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The E-Cube

An energy, enterprise and empowerment Hub for rural women in Bundelkhand, India

Photo of Kanika Verma
16 22

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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

People in rural India have been “dis-emPowered”. They have lost control over depleting resources and cannot tap alternative sources of energy. Their basic needs remain unmet and growing aspirations unfulfilled. Women and children carry the burden of this poverty of choice - deprived of benefits that could accrue from improved access to energy and greater influence within the village economy. Our solution, “The E-Cube” – Energy, Enterprise and Empowerment Hub for Rural Women, combines the potential of technology with institutional processes to create a service delivery mechanism that brings clean, green energy to people’s doorsteps. In doing so, TARA intends to put control of a 21st century resource – renewable energy - in the hands of rural women, making them strong and self-reliant. They will, in turn, prioritize the well-being of their children, themselves and their families to realize new, environmentally benign, economic opportunities and radically transform the quality of life in Indian villages. In the Bundelkhand region, one of the most power starved areas, it has been extremely difficult to find women engaging strongly in livelihood opportunities beyond either basic jobs or as a support to their husband. Here, most solutions designed for energy access still look at women as passive users. In this context, indirect economic benefits take their own course and in a lot of cases are cross-generational. Thus access to energy needs to be part of a broader economic empowerment strategy that simultaneously addresses the productive use of electricity and enables women to spend their extra time on becoming economically empowered.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Women are the target group of TARA’s proposed intervention. They are often the primary managers and users of energy in households. With an aim to empower rural women to be able to define and make choices for themselves & their children, the project’s approach includes: • Creating technology-backed energy & enterprise hub owned & run by women, water-purification, clean energy & health diagnostic centers designed to include deep-rooted social processes (e.g. cow shed as a centre) & removing mobility barriers (through early learning centers for children) • Empowering young girls & women by developing entrepreneurial, professional & life skills by making them ‘invest in themselves’ for economic & social development • Addressing intersection between women empowerment, basic needs fulfillment and income enhancement by not only building capacities & hand-holding for the energy hub but also the renewable energy-powered local enterprises contributing to stable revenue for the women-led hub

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

The ingeniousness of our solution lies in capitalizing upon the synergy between gender and energy to reshape development options available to rural communities. It is an example of social innovation as it seeks to fulfill the apparently conflicting objectives of economic viability (essential to sustainability& social inclusion) (essential for benefits to reach the marginalized segments, particularly women). This is done through an infrastructure development and capacity building model that combines resources from philanthropic sources, private investment and social capital. The energy services model proposed by TARA is unique in that it recognizes the dual roles of people in village communities – as producers and consumers. It uses electricity to put money “into people’s pockets”; cash that can be used to pay for not just lighting but improved nutrition, health care, education, entertainment and other needs.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Prototype: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

The Society for Technology & Action for Rural Advancement (TARA) is an 'incubation engine' of the Development Alternatives Group which has been providing development solutions in India and elsewhere. Its mission is to build capacity, incubate business models and manage processes to create economic, social and environmental value on a large scale. Website: www. tara.in

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.

There isn’t one story, but hundreds that have inspired us to start this project. TARA has worked with women’s groups for over two decades on issues as basic as literacy to more advanced development needs such as a secure income, sanitation, housing and participation in local governance. The lack of access to energy has repeatedly been seen to be a major impediment to overall well-being. In this project, we see an epoch-defining opportunity to create 'prosperity' and take care of our 'planet'.

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

TARA’s selected topic areas are “Prosperity” and “Planet”. Our Theory of Change places women at the centre of change processes. We envisage there being central actors in transformation of the communities. The process of change aims to address in an integrated manner, the challenges that arise from the lack of energy. Hence, an energy centric “technology and process based empowerment model” is proposed where conditions that promote gender equality, basic need fulfillment and economic empowerment are created. The underlying premise is that solidarity among women serves as the backbone of a ”constructive community” and their ability to effect change is strengthened when they become an integral part of the energy service delivery mechanism.

