Villgro, a Chennai, India-based innovation incubator, is offering a $10,000 grant for an initiative that demonstrates, by its activities on Changemakers changeshops, potential for significantly improving the lives of the rural poor in India by providing services, technologies, and products.
“That’s what we mean by innovation: something that creates value for the customer, for the end user,” said Villgro founder Paul Basil. “In our case, the end user is the rural poor.”
Villgro has a decade-long track record of helping promising new ideas become sustainable market-based solutions. It believes that good ideas can come from anywhere, but they require money, mentoring, training, and valuable networks to grow.
This is what Villgro has provided to more than 50 innovations such as a solar-powered egg incubator, a weeder for closely-spaced crops, and an affordable small-scale brick-making machine. They have a good eye for good ideas: A Villgro-funded voice device for people with speech disabilities was created by an inventor who was subsequently named a 2011 Technology Review ”Innovator of the Year.”
By providing funding to Changemakers Changeshop owners, Villgro is extending its approach to social change. Because it is an organizer of the groundbreaking Unconvention conference, Villgro knows the value of bringing together people from many fields—innovators, investors, media and “wantrapreneurs”–to make the connections that advance and accelerate social change objectives.
Basil is an Ashoka Fellow who has offered his insights and advice to Changemakers community members over the years. His own drive to make a difference led him from mechanical engineering to environmental conservation to community development, and ultimately to help local social entrepreneurs turn their initiatives into lasting enterprises.
“The desire to become a social entrepreneur led me to a search for ideas, and I finally landed up in the world of grass-roots innovations,” he said.
It will be exciting to watch Villgro, a pioneering funder of Changemakers changeshops, spot and fund innovative projects in this “open growth” environment. Changemakers community members will have an opportunity to learn how funders identify investment worthy projects, and how fellow changeshop participants support each other’s success.