OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign up, Login or Learn more

Local construction of renewable energy technology for sustainable cooking, conservation, and livelihoods

InStove designs efficient, multi-use, institutional biomass stoves for women and marginalized groups; they are designed to be built locally.

Photo of Adam Creighton
8 4

Written by

*Please Upload User Experience Map (as attachment) and any additional Beneficiary Feedback in this field

Explain your project idea in two sentences.

Our project is introducing efficient, institutional, biomass InStoves to women's co-ops in Ghana. We will then build them in country to create jobs, reduce cost, and promote access to the technology.

What is your organization name? Explain your organization in one sentence.

InStove builds efficient, multi-use, institutional, biomass cookstoves to improve sustainability.

Is this project idea new for you or your organization? If no, how much have you already executed on?

InStove as a product has been proven in projects in 40 countries; however, full-scale up to local production is the next step in achieving scale. We have chosen to focus upon Ghana, but the local-construction model is fully replicable in other country contexts.

What is the problem you aim to solve with this idea? How would you define this problem as urgent and a priority in your target community?

Access to safe, efficient, biomass cookstoves addresses a number of issues: 1) Health of cooks (primarily women and girls), 2) Deforestation and the unsustainable use of biomass fuels, 3) Climate changing emissions produced by open fire, 4) Rural women's livelihoods and economic opportunity.

What is the timeline for your project idea? What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years?

Over the next 12-18 months, our team needs to build capacity to design sustainable business models for the construction, access to end-user (and distributor) finance, and market-development for local production of InStoves in Ghana--the first stoves will be built in-country in this period . We also need access to working capital, talent to fill key positions, and mentoring/coaching in areas new to our team. From 19 to 36 months, we will build upon local partnerships, and expand the market.

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of responsibility).

Our core team includes a Founder and expert in the production methodologies, an engineer and humanitarian-technology designer, a career international development specialist as chief partnership officer, and a new business development director.

What do you need the most support with in this project idea?

  • Exposure

What is your primary goal over the next 6 weeks of Refinement?

  • Collaborate with others in the sector

How do you currently measure (or plan to measure) results for this project?

Each InStove will be individually measured for its performance in the field through the use of remote-monitoring "StoveTrace" sensors produced by Nexleaf Analytics. These sensors will provide real-time data on the duration of cooking events, and the temperature of emissions, which can be used to derive the impact of each stove in terms of fuel saved, emissions averted, and costs reduced.

How has your project proposal changed due to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase?

We realized that we will have to collaborate with colleagues in the sector to address another, parallel problem beyond the initial scope of our technology.

(Optional) What are some of your still unanswered questions or concerns about this idea?

A precise bill-of-materials analysis remains to be done to determine exactly what the cost difference will be between parts sourced in Ghana and those sourced in the US. We know that each country context is different, but based upon BOM analyses done in other countries, we feel we can safely assume about 45-55% cost savings sourcing the majority of raw materials for stove building in Ghana.

Note that you may also edit any of your previous answers within the proposal. Here is a great place to note any big final changes or iterations you have made to your proposal below:

During the Improve phase, our biggest changes to our narrative have been to make clear the distinction between InStoves as institutional stoves--rather than the household stoves that most cookstove organizations deploy. We've also indicated the role and cost of Nexleaf sensors, the strategy, economic justification, and timeline for local production, and a bit of clarification on the distinct economic case for institutional stoves (vis-a-vis cost savings plus revenue generated).

InStove is a US-based hybrid social venture (non-profit/benefit corporation) that designs efficient, institutional, biomass stoves and allied technologies to sustainably serve the energy needs of poor and marginalized communities in the developing world. While most cookstove organizations focus upon domestic/household stoves, InStoves focus upon institutional stoves where orders of magnitude more impact can be achieved per unit than their household counterparts. One InStove may have the environmental impact of 100 efficient household stoves, and the economic impact is not simply in the value of fuel saved, but in the value that can be created. 

While most institutional cooking is done over large wood, InStoves run on small amounts of small wood--the kind which can be sustainably gathered without cutting down trees. Additionally, InStoves are fuel-flexible and can run on any woody biomass, or upon briquettes that can be made from agricultural reside or animal waste. 

