Empower Generation

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Empower Generation

Sauraha, NepalPortland, United States
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Budget: 
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

EG is a social enterprise that connects renewable energy technology suppliers with female entrepreneurs in BoP communities in Nepal.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

1.2 billion people lack access to electricity around the world. ~30 % of a family’s income in rural Nepal being spent on kerosene. In Nepal, ~40% of the population lack access to the electric grid. Many that do have access cannot afford to pay for power or spend up to 18-hours per day in rolling blackouts due to failure of the grid to meet electricity demand of the growing population. Energy poverty affects women and children the most. Women can spend up to 9 hrs/day collecting fuel to provide basic energy services. When cooking or performing other household tasks, women are exposed to poisonous fumes from the indoor combustion of fuels such as firewood or kerosene. Millions of them die each year from respiratory problems associated with breathing kerosene and firewood smoke.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Women hold the key to solving Nepal’s energy crisis and raising the standard of living. Nepal’s women are well organized at the community level, operating savings and credit cooperatives that provide vital loans for income generation, health and education. Already serving as the country’s household energy managers, women are positioned to lead Nepal’s renewable energy revolution, as well as benefit most directly from clean, sustainable sources of energy. Our innovation empowers networks of women in Nepal to provide affordable renewable energy technology to those that need it most, leading their communities from energy poverty. We mentor women to become energy entrepreneurs, improving health and educational conditions, as well as creating income-generating opportunities - shifting the role of women in society. Energy consumers will shift spending from harmful sources of light, such as kerosene and cheap flashlights, to high-quality, efficient, clean solar-powered products.
Sustainability

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Our model is more complex than others in the field. Other projects working on just women's empowerment or just access to energy miss the opportunity to serve economic, environmental and social goals at the same time. While our market-based, women-centered approach to solving the energy crisis is novel, it is not unique. There are other organizations with similar models, such as Solar Sisters and Elephant Energy. However, our model is tailored to the local situation in Nepal and emerging Asia. For example, we utilize an existing network of community libraries and women’s savings and credit cooperatives to increase market adoption and offer RET paired with financing as a complete solution to the consumer.
About You
Organization:
Empower Generation
Background Information
First Name

Anya

Last Name

Cherneff

The competition is only open to people between 18-34 years-old and resident in UK, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark or the Netherlands. Does this apply to you

Yes.

Country of residence of entrepreneur

The Netherlands

Tell us about your personal background. Why are you passionate about this issue? Making an idea a reality takes innovation, dedication and strong leadership. Do you have the necessary entrepreneurial skills to realize your vision?

Worldwide, 2 billion people lack access to reliable energy—the pulse of human progress. As a result, each day women and girls spend up to 9 hours collecting firewood, and smoke inhalation kills around 2 million women and children every year. Women are under-valuaed in most communities, making them vulnerable to human trafficking and exploitation.

We're passionate about using innovative tools and resources and working across boundaries to help women and families faced with a pressing energy crisis and provide value-adding income generation opportunities for women. We have the necessary skills to work with leaders and community members at different levels and across sectors to bring critical resources to those who need it.

The pieces to the puzzle already exist and we have the leadership experience and determination to put them all together.

EG is lead by a Board of Directors and team of social entrepreneurs with experience in start-ups, renewable energy technology deployment, business incubation and gender-based development programming.

About Your Organization
Organization Name

Empower Generation

Organization Country

, OR, Portland

Country where this project is creating social impact

, NA, Sauraha

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Innovation
The Model: Walk us through a specific example of how your solution makes a difference; include your primary activities

We give women business and technical training and provide microfinancing for renewable energy technology purchases. In engaging renewable energy technology producers, we will help create new markets and build a scalable model for delivering clean energy. In an environment with limited resources, including energy resources, unlocking the potential for newer and greener pathways out of poverty is critical.

Our primary activity is our pilot project:
Empower Generation’s pilot project supports the efforts of Sita Adhikari—a community leader in Chitwan, Nepal. Sita has founded Kalpavriksha Greater Goods (KGG)—a small business selling renewable energy technology (RET) and creating a market for locally produced goods. KGG's mission is to improve standards of living in the community. KGG is currently selling 3 solar PV products to provide energy security without grid connection. EG supports Sita with business, sales and solar technical training, inventory, and branding and marketing support to grow a scalable business.

