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Give More Power to The People! (Updated 8 Feb - user flow experiment! and referral model)

We crowd fund solar projects so that energy savings can be invested to support broader community aspirations, from creating employment for people recovering from homelessness, through to scholarships for organic farmers. If you have a social mission, we can solar power it. We are creating a hub and spoke network of people spanning the globe, with volunteers on the ground identifying solar projects and community needs and using The People's Solar to finance them from a global community, while tracking and celebrating community development outcomes. (updated visual below with trial infographic, strategy map and business model planning - Huge thank you to Deirdre and the IDEO team!)

Photo of Tosh Szatow
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(updated 6th Feb with more defined plan and value proposition)

The What:
we have built the web-platform and model to create Solar Power for the People - check out www.thepeoplessolar.com. For every dollar donated to a solar project, as much as $4 can be re-invested to support community-based iniatives. The community decides what's important, and it's the community need that drives the fundraising.

The Why: by tying the financial benefits of solar power, to community-based needs, the appeal of clean energy is broadened to include those who are not motivated by environmental goals. This addresses the single largest barrier to clean energy (apathy/unwillingness to pay for environmental gains) and is critical to accelerating uptake of clean energy, particularly in regions of the world where environmental protection is a low priority. As far as we know, this model is unique globally.

Growing Impact: to leverage the attention crowdfunding brings to a cause, we are creating partnerships with clean electricity providers and solar companies in Australia, so that people can win rewards for our projects by purchasing clean energy, or solar power at home. This grows our ecosystem of influence, amplifies the uptake of clean energy, and enhances our revnue model.

What does success look like? Success looks like a massive volume of clean energy projects getting done every day, either directly through our platform, or by inspiration we give others to act. We will achieve this by creating exceptional value for everyone in our ecosystem, from communities doing projects, through to donors (big and small), solar companies in our supply chain, and clean electricity providers.

Our values guide our projects: Our passion is for tackling social justice and environmental challenges with creative, commercially viable solutions. We combine entrprenurial energy with social intelligence to stay agile, disciplined and grounded in our broader purpose.

We focus on crowd funding solar projects that create euality of opportunity, through training, education or simply access to important services. Key markets include schools and education institutions, social and public housing, and regional communities more broadly where social disadvantaged can become entrenched due to low incomes, and/or lack of access to opportunities.

We also place a high value on combining environmental and social outcomes, for example, creating work opportunities in sustainable energy/water/food industries for socially disadvantaged people, 

Strategic partners (update - see visualistion of partner categories)
  • Philanthropic organisations that are seeking to create ongoing support for community-based programs, rather than providing a one-off donation; 
  • Ethical investment funds that will allocate a portion (say 5%) of it’s capital for social return only via our projects; 
  • Government bonds that tie investment to delivery of social outcomes, such as training and employment for marginalised people
Refinement: what we learnt (update 8th Feb)

We have learnt that we need help with communication and systems! But seriously, our background is in energy and projects - the getting it done on the ground bit. With the right people around us that can bring what we do to life, and help us build systems around our projects that mean we get the most out of them, we are really confident we can grow and scale to achieve high impcat. We are learning how to do this bit by bit, and are confident we could really accelerate our learning and growth with the right support. Thank you openIDEO team!!
 

What community does this idea benefit and who are the main players?

The platform can benefit any community, anywhere in the world. Currently we focus on creating solar projects that help address food security, sustainable food production, and social equity issues. For example, we are working with a farmer to crowd fund a solar project, so that energy savings can be invested in an organic farming scholarship. We also have a project where energy savings will be invested in training and employment creation for people living in social housing. We find people give to our projects because of the broader community benefit, not just because it's solar power. For example, if a village in Africa needed secure funding to help run a school, we could crowd fund an solar/off-grid energy solution, saving them money, so they can invest savings to support the school. In this way, the model can be adapted to community needs anywhere in the world.

How does your idea specifically help your community rapidly transition to renewables?

The People's Solar gives people control and autonomy over their energy futures, so they no longer have to rely on governments or businesses to do the right thing, or provide financial support for renewable energy. This accelerates the speed of transition, and takes control away from incumbent interests that may try to slow down the speed of change. By linking the benefits of solar power to broader community needs, a broader base of financial support can be reached, helping to accelerate the transition to renewables. (update: note, we can crowd fund other renewable energy technologies, subject to them being the most appropriate and cost-effective for a given situation, and have projects in our pipeline that include off grid energy systems for remote communities in Australia)

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

We have already delivered three projects and have shown the model works. We have a growing pipeline of projects in excess of 100kW across Victoria, Australia and would love to scale our model globally. We have found the key to successfully fundraising for projects, is to engage people directly "on the ground", and to leverage social networks. Most people give because they know and trust their money is going to deliver an outcome they value. Some people give as more of a faith based act of generosity, but they are in the minority (we estimate 20% for our projects so far). (Update - we are currently conducting experiments with our revenue model. We are starting to earn revenue through referrals/sales of solar systems to households, with leads generated by our platform. We are also starting to switch people to a clean electricity retailer, to earn extra cash for our projects, and referral fees for us)

