, leading to the first steps in the realization of the first E-waste Academy for policymakers and SMEs.
In a formal cooperation with and financial support from the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) as well as support from the Dutch Compliance Scheme, NVMP, and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the required resources were made available to StEP in order to begin the organization and planning process. Agreement on the E-waste Academy target group was one of the first critical decisions in the development of this pioneering concept for e-waste practitioners – should the EWA participants comprise only policymakers? Only SMEs? Perhaps a combination of the two? Through consultation with StEP and GeSI members, it became clear that an EWA combining both policymakers and SMEs was the preferred choice. Additionally, because the EWA vision is to take a regional focus with annual replication of the EWA in different regions, the first EWA took an African-approach taking place at the United Nations University Institute for Natural Resources in Africa in Accra, Ghana, An African-oriented first EWA was primarily due to the increasingly dire e-waste situation on the continent and the swift strides the African countries are making with e-waste policy development.
In order to gather a motivated, enthusiastic group of EWA participants, the EWA Organizers advertised a Call for Applications, ultimately garnering a staggering 87 unique applications from all 6 continents. Each application was reviewed and evaluated by two independent reviewers based on applicability and motivation and ultimately, 18 applications were selected to be invited as participants to the first EWA. Over the next 9 months, the EWA organizers invited a multi-disciplinary pool of experts to present their e-waste activities at the EWA, arranged all logistics and accommodation details, visas and side-visits. Moreover, a diverse programme containing interactive elements such as groupwork and side-visits was also developed and approved by the EWA Technical Committee.
What is so unique about the EWA is that while the programme was developed and facilitated by the EWA Organizers, the interactions, discussions and results of the groupwork were ultimately left up to the participants; we provided a forum for collaboration, learning and knowledge exchange – whether or not the EWA objectives were fulfilled was the sole responsibility of each participant to come together as a group to achieve EWA goals – learn from experts and peers, establish a sustaining network, be pro-active in presenting a final compendium of tools and ensure continued interaction with each other, with sponsors and StEP even after the EWA came to an end on 29 June 2012. And what we can conclude is that the 2012 EWA transcended all expectations. Not only were participants present each day, they were passionate, posed thought-provoking questions to experts and fellow participants and were reciprocated the same rigor to solving the e-waste problem that the EWA Organizers put into the realization of the EWA. On a more personal level, foundations to friendships were established, we learned in addition to an affinity for e-waste, our participants harboured other talents such as singing and dancing on the evening of the Final Reception, all contributing to the close-knitted network of practitioners envisaged before the EWA took place.
In the words of Professor Oladele Osibanjo, ‘the 2012 participants are now EWA laureates and have the responsibility to take the knowledge they gathered in Accra and apply it in their countries to develop sustaining local solutions to the global e-waste challenge’.
Bonn/Germany, August 2012
Rapport E-waste Academy 2012
Annex bij Rapport EWA 2012