Tell us about the social impact of your innovation. Please include both numbers and stories as evidence of this impact
The Beacon Program is in its pilot stage and has been operating for less than 1 year. To date, the women have written cooperative rules; developed an executive and audit committee; started a bank account; rented a storefront on a street with high foot traffic; and expanded the program to 30 more women (chosen by existing members). The first 20 women have received business training in accounting, bookkeeping, and marketing. The second group of 20 women will receive business training in June 2010 through a University of Michigan MBA student and a Rwandese business student.
Problem: Describe the primary problem(s) that your innovation is addressing
About 1.6 billion people worldwide do not have access to electricity. Many who do have access cannot afford the cost. Fuel-based lighting such as kerosene is a readily available alternative to electricity, and $35 billion is spent annually on these fuels. It is estimated that fuel-based lighting can absorb approximately 30% of the poorest households' disposable income (via Lighting Africa). In Rwanda, the cost of kerosene is 900 Rwf/liter ($1.60) - about $14/month for an average family.
In addition to continuous costs, fuel-based lighting contributes to indoor air pollution and is associated with respiratory and eye problems. It is also responsible for the emission of approximately 200 million tons of CO2 per year.
When faced with energy poverty, women and children suffer, because they are responsible for gathering energy resources. They are kept tied to household chores, leaving little time to participate in education, training, or business. As they are in the home, women and children are the ones exposed to the toxic fumes of fuel-based lighting. And when women have access to financial resources, they are more likely to benefit the lives of their children and families. We need to include women in the processes of economics and energy because these issues directly affect the quality of their lives.
Actions: Describe the steps that you are taking to make your innovation a success. Include a description of the business model. What might prevent that success?
The K-Light was developed to be a high-quality solar product that met the needs of those without a clean, renewable lighting source. The upfront cost of the lantern can be much for a poor family. To that end, PiSAT and the women in the Beacon Program are working on micro-loan options for customers.
Research in the lighting market suggests that if people buy a solar product that does not function to their expectations, they are less likely to buy another solar product. So, if people buy a less expensive solar product than the K-Light that is of lower-quality and does not perform to their expectations, that hurdle must also be overcome.
Results: Describe the expected results of these actions over the next three years. Please address each year separately, if possible
The Beacon Program is still in its pilot stage and has operated for less than 1 year. We do not have a set number of groups that we intend to start per year. Instead, we work with groups and branches to help them find and implement best practices to sustain and grow their business.
In the first one-three years of the program, the program will directly reach fewer than 100 women per year. Over the course of the next three years, we intend to spread into the Eastern Province, as well as into Butare, and further into Kigali. The Beacon Program has scale-up potential to reach farther into East Africa, as well. Within three years we plan to reach several hundred women, and many more people through their families and communities.
If your innovation seeks to impact public policy, how?