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

Stakeholders at several levels will be involved in implementation of the proposed project and monitoring its progress. TARA's decades of experience in this region have enabled it to form and engage with a strong institutional network of community groups. The involved groups and their roles are as follows: a) Women in SHGs will: - Form an energy committee to manage the energy hub and manage sales and distribution of electricity, cook stoves/fuel and water purification solutions. They will also monitor customer experience through the e-platform b) Women in the federation will be: - The owner of the assets and responsible for management of the clusters, ensuring payment collection and financial audits of SHGs c) Village community, represented by a Panchayat subcommittee, will: - Help contextualise and build the model for basic needs and capacity-building through participatory planning d) New and local business owners will: - Serve to validate the tarriff packages and energy demand

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

Bundelkhand has always had an unforgiving climate and terrain, and is often drought-hit. Despite this, women, who are involved in agriculture and animal-rearing, have demonstrated themselves to be extremely resilient and resourceful, open to navigating various challenges. The community is also served by TARA's extensive network of community organisations, with 10,000 self-help groups in the area. The readiness of the local women to engage with these institutions will ensure project efficacy.

Geographic Focus

Bundelkhand, India, a region that spans parts of the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

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

The project will require 18 to 24 months to implement and bring to a stage where women will be able to manage day to day operations on their own.

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

  • No

16 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Spam
Photo of Animesh Prakash
Team

This is a wonderful idea. Just wanted to share, that time and gain, it has been proved, that a lot of change can happen, through women's empowerment and entrepreneurship. All the best to you!

Spam
Photo of Kanika Verma
Team

Thank You so much Animesh Prakash for your kind words and showing an interest in our project.

Spam
Photo of David / Thomas Svarrer / Høyer
Team

Yes, this is very very true. In Africa where I have been for like 20 years, it is such here - this is the common knowledge:

If you give any support to a Kenyan man, chances are 90% that he will squander the money, and spend a little corner of it to create some makeshift lookalike of what he promised to do.

If you give the same support to a Kenyan woman, 90% of the women actually do what they agreed to do, and in case they did not understand, you will see them make strides and effort to do what they promised to do.

One can only wonder why it is like that...

Spam
Photo of David / Thomas Svarrer / Høyer
Team

Hi Kanika,
Yes, as Azra Ismail, please elaborate here in the comments on how you see this implemented?
Sincerely
Rational Intuitive IVS
Thomas / David

Spam
Photo of Kanika Verma
Team

Dear Thomas/David,
Please refer to the comments for further clarification on the implementation.

Thank You

Spam
Photo of David / Thomas Svarrer / Høyer
Team

We have read the proposals and the comments, and we have seen some ideas or high level descriptions of what is intended implemented, but we are not seeing any particulars, or details in regards to actions to be taken, for this to be implemented.

Maybe the words we read and the intent behind them could be different, so let me elaborate on an example:

You write:
"In this phase of conceptualization, the management along with a few key expert resources will give concrete shape to the “end states” the program aims to achieve at both the project and ecosystem levels. "

We think this sounds very commendable, however, it is difficult for us to see, what it is, you intend to do. It appears a bit as if you intend to do the planning later? So we cannot understand what it would be, that we would be investing in, if we were investors. We, on our side do solar concentrator systems, and it appears as if we could work together with your good project, however, we cannot find the "taps" or the cugs on the cugwheel??

Example 2: You write
"The management and operations of these micro grid facilities will be handed over to SGHs by developing their operational and management capacity. "

We again think this looks like the overall, general, managerial way to do it, however we are not getting the details of it - now - it is naturally not always possible to go into all necessary detail during the description phase - so that is why we are requesting you to elaborate (a lot) on how you intend, practically, to go about this?

