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Business Model Replication to Accelerate Clean Energy Access

Enable more successful clean energy ventures that serve the poor by sharing best practice business models, training, and access to capital.

Photo of Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship
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Approximately 2 billion people lack access to reliable electricity. In some places population growth is outpacing energy access such that by 2030 there may be even more households lacking suitable energy. These poor households spend a relatively high percentage of their income on energy, thus trapping them in a cycle of poverty. Furthermore, their energy sources are vastly inferior in quality, providing poor lighting for nighttime study or work, or dangerous respiratory health hazards or fire-safety risks. Most of these households are rural, making connection to standard electrical grids cost prohibitive if not impossible. Miller Center and Acumen have worked directly with many of the entrepreneurs building companies to bring safe sustainable energy to the poor. However, we have observed that many such entrepreneurs often focus on re-solving the technical problems that others have already solved or they are making the same mistakes. Their capital resources and entrepreneurial energy would be more efficiently spent on solving the issues specific to their local markets.

Through this program we will remove significant barriers for new clean energy entrepreneurs to start and scale their businesses to effectively serve specific market needs, thus accelerating the adoption rate for safe sustainable energy. New energy entrepreneurs will be able to growth their businesses faster, with less capital, and less risk while providing better quality of service to their local markets. Partnering together, Miller Center and Acumen will execute this program as follows:
PHASE 1: Create Open Source Playbooks: We will convene an open-source consortium of actors working in clean energy access for developing markets. This consortium will articulate best practices in areas such as operating procedures, supply chain models, financing models, staffing requirements, impact metrics and data collection methodologies, value chain, customer segmentation, etc. Miller Center will document as a clean-energy venture Playbook.
PHASE 2: Build & Run an Open Online Course: Miller Center and Acumen will create a +Acumen online course for aspiring entrepreneurs wishing to launch home electrification enterprises. The course will be based on the Playbook and will walk the participants through the required elements of establishing a complete business model that is adapted to their own local market.
PHASE 3: Mentored Acceleration: We will select the most promising 20 social entrepreneurs, provide them with appropriate seed capital, and invite them to form a cohort in a Miller Center GSBI mentored accelerator program. Consistent with the learning from this program, the entrepreneurs will be building and growing their businesses, and preparing for additional investment.
PHASE 4: Investment Facilitation: Participants who successfully complete phases 1-3 will receive invitation to an Investor Pitch Day, introductions to relevant investors/grantors, and facilitated 1:1 meetings.

Who Benefits?

Replicating entrepreneurs receive proven business models, training, and mentorship help them start new energy businesses, and scale them faster with less capital and less risk. By making the Playbook and MOOC freely available, we can perpetually benefit new social entrepreneurs, including those who may not already have energy sector expertise, but are passionate about solving the problems of poverty.

Impact investors benefit from this program as we create a pipeline of clean energy investments de-risked by forming enterprises on proven models, adapting to local markets, and providing specific capacity development.

The ultimate beneficiaries are the 2 billion people living without reliable electricity. Sustainable off-grid electric energy solutions provide better indoor air quality, reduced risk of fire, lower energy costs, and better quality lighting. Students are afforded better and longer study hours, and businesses additional work hours and increased earning potential.

How is your idea unique?

Compared to traditional venture creation, our replication approach will help new entrepreneurs overcome significant barriers to entry, avoid common pitfalls, and scale their enterprises faster with less capital and risk.

Much work has been done (including our own) that have focused on 1:1 replication of a single enterprise into a single new market. However we have found it to be very expensive, resource intensive, thus difficult to create scale. As such, the benefits provided by these direct replication models are limited to only a few.

Our open-source approach will facilitate massive parallel replication and aggressive scale of clean energy adoption. Entrepreneurs are equipped with the learning of multiple successful enterprises, allowing them to focus their energy on solving the unique problems of their local markets. Learning from new enterprises will support ongoing improvement in the Playbook for the benefit of future cohorts of entrepreneurs.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Piloting: I have started to implement my solution as a whole with a first set of real users.

Tell us more about you

MILLER CENTER FOR SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Miller Center at Santa Clara University is one of the leading contributors to the social enterprise movement. At the heart of Silicon Valley, Miller Center leverages the entrepreneurial ethos of its surrounds to end global poverty and protect the planet.