Institutional Stove Solutions, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, raises philanthropic funds to donate stoves to schools, clinics, cooperatives, and other partners. These partners help build an evidence base for InStoves by providing feedback on their impacts on fuel, time, and cost savings as well as the social impacts of safe, efficient stoves on their work and lives. This evidence allows us to craft context-specific, culturally-sensitive messages to drive demand for InStoves. 

Once demand is sufficient to support it (as few as 200, 100 Liter InStoves) InStove Mfg. Ltd., an Oregon Benefit Corporation, identifies a local production and distribution partner, and licenses that partner to build InStoves in country with the "Factory-In-A-Box" production methodology, which relies upon hand-tools, custom jigs, and semi-skilled labor, using mostly parts and materials that can be sourced locally at a lower cost in Ghana than in the US. Key materials--particularly precision-cut, high-temperature alloys for the combustion chambers--will be prepared at our facilities in the US to ensure quality and lower costs. Lower materials costs and lower labor costs mean that we can reduce the price by nearly half while still maintaining the same margins. This increases access to the technology, while creating livelihoods in the stove production and distribution value chains, and improving the local economy. Quality will be assured by ongoing supervision by InStove staff in-country.  Stoves may be produced within the first week of the set-up of the Factory-In-A-Box, and a factory may be assembled and shipped with as little as 6-8 months of lead time. The first stoves can therefore be produced in-country in under a year. 

While InStoves are currently being used (as of April, 2017) in 40 countries, InStove is focused on Ghana as a target to sustainably scale up to local production to enable widespread affordable adoption of renewable energy technology. Ghana is currently facing a wood fuel crisis nationwide: between 1990 and 2005, Ghana lost 25.9% of its forest cover, and now suffers widespread deforestation, and rising fuel costs for businesses and households alike. 

In Ghana, we are building the evidence base for InStoves in agricultural processing and large-scale cooking by working with partners in women's shea butter processing and rice par-boiling cooperatives, as well as within school feeding programs.  Once production is established to meet the demands of these sectors, InStoves will be made available to other sectors through private distributors and market mechanisms.  

Explain your idea

Currently, one-third of the planet meets its household energy needs by burning biomass on open fires or in rudimentary stoves. This demand for fuel drives deforestation that reaches 9% in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa, which destroys habitats, watersheds, ecosystems and livelihoods that depend upon the forests. It produces more climate-changing emissions than all cars on the planet, and more black carbon than all factories in the world--combined. Open fires are also dangerous. Not only do women risk burns, blindness, and other illness while cooking over smoky open flames, they may also risk gender-based violence while gathering fuel. Finally, indoor air pollution from such fires, contributes to up to 4.3 million preventable deaths each year--more than HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined--mostly among women and children in the poorest communities. To help mitigate this, InStoves are large, efficient, stoves that run on small amounts of small, sustainable biomass, and reduce emissions by up to 98% compared to open fires. InStoves use 75- 90% less wood, are safe to touch while cooking, and prevent indoor air pollution which protects the health of cooks. Because of their large size, InStoves have multiple applications: combined with an Autoclave, they can sterilize medical supplies and waste; equipped with a water pasteurizer, one stove can sustainably meet the potable water needs of thousands of people; used in agricultural, they can render palm oil, process shea butter, par-boil rice, help scald (de-feather) poultry, or reduce post-harvest loss and add value to commodities. In all, InStoves run more quickly than an open fire, and are sustainably powered by small amounts of small wood, which reduces costs and the time lost to the drudgery of fuel gathering and preparation (e.g. splitting large wood, or converting wood to charcoal). Our stoves are designed to be built using hand-tools and semi-skilled labor, so that they may be constructed in-country, close to end users. We proved this concept in Nigeria where we trained workers to build InStoves using our production methodology, custom jigs, and pre-assembled parts. The Nigerian team was able to independently produce InStoves to our quality control standards and without supervision within 4 weeks. We believe that true sustainability will not come from ongoing philanthropy, but from creating sustainable livelihoods building our technology, and from community-based demand. We are dedicated to local production through a social-venture model that responsibly enters markets by serving the needs of the most vulnerable populations first, and proving that this technology is both effective and within reach of the poorest and most marginalized. This approach allows us to be sensitive to gender, class, and cultural dynamics, and responsive to community input, while ensuring that adoption is driven by the users themselves.

Who Benefits?