What skills, input or guidance are you keen to connect with from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

We are open to ideas! Some conversation starters below (update - that you so much to Deirdre for her insightful thoughts and great sketches that have neatly summed up some of our strategic partnership and business model options! - check our visualisation section) (updated - we have also had a go at infographics, and have developed some templates to help us streamline data gathering, so we can measure and report on our impact. Thanks Meena!!) We would love some help with developing some really tight processes around measuring and reporting on the social impact we are having in communities, and ideally integrating that with our web platform so that the data gathering and reporting is seamless. For example, it would be amazing if we could send the people we have done projects with a form to fill out to document the impact of our solar project, with data gathered being represented on our website visually in some way, so that people can see the impact our projects are having in real-time. We would also love some help with identifying and developing the right strategic partnerships globally with NGO’s and philanthropic groups, including those that have relationships “on the ground” with communities that can leverage our model.

Please indicate which type of energy is most relevant to this post:

  • Solar

This idea emerged from:

  • An Individual

80 comments

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Photo of Dan Whittet
Team

What if communities had a system of "energy credits" for involvement in community supportive projects of any kind? Composting, Street Sweeping, Food Co Op or Awareness projects would be compensated with a card system for energy which could be withdrawn either from a micro grid, "solar power on public buildings for example" and/or vehicle charging stations? You get back what you put in and it pays a benefit to the community in both directions??

Photo of Aaron Sebesta
Team

Looks great Tosh - great job on the additional diagrams and visuals! I like the referral revenue model - i think that that adds significantly to the entire value chain without extracting any value from the end users. As long as it's transparently communicated I think it's a great model to test.

The consulting model is certainly an interesting one as well - plenty of fortunes have been made consulting/assisting otherwise free or socially beneficial efforts, and given the experience of your team that may be something you can capitalize on.

Are there any MVPs (Minimum Viable Products http://theleanstartup.com/principles) that you can use to determine which revenue model is most attractive (or if possibly both can coincide)?

Keep up the great work - finding a viable economically sustainable model is one of the biggest challenges facing social/environmental enterprises, but it's a challenge worth pursuing and will have lasting impact!

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

Was just looking over your desire to report of social impact of your exciting ventures. Although you'd still need to figure out *what* you could ask via surveys then actually put effort into nudging folks to report back (perhaps focusing energy on lead users), a tool like Pictochart could be a great way to them visualise this info so that you could let everyone know: http://piktochart.com I'm guessing you cold then send out these impact infographics to your database via email campaigns (like via MailChimp), Facebook, etc – and also use customised versions as a business development tool when communicating with potential partners. I wonder what other tools the OpenIDEO community can suggest around social impact reporting – or great examples they've seen from other projects?

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

During our Refinement phase, you might even try out a hypothetical infographic (via Pictochart or another platform) to have a go at visualising impact too see how it resonates with others here. Refinement is a time to get active and try things out :^)

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

awesome Meena. I just hacked an infographic! Needs work but love what pictochart can do

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

Nice one! Really like how that visualisation makes the benefits shine. Feels like this kind of tool could really help with creating high-impact outreach communications. Be sure to add something about your experiment with this to the text on your post so that when your idea is evaluated post-Refinement that it's really clear what you've tried out and what you've learnt.

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

awesome, thanks Meena. Have gone through and clarified some updates. Exciting times!

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

Awesome updates. Exciting indeed!

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

In fact we've just selected your post as a Featured Contribution! Were loving that you're extending your thinking and approach through participating on OpenIDEO. Next step could be to try out a User experience Map or 2 for some of your partners / potential end users. Here's a template: http://ideo.pn/user-exp – though feel free to sketch things up from scratch if that's easier. And check out further inspiration from the Windshed User Experience Map: https://openideo.com/challenge/renewable-energy/refinement/windshed-community-data-sharing-to-save-renewable-energy Creating User Experience Maps helps us really dig into the human-centered approach of an idea. Bring it on!

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

eek! was planning to have a break a small break this weekend with the kids. Will try to have a crack asap!

Photo of Joanna Spoth
Team

It's the last weekend before Refinement ends – Go Tosh Go! :)

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

Get the kids to help you! We bet they're great sketchers :^)

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

Hi Meena, Joanna, is there anything you can see I should be focusing on in these final moments? Huge thank you for your feedback and encouragement to date

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

We're amped with your progress and plans, Tosh! Whether or not ideas in Refinement get selected as Top Ideas in the next phase – we always recommend that you keep refining, responding to feedback and iterating towards impactful outcomes. The real winners will always be end users who are impacted by the inspiring ideas and collaborative strides folks make here on OpenIDEO.