GSBI Methodology – Creating Change through Entrepreneurship
In 2003, Miller Center created the Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) on a belief that the most effective way to help the millions in poverty is to foster “social entrepreneurship” – an emerging approach to solving global problems through the use of business principles and innovative thinking. GSBI programs provide these social entrepreneurs with capacity-building training and mentorship to improve their business models and plan their strategies for growth so that their enterprises can thrive and help more people. Through its various GSBI programs, Miller Center has trained more than 600 entrepreneurs at different stages working in 65 countries. Participants in all the GSBI programs learn how to articulate their business model and capital needs to appropriate investors and how to absorb investment to fuel their growth into the next stage of development. Many GSBI alumni are now demonstrating successful, scalable business models that are poised for replication into new markets.

ACUMEN
Acumen raises charitable donations to invest in companies, leaders, and ideas that are changing the way the world tackles poverty. A pioneer in the impact investing ecosystem, we have invested more than $100 million in 92 companies, creating 58,000 jobs and impacting the lives of 189 million people globally. Now we are pioneering a new Lean Data methodology to address the unique and diverse needs of social enterprises, redefining what it means to align impact and business priorities.

+Acumen – The World’s School for Social Innovation
+Acumen is an online and blended learning community hosted by Acumen. +Acumen’s mission is to enable millions of people to become more active and effective at creating social change. To do this, +Acumen designs and runs over 25 massive open online courses (MOOCs) that have been taken by more than 300,000 participants in 190 countries and supports both a virtual community and an in-person network of volunteer chapters. +Acumen has an in-house team of instructional designers who have experience packaging curriculum into formats suitable for online delivery. They have worked with content partners including organizations like IDEO.org, Grameen Foundation, The Omidyar Group, and Philanthropy University; and thought-leaders like Chris Anderson of TED, Dan Ariely, and Adam Grant . +Acumen also has a small team of course operations specialists who have built an integrated backend database that enables seamless communication with online participants and tracking of online activity across platforms.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

Attachments (1)

Universal_Energy_Access_MillerCenter_Sept2015.pdf

The model for massive parallel replication builds on previous research conducted by Miller Center which suggests that the energy access gap could be effectively served by a greater number of smaller market-focused enterprises rather than a few large ones.

31 comments

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Photo of Nahla
Team

As someone working in the energy sector​ ​I think this is a great initiative that has great potential for scaling the impact. Energy is one of the major catalysts of development & getting out of poverty. It impacts education, health, water access, livelihood productivity... etc.
The idea of having an open free MOOC, open Playbook AND an Accelerator is actually awesome. When I tried to build a startup providing solar solutions two years ago, I was searching for guidance. There are a lot of technical guides but very few on the business aspects. The business model information available online is mostly for normal for-profit startups & specifically IT ones. I tried to join an accelerator program​ ​to get some mentorship, but most accelerators require -understandably- that you at least have a valid business model. Which ironically was the main guidance that I needed!
Last year I discovered the +Acumen online courses. And what a relief was it to finally find great content on social entrepreneurship. The Business Models for Social Enterprises course from GSBI was an eye opener. For someone just starting out, it was great to find guidance​ ​on how to start a social enterprise that serves the actual needs in your community.

As I said earlier the technical knowledge is available. I know in my country & in many places a lot of studies & papers about renewable energy solutions are made. But unfortunately, almost none of them is turned to real projects because of lack of business knowledge. I have actually met some students who have designed solutions to their villages in various parts of the country as part of a college assignment, many residents (customers) are excited & willing to pay but the students are not sure how to turn this into a sustainable business.
By providing a free MOOC & an open Playbook you have the potential to multiply your impact by giving more people the proper guidance and business know-how that will help them take the first steps, and at the same time disseminate the collective wisdom of successful practices from around the world.
I sincerely hope this idea will be successful in getting the required funding. Best wishes :)

Photo of Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship
Team

Nahla,

Thanks for the excellent and thoughtful feedback. I'd be interested to get some more thoughts from you during the next phase if we are shortlisted.

Thanks,

Kevin

Photo of Nahla
Team

Hi Kevin,

Am really sorry you couldn't make it to the next phase. But I want you to know that i really think this is a brilliant idea and that i wish you can keep developing it. I am not sure how are your estimated costs structured, but i suppose some parts like the Playbook may be possible to start by volunteers in a wiki form using free tools online. Or maybe energy sector can be added as an optional track in the current Business Model course. There are also crowd sourcing options. Am sure you have a lot of ideas too.