Example 3: You write
"The Capitalization Phase will be a major milestone where the experiences and learning from the program’s rollout and implementation would be consolidated and converted into assets, which could, in a future ‘Expansion Phase’, be deployed to replicate successful models"

Here we would indeed like to hear what is the plan, the details, for doing so? How do you intend to consolidate the experiences and learning? We are pretty sure that you have quite some detailed ideas as to how you would like to do this, and we are very curious to hear more about this. Because: If you describe steps, means, methods, systems, models which we are partly or fully confident with, then we would like to propose how we could maybe work with your project too.

Sincerely
David / Thomas
Rational Intuitive IVS
Nexus 7 Solar Concentrator 

Spam
Photo of Tuba Naziruddin
Team

Hi Kanika Verma thanks for sharing your idea. It is unique and bridges a very important problem. Would love to see an implementation plan or more on the prototype of the E cube as the challenge progresses.

Spam
Photo of Kanika Verma
Team

Phase 1-The Inception Phase: Months 1-6
In this phase of conceptualization, the management along with a few key expert resources will give concrete shape to the “end states” the program aims to achieve at both the project and ecosystem levels.
Phase-2
The first part of the Implementation Phase will see a rollout of the pilot sites in the
selected clusters wherein ESCOs will set up power plants. The management and operations of these micro grid facilities will be handed over to SGHs by developing their operational and management capacity. Over the decades of its existence, TARA has set up over 320 enterprises using market validated technology and solutions. The TARA Energy and Revenue Management System (TERMS), supplies high quality electricity with smart ‘cloud enabled’ load limiters, that reduce power thefts and manpower costs. It consists of a centralized dashboard that provides real time data to monitor business performance and as well asa consumer management mobile application.


Phase-3
The Capitalization Phase will be a major milestone where the experiences and learning from
the program’s rollout and implementation would be consolidated and converted into assets,
which could, in a future ‘Expansion Phase’, be deployed to replicate successful models. In the 36th month, a major evaluation exercise will be conducted not only to reconfirm
program’s relevance but also to measure outcomes against targets set forth during the Inception Phase.

TARA itself plans to scale the proposed model by a factor of at least ten times (300 villages,
100,000 households). Further, TARA envisages a sustainable, commercial “Multiplication” phase in which the
model will be adopted by ESCOs and NGOs through widespread dissemination of knowledge
transfer tools to reach out to thousands of villages. As mentioned before, a reshaped
national/global energy agenda will create breakthrough opportunities for transforming
development policy and practice and role of women in energy management.

Spam
Photo of bikash gurung
Team

Hi Kanika Verma , thanks for sharing your proposal. I loved your multi dimensional proposal,
Would love to learn a little bit more about you, how you came to this solution and why? What small prototypes or tests have you run so far and what have you learned or do you want to learn in the next couple months.

Looking forward to learning more!

Spam
Photo of Kanika Verma
Team

Kanika Verma leads the Sustainable Enterprise Domain of the Development Alternatives Group. She is an applied economist by training and ran her own financial investment firm in U.S.A. for seven years prior to joining Technology and Action for Rural Advancement. Her current areas of focus include piloting a social innovation platform (action and learning) to boost job growth for women and youth in India with support from International NGO’s; scaling up micro-enterprise development in villages being provided electricity through solar micro-grids.
TARA has rich experience in basic needs delivery and demonstrating energy as a catalyst for socio-economic change in communities. While effective service delivery has been a thematic priority, women are at the center of most interventions based on the belief that- women have the potential to change their lives, those of their children and their families. TARAurja is currently operating 20 solar power micro grids, serving 1600 customers in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. TARAurja also has demonstrated experience in this field through years of work in this field. Established in 2013, TARAurja is an operational business unit incubated under
TARA for the deployment and management of renewable energy based mini grids.
It enables communities to adopt solar and biomass energy solutions in off grid villages. TARAurja is currently operating 220 solar power micro grids, serving up to 1600 customers across Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, which incidentally are the two most power starved states of India. They are doing this using an innovative distribution and revenue management system (TERMS) to spark local economic development while also influencing social change.
The proposed project will be implemented in a phase wise manner, which is as follows:
The Future- Phase 1-The Inception Phase: Months 1-6
In this phase of conceptualization, the management along with a few key expert resources will give concrete shape to the “end states” the program aims to achieve at both the project and ecosystem levels.
Phase-2
The first part of the Implementation Phase will see a rollout of the pilot sites in the
selected clusters wherein ESCOs will set up power plants. The management and operations of these micro grid facilities will be handed over to SGHs by developing their operational and management capacity. Over the decades of its existence, TARA has set up over 320 enterprises using market validated technology and solutions. The TARA Energy and Revenue Management System (TERMS), supplies high quality electricity with smart ‘cloud enabled’ load limiters, that reduce power thefts and manpower costs. It consists of a centralized dashboard that provides real time data to monitor business performance and as well asa consumer management mobile application.