EG has also seeded two Renewable Energy Funds (REF) at the local village women’s savings and credit cooperatives to offer low-interest loans so KGG customers can afford the upfront cost of going solar.

EG's model is discontinuous from previous practice and completely new to this region of the world. It provides new pathways for solving critical social and environmental problems by recombining exisiting elements that are combined across sectoral boundaries in new ways to yield better solutions.

EG collects inventory and REF investments plus interest and reinvests our returns in more women and their renewable energy businesses.

Select the stage that best applies to your business

Operating for less than a year

Social Impact
What is the social impact you have had to date and how you measure it?

On the individual level, our success is measured in increased economic opportunity, jobs created and reduced respiratory problems. Our near-term goal is to provide clean energy to 7000 Nepalis in Chitwan. To date, we've worked with 1 entrepeneur who has sold 90 lights and provided access to energy for over 450 people. Because we're in the middle of our first pilot project, we are in the process of tracking our impact against the other measures.

On the systemic level, we hope to shift the perspective of a woman's role in society. We hope that governments and multi-national groups modify their programs to intentionally address the needs of the rural poor. We also aim to use our connections to RET providers to better link them to BoP energy customers, creating a healthy market for RETs.

What barriers might hinder the success of your business? How do you plan to overcome them?

Our biggest barrier is financing - without the upfront capital to buy the appropriate solar technologies, test distribution models and assess the market for these products, we'll never get to scale. We've planned a number of fundraisers in the next year and have selected high-quality board members that are committed to helping us raise funds (among other things). We're humbly aware that we ought to approach our pilot with flexibility and adaptability as we realize the social and enviornmental issues we're facing are complex. We're confident that we have a model that works and the skills to be successful.

Sustainability
How does your model address financial, social, and environmental sustainability?

EG’s projects contribute to the sustainable development of rural and marginalized communities in Nepal. EG evaluates itself based on net social (jobs created, decreased exposure to smoke and fumes, increased educational attainment) and environmental (CO2 reduced, avoided deforestation) impact, as well as its ability to fund its own activities based on decreasing amounts of donor money.

We aim to have an immediate net-positive environmental and social impact starting in year one, and achieve financial sustainability by year five through RET-sales, consulting services, and CO2 credit monetization. Our overriding goal is not to make the most amount of money, but to have the greatest positive, financially self-sustaining impact on society over the long-term.

EG has a multi-platform business model, working at the intersection of RET suppliers, BoP women-entrepreneurs, and donors focused on issues such as energy poverty and women’s rights. RET suppliers are looking for ways to access rural areas of developing countries to distribute their product. Our model takes advantage of innovations as they arise, and connects them with markets where they make most sense.

Awareness & learning
How do you see social entrepreneurship contributing to the improvement of developing countries?

Social enterprise is a powerful tool that we hope to use to change the current paradigm of international development. First, as a social enterprise ourselves, we're determined to find market based solutions that will outlast our time on this planet. The problems that exist in developing countries are complex and constantly changing. Old aid-based solutions and antequated processes are insufficient in addressing pressing needs. Social enterprises have a unique opportunity to influence critical actors at all levels through a market-based approach to finding scalable solutions, testing models, learning from failures and generating a great deal of energy and knowledge that would not exisit otherwise. Social enterprises can act as intermediaries, react nimbly and take risks in ways that governments, NGOs and multi-laterals cannot and while aid programs leave behind dependency, social enterprise leaves behind a well-functioning economy.

What aspects of your stay in Uganda as part of the competition do you think you will find most challenging and rewarding?

I look forward to the opportunity to meet other likeminded social entrepeneurs and learn from their experiences. I've participated in a number of international peer learning engagements, including attending UNESCO's 2011 European Youth Leadership Forum. The chance to interact in a different environment and learn about other entrepreneur's adventures helps me develop new perspectives to apply to EG.

Solar PV entrepreneurship is very successful in Africa and I am eager to learn about how our issue areas differ from the Ugandan context and am excited to improve our model with new information. We've found it to be incredibly enriching to work with individuals from different sectors, regions, classes and organizational levels. We've benefited from this cross disciplinary approach and diversifying our knowledge of different continents will only advance our abilities to address the needs of the rural poor in Nepal.