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Designing an incubation platform for future clean energy entrepreneurs in Bangladesh.

An incubation platform which will enable micro-entrepreneurs to sell, clean energy to their communities in rural Bangladesh.

Photo of Abby Nydam
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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Bangladesh is energy poor which means that rural electrification rate is only 28% and 15 million Bangladeshi non-urban households still lack access to electrical power for their home. Providing access to energy in rural off-grid locations can be transformational to the lives and livelihoods of families and communities. The proposed initiative builds on iDE’s current USAID Powering Aquaculture project which piloted and tested the technical viability of a mid-sized micro-grid through a Build- Operate - Transfer model between local hatcheries and a large national private firm. The next iteration of this initiative is to now create pathways for scaling these transformation across different sectors (beyond hatcheries) and in different locations by inspiring Bangladeshi youth to start small, context specific local businesses that serve as micro private energy utility service to make these systems sustainable after installation. The initiative will bring together investors, component sellers and market facilitators to provide an incubation platform supporting the next generation of energy entrepreneurs in Bangladesh to get a strong foothold in the energy business and create self-employment opportunities in hard to reach rural areas. At its initial phase, the initiative will identify, screen and “bootcamp” interested entrepreneurs building their entrepreneurial, technical and management skills to design, develop community-based micro-utility service in rural Bangladesh. iDE considers community participation to the design of this model as the cornerstone to promote a participatory design approach between community and business as the micro-grids would have to be managed and administered by a local micro-entrepreneur in close collaboration with the community. The success of the platform will be measured by the number of entrepreneurs who graduate out of the training program and continue towards the establishment of micro-grid services.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

The beneficiaries of this incubator are members of off-grid rural communities and households in Bangladesh along with existing small agricultural businesses, their employees, and their households, these include: Category A, End users: Rural poor off-grid households. They typically have under USD 120 per month income and comprise a family size of 5.3 per household. Micro Entrepreneurs: They are mostly rural agriculture based entrepreneurs, with an income of less than USD 200 per month with a staff size of under 5. Category B, Energy Entrepreneur and energy anchor hubs: Small and Medium Entrepreneurs (SMEs): Energy anchor hubs such as a local enterprise usually has an income of USD 2,000 per month and employ 10 to 15 local labors. Energy entrepreneurs: Young enterprising educated rural or peri-urban youth, interested to start their own business.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Some might stop at the product and service but we don’t -- we are always looking for ways to facilitate market growth further while leveraging and building on successful programming which has scaled and been user-designed, tested, and proven with individuals and communities. With the proposed initiative, iDE brings a proven yet innovative clean energy technology offering rural off-grid households in Southern Bangladesh a transformational service and augments that with a community-based “energy-as-a-service” business model which seeks to utilize the power of local business and create scalable solution - going far beyond discreet interventions to a systemic change in how rural households access and utilize energy. Such level of market transformation requires multi-stakeholder partnerships deeply rooted in institutional trust and cooperation. With over 37 years in Bangladesh, iDE has a strong reputation in facilitating market based interventions while co-designing with all actors.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Initial Design: I am exploring the idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL) iDE is a global effort that spans offices in 14 countries, encompassing 4 social enterprises, employing over 1,000 people directly, and indirectly enabling many more through our market-based approaches in agriculture; water, sanitation, and hygiene; and finance. Our Mission: iDE creates income and livelihood opportunities for poor rural households.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

Mamun has become a self-styled local advocate for clean energy and his continued engagement with the community has helped increase his credibility tremendously. The improvements that the community has witnessed after the electric lines were connected is often directly attributed to him. This dramatic change in relationships with his neighbors and the positive economic impact (for both Mamum & the community). Building bridges in communities requires simple innovations grounded in local solutions.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Despite Bangladesh’s recent graduation to middle income country, poverty remains entrenched in rural areas, especially in the Southern Coastal belts. More than 24.3% of the households are under the poverty threshold and only one incident away from slipping back into extreme poverty, in areas that is under constant threat of volatile coastal weather. These rural households have very limited livelihoods options. Rising above this debilitating poverty often means taking advantage of any resource that they have - where access to resource smart technologies often means the difference between eating or not. A major cause of poverty in rural area is unemployment or underemployment, especially amongst youth - creating frustration, conflict and other negative coping behaviors -- conflict often occurs. Political affiliation at the community or household level determines one’s access to limited and scarce public resources further marginalizing those with little access or influence.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

HEAR phase: iDE will partner with a number of firms that can provide the following design inputs: (1) Inputs for independent power production and sales from a policy and compliance perspective such as Bangladesh Independent Power Producer Association, Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority; (2) inputs for the design of technical and enterprise training for private energy utility services; and (3) media partners for designing the awareness campaigns for the incubation platform; CREATE phase: iDE will invite 3-4 key firms to be part of the incubation platform. The firms will be selected based on their ability to partner with the program in one of the following strategic priority: (1) Technical design & component sourcing for micro-grids (2) Access to financial services for micro-grid/ enterprises; and, (3) technical capacity trainers for entrepreneurs DELIVER phase: iDE will create a project governance committee comprising of key stakeholders for advisory & policy.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

As we see with Mamun, with the right product and opportunities, individuals can be the bridge for change in their communities and society. And as we have seen for the past three decades, rural Bangladeshis are incredibly entrepreneurial, resilient, and open to the possibility of trying and adopting new products and services in order to generate income for themselves and to grow the market in their communities. In our working areas, women and youth are even more hungry for these opportunities.

Geographic Focus

We will focus on the rural areas in the Southern Coastal belts of Bangladesh.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

HEAR phase: 6 months CREATE phase: 12 month DELIVER phase: 6 months

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No


Join the conversation:

Photo of Amelia Phillips

Hi Abby- Really interesting work you are doing. I was wondering, does your program help locals come up with ideas of how to solve energy issues in their communities or does iDE come up with the ideas and help the local community implement?

Photo of Abby Nydam


Great question! In iDE's view the traditional model of development (the second option you referenced) has not been working. We use a Human Centered Design approach to development was means we work alongside local communities to help them address their challenges. While we might provide technical expertise and have worked in Bangladesh for many years, we do not claim to have the answers. We empower people to solve their own issues by using the HCD framework and presenting options. For more on HCD -

I hope that answered your question. Happy to chat more!

Photo of Amelia Phillips

Hi Abby- Totally agree. We use a very similar approach with our work with impact entrepreneurs coming from low-income areas in Nairobi ( Would love to learn more about your model and share learning. Let me know if you're free for a skype call, my email is

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