Phase-3
The Capitalization Phase will be a major milestone where the experiences and learning from
the program’s rollout and implementation would be consolidated and converted into assets,
which could, in a future ‘Expansion Phase’, be deployed to replicate successful models. In the 36th month, a major evaluation exercise will be conducted not only to reconfirm
program’s relevance but also to measure outcomes against targets set forth during the Inception Phase.

TARA itself plans to scale the proposed model by a factor of at least ten times (300 villages,
100,000 households). Further, TARA envisages a sustainable, commercial “Multiplication” phase in which the
model will be adopted by ESCOs and NGOs through widespread dissemination of knowledge
transfer tools to reach out to thousands of villages. As mentioned before, a reshaped
national/global energy agenda will create breakthrough opportunities for transforming
development policy and practice and role of women in energy management.

Spam
Photo of Vidhya Shanker
Team

The Sierra Leone Foundation for New Democracy would like to offer our solidarity and support. Please let us know how Ta-Valema Learning Lab and the E-cube can work together.

Spam
Photo of Kanika Verma
Team

Thank you so much for sharing interest in our project, please contact me at kverma@devaltorg.org or jmkoushik@devalt.org

Spam
Photo of Azra Ismail
Team

Hi Kanika,

This is a wonderful idea! Love how you are incorporating different components to empower women and effect community-wide economic and social change. Do you have more details on what this technology and green energy system would look like? Is this something you have developed or are planning to develop or is this in collaboration with partners?

Spam
Photo of Kanika Verma
Team

TARAurja, is currently operating 220 solar power micro grids, serving 1600 customers in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar using innovative distribution and revenue management systems to spark local
economic development͝ also influencing social changes such as e-learning
center for women and setting up a fuel pellet making unit for using agri-waste.

TARA as an organization has over the decades of its existence has set up countless enterprises using already existing technology.

Spam
Photo of Irene Márquez
Team

Dear Kanina Verma,

We find your proposal very interesting as it tries to change the role of women in society. It is definitely a paradigm that needs to be changed. We love how you are trying to empower women, by giving them the tools to become actively involved in their community, while addressing an issue that worries us all: the responsible use of energy.

We would love to learn how you are planning on coaching these girls and women. Have you thought of training a few women first and then have these trainees teach their peers? Or maybe you are counting with the help of more people and so you would be the ones carrying out these training lessons.

Thank you. We wish you the best of luck with your project.

Spam
Photo of Kanika Verma
Team

We envisage making women the central actors in the transformation of communities and actively promoting gender equality. TARA aims to create enabling conditions for women to control and run the decentralized renewable energy service chain. TARA aims to empower young women and girls holistically by developing entrepreneurial, professional and life skills by making them investing their own self. We plan on putting in the hands of rural women control of a 21st Century resource- renewable energy. TARA also plans on holding “Literacy to Self-Reliance” projects in which women attained literacy, as well as enhanced their livelihood opportunities.