In the developing world, women and young girls are most often charged with cooking, which exposes them to its associated risks. Open fires can cause life-altering burns, and their smoke causes everything from high blood pressure, to blindness (through cataracts and macular degeneration), respiratory infections (including pneumonia), and even fatal cardio-pulmonary illnesses (including COPD). For institutional cooks, these risks are amplified. Gathering fuelwood may expose women to gender-based violence, and force them to endure drudgery that keeps them from providing care for family members, or pursuing productive livelihood activities or education. InStoves reduce demand for fuel by 75-90%, are safe and efficient, protect women cooks from smoke and burns, and their large size makes them suitable for a variety of productive-use applications that can contribute to improved community health, increased incomes/revenue, and even better school attendance and educational outcomes.

How is your idea unique?

InStove is different from other cookstove organizations in several significant ways: 1) InStove focuses upon the niche of institutional cooking. While many organizations build cookstoves for domestic use, one institutional stove may achieve more economic and environmental impact than 100 efficient household stoves. 2) InStoves have applications beyond cooking that include sterilizing medical equipment and waste, pasteurizing water, processing agricultural commodities, converting plastic into fuel, and even generating electricity. 3) We are naturally collaborative since our model relies upon partnerships. We actively collaborate with partners in the field as well as household cookstove organizations. 4) The US EPA gave our stove the highest score possible in 9/10 categories when tested against the ISO/IWA for cookstoves. 5) InStoves are even used in place of gas stoves by US restaurateurs and caterers, some of whom save thousands annually in fuel costs.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Full-scale roll-out: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the users I am trying to reach with my idea. I am ready to expand the pilot significantly.

Tell us more about you

InStove is an Oregon, US-based hybrid social venture. It was the vision of co-founders Fred Colgan and Damon Ogle to build the most efficient, natural draft, institutional biomass stove in the world, and to design it so that it could be built locally, close to end-users. This concept became the "Stove-Factory-In-A-Box" production methodology. InStove will bring sustainable production to Ghana by building partners in distribution and finance, along with the evidence base to support commercialization. Finance partners include socially-responsible microcredit lenders and village savings and loan associations (VSLA). This approach helps to overcome the liquidity constraints that provide one of the most significant barriers to the adoption of improved cookstoves. Our distribution partners include local and multinational NGOs that have deep community partnerships in agriculture and school feeding. They provide last-mile support, training, and interface directly with end-users. With local production of InStoves in-country, a wider distribution model would be created that would include private vendors and distributors, enabling wider-scale distribution and creation of additional jobs within the value chain. InStove partners with with Nexleaf Analytics, a California-based nonprofit, to provide real-time data on the fuel use, costs, emissions, and time saved of each stove--all at $20 per unit, paid for by donors or purchased by business-owners interested in having real-time feedback from their enterprises. If InStove receives the support of OpenIDEO and GHR Foundation, we will be able to scale our market-building in Ghana, and accelerate the opening of local production. This will bring down the cost of our stoves, create living-wage jobs in the stove production and distribution value-chain, and better serve our beneficiaries and the planet by reducing lead times as well as the environmental life-cycle impact of producing and placing each stove. Our team is comprised of: -Fred Colgan, founder and executive director of InStove. Fred co-designed the first institutional stoves, designed the "Factory-in-a-box" local production methodology, and completed the proof-of-concept in Nigeria. -Alanna Miel, Chief Partnership Officer for InStove, a career international-development professional with nearly two decades of experience. She is leading our Ghana partnership building with the USAID Ag-NRM team including Winrock International and Technoserve, as well as other partners including the Netherlands Development Fund (SNV), US-based ACDI/VOCA, and the Global Shea Alliance. -Nick Moses, director of R&D, and has designed improvements to our stoves and their production methodology; he also invented our 20L stove and continues to design new applications. -Adam Creighton, development director, helped launch InStove Mfg. as a benefit corporation and build InStove's base of grassroots supporters, and network of worldwide partners.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Adam,

I look forward to seeing your response to the expert feedback. The deadline for responses is Friday 11:59 pm Pacific Time. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me -

Just one question, when do you expect the first production of the stoves to occur in the 3-year timeline?

Photo of Adam Creighton

Hi Kate,

Opening local production can happen within the first 12 months, with the first stoves rolling off the line within a week of opening the local production facility.

Will make sure this is clearly articulated in our improve phase responses.

View all comments