Anyways thank you for your efforts and I would be glad to help at any time :)
P.s. using my phone so apologize for any typos.

Best wishes,
Nahla

Photo of Javier Navas
Team

Congrats on taking action in this relevant issue!I think entrepreneurs hold the key to bring new solutions in the energy field. Best of luck!

Photo of Sunil Rajan
Team

Every initiative taken towards bridging the gap between Inspiration and Implementation, is commendable and deserves the support/attention of the global Impact Investing/Social Enterprises/Change-Makers ecosystem.

Congratulations and best wishes to +Acumen and Miller Center !

Photo of Nadine Rose
Team

This is wonderful! I really like the investment support, as well as the resources through the online course. I think this is an incredibly valuable project.

Photo of Devika Dhawan
Team

This is amazing!! - I love the idea of having an Open Source Playbook and course - I think making these kinds of resources and tools shareable and easily accessible is the best way to bring minds together to start solving some of the problems that have an impact an all of us!!

Photo of Andres Felipe Vera Ramirez
Team

The idea of an Open Source Playbook and the Open course is one of the best ways to learn new things for both the developed and the developing world ( I live in Colombia, and I have had the opportunity to learn incredible things thanks to +Acumen, to OpenIDEO, and many other global open opportunities )

I would recommend, based, for instance, on experiences like +Acumen and OpenIDEO, to also connect this ambitious project to open communities that already exists in order to leverage the potential impact of the initiative in each specific territory ( the online experiences is amazing, but the engagement -specially in low income communities - require both online and offline support).

Photo of Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship
Team

Andres,

Great idea. We are looking at expanding the model to include local Replication Centers which would help provide mentoring and localization support for the new entrepreneurs and could provide that in-person open community environment that you mention. Thanks!

Kevin
Dir. Business Development, Miller Center

Photo of Andres Felipe Vera Ramirez
Team

Awesome!

Photo of Fran Cesca
Team

Very good initiative to support energy entrepreneurs and grow this important industry able to create an important impact. Congratulations!

Photo of Mark McCoy
Team

Outstanding thoughtfulness in the approach. Reading through the proposal, I initially thought that one reason for entrepreneurs to focus on the technical aspects of the problem was the relative ease, compared to the more nuanced activities required to run a business.

Based on reading through the comment section - it seems like the issue may be more related to availability of information. If not, I think the nature of the open online course PLUS a selection process will narrow the field of entrepreneurs, who receive significantly more support, to those who are most likely to succeed. Well done on an elegant, conceptual proposal! Excited to see the project evolve.

Photo of Unia Nalugya
Team

What a coincidence we were just discussing with a friend of mine an electrical engineer who is trying to develop a solar system to provide energy to the health centers in one of the most remote district in the country because most of the death especially women while giving birth are because of inadequate supply energy to the health centers. Thanks to Acumen and Ideo for the idea.

Photo of Marina Di Camillo
Team

Super! The open-sourse approach can guarantee full-access to knowledge and experiences and so a successful execution to on-field solutions. Such an impact on clean-energy development leading by local communities. Well done +Acume! Thanks to Acume, Miller Center & Ideo for sparking Social entrepreneurial innovation.

Photo of Naomi Lipke
Team

How serendipitous! Last week, I was on a call where we were discussing the barriers to becoming a small-scale photovoltaic energy provider in Africa and South Asia. We specifically discussed the need to provide education for energy entrepreneurs. Two of the people on the call had experience with small solar installations in Nigeria and India. We talked about how poor quality solar panels, which work only a year at most, are sold to people in developing countries. This creates the perception that solar energy does not work. Thus, there is also a need to understand how to purchase supplies. I mentioned the SE Forum, an in-person entrepreneurship accelerator here in Sweden. The host said that it would reach too few people. I suggested an online course - like Plus Acumen's! Now I see it being proposed! Amazing!

Photo of Jo-Ann Tan
Team

Naomi - this is so great to hear. It sounds like tips on sourcing/manufacture of high quality solar panels (or how to figure out when to buy or make your own) is something that entrepreneurs could benefit from. What else are you hearing?

