Samsoe is an island full of firebrands !? or what? Is it true too or is it a metaphor for a lot are happening and a lot of people involved? I think so, and I mean to know that there are a lot of people on Samsoe who, when they get home from work, enjoy watching TV. In other words, normal people who say that they do not always want to be passionate and go around and save the world. But decent people who do their things and fulfill the role they now have in life. They are nevertheless.
When I hear about a firebrand, I’m probably a little skeptical at first. Who is at the forefront of a good idea and what kind of an idea should be helped by him. It always starts with a person and an idea!
But firebrands are probably not that simple to describe and to capture. Partly because the term is suffering from inflation, everybody can call themselves firebrands today, It’s not an honorary title only! Partly because there is no target for a firebrand so that you can tell if this is a “real” firebrand or a wan a’be who gets stuck in a project or idea.
Can a public employee be called a firebrand if he/she performs the work he/she is employed to perform? Maybe, I do not know, but it’s just an expression that you are very good at work, and that should be honor enough.
Firebrands may just be a modern pioneer who sets a task for and goes through fire and water to achieve success!? But there are also “waterbrands”. People who have tried to put off their idea to get a bucket of cold water in your head so to speak!?
I would like to make a blow for communities. If we are going to talk about firebrands, it takes a society to create a firebrand. There needs to be one, and there must be a common goal for more than the very spirit of self-esteem. Think of a human being alone in the world. Can he/she be called a firebrand? No! It will be a little hard to define a firebrand soul without anyone comparing to, as is NOT a firebrand. Because that is the same contradiction. We cannot all be firebrands at one time! It does not make sense at all, to define special people with firebrand skills.
But a community can define firebrands. The community can appoint firebrands as they qualify for a shorter or longer period and can firebrand a good project out in the world. A project that makes sense for the community that defines the person to be a firebrand for the benefit of the community. The community mirrors the firebrand and makes it possible to see a result that is good at all! Good for society, for the community and for the firebrand itself. Nutrition is needed. When it succeeds, there is nourishment in success alone, but on the way, there are encouragement from the surroundings. Perhaps, too, critical comments from the more negative members, but even that is nourishment to the firebrand. It must be successful, I have to show them and work hard to succeed!!
At Samsoe, when needed, we have been and are still good at looking together at the challenges a small island community faces. When the burning platform is clear, people gather and talk about solutions, as much as they cry over the injustices of the world. Why do they want to close the slaughterhouse now? Do not touch our hospital! Close the school – No way!! We need to see together the challenges as opportunities that they do not just give us depressions.
When our slaughterhouse closed in 1999 and send almost 100 people into unemployment, there was a crisis! Serious crisis how could we find 100 new jobs to citizens who would like to stay at the island, who had children in school and merchant accounts and cars to be repaired. 100 people are many contributors to a small island community, that they of course were an integral part of. One cannot just stay and take a job in Jutland! It’s too far and it does not make sense at all.
Samsoe had just won a competition to become Denmark’s renewable energy island, and perhaps it therefore was more welcomed than it would have been if there was no crisis on the island. We really needed a project that could create jobs and sales in return of the lost jobs.
As a society there was an opportunity to reconsider the community and thus also create room for the firebrands who would necessarily drive this new project. It was new in several ways. It was not tried before and there were not many who had the qualifications to carry out the project. In other words, we should restore sustainability and self-sufficiency and the use of new technology. All good exercises for the community and something that can gather a community. Strong firebrands who can see the goal and gather the forces and open-minded citizens who give the new ideas a chance!
A community is temporary, and lives as long as needed. We like to come to the meetings when there is perspective and progress in the matter. When it’s hard and cumbersome but meaningful, people come. There is energy in commitment!
When it’s good, it’s not necessary to push so we can leave the development to the most eager. Then there will be time for the TV and the couch.
The community is defined by diversity! When a case is new and necessary, the community is gathered on the matter with openness. Together we can see the necessity and leave the ideal personal view in the background. We gather both the hippies and the farmers in the same case and can easily develop wind turbines together. When the project is mature and ready for launch, it reappears more selfish “what’s in it for me” attitude. It is natural, and we know it well and can easily live with that development. Both large and small investments must be made to succeed, and there is a sense of shared ownership, paving the way for a broad understanding of the nuisance that may have to follow. The community is when it is strong, an understanding and social venue.
Here the firebrands thrive! Here we need them, and they play good and useful roles in developing and running projects for the benefit of the community. They are taking a community interest for the benefit of the whole.
At Samsoe, it is still a good story, which is also running new projects today. Inspired by the story, new citizens emerge moving new people to the island and we change the time we are in.
It is not easy! On the other hand, it is difficult!
Søren Hermansen, Director, Energy Academy