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

Thanks Meena, very true. It's been great to get some fresh eyes on this and we are inspired to ramp up big time this year

Photo of Andreas Karelas
Team

Hi Tosh, very cool idea you've got here! I love that you are reinvesting the solar savings into community projects. We are also moving forward with solar crowdfunding and community-based initiatives. Check out our idea at https://openideo.com/challenge/renewable-energy/refinement/a-revolving-fund-for-solar-energy and let us know if you have any feedback or ideas for collaboration!

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

Hi Andrea, great stuff, there is a project in Oz doing the same kind of thing called CORENA. I think your great strength is that it has obvious, strong appeal to those engaged in clean energy. The weakness is that it might be hard to appeal to a broader audience - i.e. people that aren't necessarily excited by clean energy. I think we need to be trying everything, so what you are doing is great and I hope it continues to grow.

Photo of Andreas Karelas
Team

Hi Tosh, yes I've actually been in touch with CORENA for some time now. Very exciting work! I agree, our model is focused on people who care about clean energy. And so in your case are you raising money primarily from the people within the community your serving? Thanks for the feedback, and good luck with this excellent work!

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

Hi Andrea, yes we raise our funds from "communities of interest" as well as communities of geography. For example, we have a project at the moment with a social housing provider, where energy savings will be invested to provide training and employment for tenants - so we raised funds from people that care about social equity/opportunity for example. Our theory is that these niche communities of interest can give us broader appeal than appealing to clean energy benefits only, but we will see. All the best to you too

Photo of Shuting Zeng
Team

Hello Tosh! Saying hi again...should have come and said congrats earlier but got drowned in things! I love the updates of your idea! And now we are working on our P2P lending idea too and talking about many different financial models. What came to my mind the other day is comparing crowd-funding and P2P lending! And I wonder what is your opinion! I read a bit online and feel like crowdfunding has more investing factor in it while P2P lending focuses more on the need to give financial support to finish a project. Do you think I am understanding it right? And wonder if your crowdfunding projects have proved to be quite low-risk? Would be great if you can tell us how you have been doing risk control! I hope to see this project win and get funded! Keep me updated! - Shuting

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

Hi Shuting, I think crowd funding is inherently more scalable, because for P2P, or some other investment model, the need to do complete diligence over the project and financial administration becomes a burden. crowd funding puts more risk on the people that donate, but i think with social feedback we can control for that nicely - a bit like ebay perhaps. We won't know how effective our risk control is for another 5 years or so, because time will be the test...

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

Hi Folks, check it out! I hacked an infographic and have uploaded to the "make it visual" section. Let me know what you think - the good, bad and ugly.

Photo of Natalie Lake
Team

Hi Tosh,

Really love the infographic and updates. I think it is a great inforgraphic but since you guys are looking for feedback here are some tiny things I noticed. It is a little bit hard to read (because we cannot zoom here on OpenIDEO) but I do not think this will be an issue if we had a pdf version for example. Also are you guys the People's Solar or the People's solar? What if you guys changed the middle section with the top section. That way it reads your goals, your goals explained, your results when reading top to bottom? Also I'd love to see your guys' little yellow flag logo down in the corner, perhaps with some contact information? I suppose this might not be necessary dependent on how you will be using these infographics though.

For other strategic partnerships, have you guys thought about working with groups like Engineers with Borders or even Doctors without Borders? EWB groups often work on projects such as installing solar panels for a town etc, and Doctors without Borders could benefit from equipment like solar suitcases which they could then donate to the community after teaching them how to use the equipment.

http://www.ewb-usa.org/

http://wecaresolar.org/solutions/solar-suitcase/

And then, you guys are already coordinating with Peace Corps now :). I hope things are going well with Patrick and Carlos! I saw Patrick's awesome proposal and I hope you guys end up working together :). Awesome updates! Cannot wait to see more from your team!

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

Thanks Natalie! Yes, love EWB, they are in Australia too and do great work. We will definitely reach out to them as we scale up. Really excited about getting the project up and running with Patrick and co too, our first international project !! :) Love it.

Photo of Carles Guerrero Santiago
Team

Hi Tosh, congrats on the idea and your first prototypes.

Can you please help me define, in one sentence, what tPS is?

May we refer to it as "A crowd funding platform where people choose to fund communities to help them build greener/renewable solutions. The (expected) benefits are reinvested within the community in shape of social projects/initiatives.

The benefit for the investor is "only" the satisfaction and proof of commitment with the Community (besides the tax benefits)".

+ is tPS for-profit?
+ What professional profiles are involved and what kind of knowledge do they need?
+ How are the professionals working behind paid? What are the plans?

