From Data to Action: The Story of Plan A
I know many people who are passionate about environmentalism but feel helpless about their possibility to contribute. How to take action? How to get involved? Job opportunities are still limited, it’s often unclear what projects should be prioritized, and many people don’t feel qualified to have a role in the fight.
That’s why meeting a person like Lubomila can be especially refreshing. “Per background, I don’t have any connection to sustainability. In an unfortunate way, I learned first-hand about the effects of climate change by going on a few trips, one after another, and this locked in me the need to learn more about the fight against climate change”. This led her to found Plan A, a crowdfunding platform that supports projects against climate change. What’s special about it? It uses open data to prioritize the most urgent projects, based on climate data from all over the world. In fact, an average rise of temperature does not mean that it will be evenly spread around the globe, and some regions of the planet will suffer the most. I had the chance to ask her a few questions and learn something more about the background of this inspiring startup.
What was your inspiration when you started this project, and what are the things that drove you in the beginning?
Learning about climate change and the related issues proved to be quite difficult: there was scientific research, innovative solutions coming from green startups, corporate programmes for environmental protection, and of course governments providing funding to many organisations and institutions. Clearly, there was a lot happening but in a quite ineffective manner, with many fighting for the planet in their means… I could not navigate myself. So, I started reading a lot of books and learning through some online courses what does today’s climate change reality meant, what the problems that we face were, how pollution intertwined with all of this. Even though at that point I was working in the financial technology sector in London, what I was doing at that particular moment helped me to see the business perspective of the issue: what I saw as necessary was for these stakeholders to collaborate in order to make fighting climate change effective.. This was the genesis of Plan A, that quickly led to me quitting my job and dedicate full time to building the company.
Lubomila is the founder and CEO of Plan A.
What challenges did you face in starting this project?
Two issues stroke me when I started working on Plan A, while still working in London. The first issue was how little prominence it was given in media and in online and offline channels to the discussion of climate change and sustainability. As I was digging in the data and the science behind the issues, it was shocking to me no one seemed to care about the high probability of a doom and gloom reality.
Secondly, there was no audience in the investor community for social impact and sustainability solutions. In this very moment, the discussion was fintech, Brexit and the bus with the lies on it. Although this didn’t discourage me to start building Plan A, it challenged my understanding of the way our society resolves problems of such size. Was it in the hands of the government only? Or corporates? On individuals? It was certainly hard to keep constant enthusiasm for a better future society.
All changed when I moved to Berlin. The environment was already awake for the societal and environmental issues we faced and was working on solutions, such as Greenbuzz. This heightened my excitement to build Plan A and my belief that climate change can be successfully tackled.
About that: what makes Berlin a good city for starting a similar project?
Berlin is quite a special place. It is a place of freedom and collaboration and it allows people to reflect on themselves in society, not simply as employees or workers. Everyone belongs in a community here… This allows everyone to get involved in several projects, missions, causes. Scientists help startups, startups work with corporates, governmental institutions organise pitch competitions. Someone might wonder if this is even possible.
I came multiple times to Berlin before deciding to set up the company here and could sense this dynamic – I was offered free tech, design, legal advice on day one. Who does this? I couldn’t have chosen a better home for Plan A.
How much of Plan A had been made possible by availability and your access to open data?
Plan A would be a totally different company if it did not have access to open data. The core of our business is an algorithm which predicts where and how climate change is going to hit the hardest. We use publicly available data to predict the correlations between environmental issues and are able to pinpoint locations facing a tough fight against climate change. The core of this technology is our drive, mission to be accurate and effective in our fight against climate change.
An exciting new feature, which will launch in a few weeks, on our platform, which launched in January, is “calls for projects”. Calls for projects is a feature which uses our technology to identify the critical issues in a given location and invite organisations to put forward proposals for projects resolving these issues. That means we are reversing the discussion about these problems – where other platforms enable simply technologically organisation to fund any project they have, we focus only on resolving specific issues, fundamental to addressing climate change. This where once again data comes in play for the fight for our planet.
What’s the future of Plan A, what are you up to?
Plan A’s mission is to enable effective climate change financing for all stakeholders. I am excited about two particular outcomes of these next few months.
The first outcome is working with businesses. With our new platform which launched in January, we can now get not only individuals involved but also businesses. Which is why we have started working with incredible businesses in helping them increase their impact for the planet. These businesses have already woken up to the reality of climate change and see Plan A as a key partner in amplifying their efforts for the planet. They come to us sometimes with a clear idea which of our six causes they want to stand up for (Forests, Wildlife, Oceans, Sustainable Living, Sustainable Energy, Waste Management). Others simply ask for suggestions for projects they can support. We welcome them all as we know how to make them find their cause and increase their impact.
The second and equally important outcome is the expansion of our data insights. We have now gotten to a level of deep understanding of the critical environmental issues on a country level and the influencing factors. Our next step is industry level analysis – many businesses asked us how they can prepare their own operations for climate change and make their supply chain more sustainable. This is an incredibly exciting challenge and we look forward to releasing our first insights in a few months.
Overall, I am convinced 2019 will be the year when we defeat climate change and finally start moving in the right direction for our planet. Plan A will do its best to be at the forefront of this fight. This new focus is really exciting because yet again I see how much effort it has been made for our planet and how many businesses across the globe are excited to get involved.