March 1, 2018: IRES Faculty Seminar
Hope in the Anthropocene Series
Speakers: Johannes Urpelainen and Rustam Sengupta

Roundtable on

Social Science in the field: Working on Development with NGOs and Social Enterprises

Johannes Urpelainen and Rustam Sengupta


IRES Seminar Series

Time: 12:30pm to 1:30pm (every Thursday)

Location: AERL Theatre (room 120), 2202 Main Mall


Abstract:  Social scientists are increasingly collaborating with partners in the field (NGOs, Social Enterprises and in some case activists) to further research on development. This has led to a broadening of the questions they ask, and a sharpening of the methods used to answer those questions, including the use of randomized control trials and associated tools traditionally employed in the health sciences. This session will bring together an academic (Johannes Urpelainen) and a social entrepreneur (Rustam Sengupta) who have worked together in the field on questions of renewable energy access. In this round-table, Johannes Urpelainen and Rustam Sengupta will discuss the challenges and pleasures of collaborating across the academic and practitioner divide in their attempts to improve the lives of some of the world’s poorest people.



Johannes Urpelainen


Johannes Urpelainen is the Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Professor of Energy, Resources and Environment at Johns Hopkins SAIS and the Founding Director of the Initiative for Sustainable Energy Policy (ISEP). He received his PhD in Political Science from the University of Michigan in 2009 and spent the next eight years at Columbia University.

Johannes is the award-winning author of four books and over a hundred refereed articles on environmental politics, energy policy, and global governance. He teaches action-oriented classes on energy and environmental policy to equip the next generation of global leaders with deep knowledge, advanced analytical skills — and a passion for transformational social change. As one of the world’s top energy policy experts, Johannes frequently advises governments, international organizations, and the private sector on energy and environment.

As the Founding Director of ISEP, Johannes is responsible for the vision, strategy, and general management of the initiative. His work under ISEP offers pragmatic but effective approaches to providing the world’s population with affordable and abundant energy at minimal environmental impact. In his spare time, Johannes reads biographies and tries to improve his Hindi.


  • Johannes will also be speaking on Wednesday February 28th UBC Green College.  Click here for more details. 


Rustam Sengupta

Bio: Rustam Sengupta is a renewable energy entrepreneur, impact investor and subject matter expert with extensive research experience of over a decade in sustainable social enterprise design, rooftop solar and renewable energy access. He has an expertise in identifying, designing and analysing strategies that affect energy systems and policies with a geographical focus on South Asia. He is the author of the book ‘De-Mystifying Impact Investing an Entrepreneurs’ Guide, which provides strategic advises and recommendations on impact investment and has served as a guide for several emerging entrepreneurs and investors.

Rustam is also the founder and board member of Boond (, an energy access enterprise that creates rural entrepreneurs and distribution channels for development products like solar rooftops and solar micro grids in remote parts of India. He was selected as one of the top 36 entrepreneurs who accompanied the Indian Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi as a part of his Start up India delegation to the US in 2015. In addition to his role in impact investment advisory and deal structuring to start-ups, he has had wide experience in private banking and strategic consulting and has worked in agencies like Standard Chartered (in Singapore), Syngenta (in Switzerland) and Deloitte Consulting (in the US). He is the board member and investor of Emsys Electronics (P) Ltd (a company that designs and manufactures high quality electronic products), Mynergy Solar (P) Ltd., (a company that specializes in leasing and asset management company for solar rooftop projects) and WithIndia (P) Ltd (a company that manufacturers environmentally friendly, insect and fire proof panels and tiles. Rustam also holds the position of Associate Director at the John Hopkin’s University Institute of Sustainable Energy Policy (ISEP) where is charged with finding and implementing projects related to market-led solutions to sustainable energy policy. He is also the lead founding partner of Boond Energy Expert Group (BEEG) that works with governments, policy makers and bilateral institutions on energy storage, smart grids, distributed rooftop solar and electric transportation.

Rustam holds an INSEAD MBA graduate with MS degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of California, Irvine. He was awarded the ‘Echoing Green Fellowship’ for work in Climate Change in 2014 and was selected as a ‘Chevening Rolls-Royce Science and Technology Policy Leadership Fellow’ in 2017 at Oxford University. He presently resides in Vancouver with his wife and four year old son.

Rustam is also a new IRES Adjunct Professor.


Poster for Hope in the Anthropocene events February 28 & March 1 2018


Video presented at the event.



New this year: With humanity’s creation of a new geological era marked by dominant human influences on planetary processes, the Anthropocene seems to offer little hope.

And yet, the same ingenuity that enables human domination over the Earth also allows a certain genius in addressing the many rising environmental and sustainability challenges.

Hope in the Anthropocene will showcase such inspirations and solutions in tackling climate change, harnessing energy, feeding humanity, governing states, and meeting our collective water and sanitation needs all while respecting Indigenous peoples and protecting nature and its benefits for people.

A collaboration between Green College and the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia, Hope in the Anthropocene will feature 6 accomplished speakers from around the world presenting in the IRES Seminar Series.


Photo credit: From