Photo of Naomi Lipke
Team

Hi Jo-Ann, We also talked about other barriers to small-scale energy installations such as property rights, infrastructure, and capital. The participant from India mentioned that large scale wind energy had made up a large percentage of renewable energy installation in India recently. To scale up rural, community-level, and small scale renewable energy production, there are these structural and financial barriers to overcome. Business models and/or community governance for small energy production (the social organization of production and consumption) might be another barrier and topic.

Photo of Simon Wachieni
Team

This is a great idea. Sharing of ideas worth replication is a quicker way of accelerating them. This is particularly important in Africa where there is still so much room for energy interventions that impact mainly on rural communities.

Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Hi Miller Center!

I can clearly see the planet and prosperity bridge.

Would you be able to give me more information on the expected time duration of the project itself and the phases?

I have read the attached report. Based on the figures there, approximately how much in funding would you be requesting?

Photo of Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship
Team

Hi Kate, thanks for the comment. Since the objective is to create ventures and take them all the way to scale funding, this is likely a 2 year project. This would be fast by normal means, but our thesis is that by building on established models, the rate of scale can be much faster.

Some of the components are well established, but others are still being fleshed out and will likely be adapted based on the feedback we receive in the next round. As such, we have formalized a total budget yet. Do you know if this is something that is needed in the first stage of the proposal?

Thanks,

Kevin
Dir. Business Development, Miller Center

Photo of Ivan
Team

I really like the idea of Open source playbooks and the connection with an open course in the format of +Acumen used to work. I found those two pieces of the proposal a key part for accelerate clean energy access worldwide!

Photo of Peter Stein
Team

A resource like this will really help bridge the gap between passion and product, making sure the passion translates well into something impactful. Really excited to see what this will produce!

Photo of Mikhail Klassen
Team

As one of the chairs of +Acumen in Calgary, our community supports Acumen's mission of seeking innovative ways of tackling poverty through entrepreneurship. Energy is an important part of Acumen's portfolio, and a central challenge in sustainable development. I enthusiastically support this project.

Photo of Hillary Strobel
Team

Wonderful! Acumen has shown time and time again their phenomenal ability to build not just a great project but the community that supports it and helps it to flourish. I'm so proud to be a small part of supporting that.

Photo of Neysa Angeles
Team

The value of an open-source, consistent business model to make sustainable energy real for those who need it most is priceless. But what helps make it work is Acumen's unique ability to draw from the collective knowledge and expertise of the +Acumen network throughout the life of the proposed project.

Photo of Sabeteshi Minassie
Team

Great news for the aspiring entrepreneurs working or launching enterprises in the energy sector. In particular with the timeline of Global Goals in 2030, achieving universal access to energy sustainably, needs innovative local based solutions. Social entrepreneurs role will be instrumental in that regard and your initiative will be very crucial in closing some of the most inherit gaps in the energy sector. All the best in rasing your funds for the course.

Photo of Eva May
Team

I thought that the Business Models for Social Enterprise was a great introductory course for people interested in possibly starting up a social enterprise. Having a focused course for energy entrepreneurs should result in actual launches or improvements to relevant social enterprises, with positive outcomes in a much-needed area. Hope that this idea becomes a reality!!

Photo of BabaTunde Adegoke
Team

+Acumen has been a source of inspiration to me since I have been affiliated with them, I was able to know how design is the first step to innovation and how I have been missing in the past. The HCD course alone changed the way I see the world and it is an influencing factor to me to take a step in becoming an innovator. Without discovering ideo, I do not know what my life would have been right now - but I am indeed sure, I would become directionless. My love for design is noncomparable and I believe whatever comes from +Acumen is a way to go

Photo of Marica Rizzo
Team

This is awesome! Love +Acumen Courses, and especially the Business Models for Social Enterprise course that +Acumen and Miller Center already collaborated on! Solutions to generate access to clean energy will need to involve and include so many stakeholders - I love the idea of a Playbook and Course to follow! Awesome.

Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Hi Kevin!

Great to have you onboard! We noticed your post is currently unpublished. Was this your intention? We'd love to have it be included in the challenge. You can publish it by hitting the "Publish" button at the top of your post. You can also update your post by clicking on the "Edit Contribution" on top. We're looking forward to seeing your contribution in this challenge.

Photo of Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship
Team

Thanks - still finalizing the submission, but am planning to submit soon.