Nathan Wyeth

Weekly Roundup: $500k for Clean Energy in India, and More

I’ll add to Francisco’s Thanksgiving post to say thank you to NextBillion’s readers. Of course reading a blog is great, but what is more important is the motivation to think about the issues this site covers, and it’s a privilege to support an online community that can thank its members for who they are and what they’re doing, not just what they’re clicking on.

Also, give thanks for challenges, prizes, and some links to good thinking and good works. I’ve saved the best link for last.

First up, the Austria-based VC firm Ennovent is sponsoring a “Challenge” in partnership with the Scheuch Family Foundation to provide up to $500,000 in investment to a technology or approach that will provide clean energy in India at a price point that’s affordable to people living on %7E$3 a day. Submissions run through January 31. Ennovent is essentially turning inside out their process of looking for investment opportunities by inviting others to come to them in this competition format. But at least they’re also willing to reward others for help in the process, providing a $3,000 reward for the Connector who refers the winning team.

Second, this year’s Dell Social Innovation Competition is underway, with its range of submission categories so broad it could only be held in Texas. My friends at Gardens for Health International won the $50,000 prize last year. If anyone can suggest an approach more profoundly transformative than providing female subsistence farmers living with HIV/AIDS in Rwanda the agricultural inputs necessary to generate the basic nutrition required for the efficacy of antiretrovirals, they deserve to win this year.

On that topic, earlier this week, Dr. Ajay Nair was interviewed for the Global Alliance to Improve Nutrition, speaking about the partnership between GAIN and Acumen Fund, and how GAIN’s depth of knowledge aids in Acumen’s investment strategy.

At the Emerging Futures Lab, Niti Bhan has written about the realities of retail of consumer products at corner shops in the Philippines. Middlemen (or in this case women) get a bad rap but Niti asks how these shop owners should be accounted for in pricing strategies for base of the pyramid consumer products. Individually-packaged shots of shampoo are great, but shop owners are still just eking out a living if they’re getting squeezed by P&G. My second favorite Echoing Green Fellow this year (after Gardens for Health, see above) is Frogtek, which will use mobile applications to help micro-retailers manage inventory, expenses, and notice when they’re paying more to bring a product from an urban center on a motorcycle than they get from selling it.

Even on the internet, middlemen have value, says Margaret Kururi defending Kiva against the criticism that has been levelled against it in the blogosphere as the actual nature of running a nonprofit P2P microfinance operation has become apparent to people who thought Kiva was just a fantastic version of Adopt-a-Child-in-Africa 2.0. Ms. Kururi works with a rural MFI, PEMCI, in Kenya, and has been one of the few commentators on Kivagate who are on the receiving end of Kiva’s funding approach.

Although it is easy to forget, some media is not published on the internet and I therefore cannot link to it. However I can recommend the second issue of Beyond Profit, the emerging trade publication for “development through enterprise,” which was physically mailed to my house in San Francisco all the way from India if you can believe that. Ironically enough it is focused this month on building awareness through online platforms, but also includes an interview with successful women entrepreneurs in Mumbai and an essay on modes of social entrepreneurship by Gabriel Brodbar of NYU which has been posted on Beyond Profit’s blog. Because it was written for print, is long enough to actually say something and is fully footnoted.

Finally, I’ll again try to leave you with something you actually want to read at the end of the week: the students of the inaugural class of the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg. William Kamkwamba, of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope is just one of eleven.