Thank you

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

Hi Carles, I think "We crowd fund solar projects so that energy savings can be invested to support broader community aspirations" probably somes it up simplest.

The benefits for people that give are primary the satisfaction/joy of giving, yes, but if they live in the community where the solar project is, they may benefit directly also.

For example, we have done projects with schools, where savings will be invested to support the children, and naturally parents/families will benefit from that.

TPS is a social enterprise, we will become a certified B-Corp this year. It is run by myself and my business partner Alex Houlston. We have 15 years combined experience on some of Australia's most innovative energy projects, and so cover the technical/commercial/management side.

The main area of knowledge/assistance we need is around digital media, and online systems to streamline everything we do, and really amplify our reach. We are learning this stuff as we go.

We run a seperate company, called "energy for the people", which is where we earn a living. Our plan is to make TPS financially sustainable this year, and we are starting to execute plans around that including getting paid when we switch people to a green electricity provider, and for generating referrals for standard solar systems bought by the general public (i.e not directly through our projects). We are also working on a plan to gain support from corporations that have mutually reinforcing goals

Photo of Carles Guerrero Santiago
Team

Thank you Tosh.

Regarding your deep market experience, how scalable you see your project to go abroad?
Is international expansion within your mid-run plans?

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

Hi Carles, we see no issue with going international. In fact we have an international project that should go live within a month or so in Peru. It came about during the idea phase on this competition. We will grow as quickly as we can, so yes, international projects are part of that trajectory

Photo of Carles Guerrero Santiago
Team

Congrats then! Keep us posted on how this Peru project goes and what cultural clashes arise, my team and I will be very interested.

Photo of Finch McKevitt
Team

Have had an idea im not sure if its already created or what but here it goes. My idea is to use the natural flow of rivers and to put a turbine in the water and the flow of the river will keep it continuously rotating around creating a never ending supply of energy? Would like to know your thoughts!!?????

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

Hi Finch, that is called "run of river hydro" and is a great option where a running river is nearby. It can work out quite cheap and reliable... so good idea!

Photo of Finch McKevitt
Team

Haha knew that felt too good to be true! This is my last stab at it! What about a kettle that you only have to plug in once then there is built in turbines which turn with heat from the steam making it have enough power to boil another pot so once you boil it once it no longer needs the assistance of a plug it becomes self powered and every time you boil it it generates enough power for the next?

Photo of Aaron Sebesta
Team

Hey Finch - check out this other OpenIDEO project for river turbines! https://openideo.com/challenge/renewable-energy/refinement/underwater-dam-free-turbine-local-and-renewable-electricity-production-for-cold-storage-facilities

Photo of Finch McKevitt
Team

Cheers bud. What about the kettle idea is that any use?

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

Sorry Finch, the laws of thermodynamics are against you. It will take more energy to boil the kettle than you can extract.

Photo of Finch McKevitt
Team

Lol im done. Cheers anyway

Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Congratulations on making it to the Renewable Energy Challenge Refinement list, Tosh. We like how your idea empowers community members to support each other in renewable energy goals, that it has a few test projects under it's belt and it’s led by a passionate team. We think the amplification element is huge and the fact that you’re experimenting with a few different financial models shows you’re open to iterating. Looking ahead to the next 12 days of Refinement our team, along with the 11th Hour Project and the advisory panel, has a few suggestions about how we’d love to see your idea evolve. First, we’d like to hear from you specifically how you think the OpenIDEO community can help your idea develop. Where do you hope to be at the end of Refinement? Additionally, while we like the different financial models, we’d like to see you dive into one model, do some experimenting, and create suggestions for what type of model may work better down the road. We’d like to see some strategic thinking around partnerships. Who are the key players in getting this idea off the ground? If you drill down into the financial models and partnerships a bit, we may see some more tangible suggestions come to light during Refinement. Lastly, we’d like to see some clarity around how your idea is different from others in the space. How is it different from organizations like Community Solar? We can’t wait to see this idea continue to develop. Check out more tips for Refinement on our blog: http://bit.ly/oi-refine and http://ideo.pn/rr-refinetips

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

Hello OpenIDEO - refinement take 1 is live! Will keep plugging away at this, and see how we go. Exciting times!

Photo of Aaron Sebesta
Team

Hey Tosh - congrats on being selected for the refinement phase!

As we move into refinement - I think the "Some Unknowns" section in your post is a great place to start! I think several of those questions are fundamentally anchored in your mission and vision for the organization. I think "The Why" section above is really good at explaining why it works, but I'd like to see if you can expand YOUR why. Why is this the project that you've chosen to dedicate time, money, and a ton of energy to every morning? Showing a high degree of passion can be really difficult (it certainly is for me), but I've found that it goes an extremely long way to building camaraderie and excitement. With so many projects demanding support and attention, showing why you care helps others to care too! I also think that why will help you answer the questions of who to work with, how to select partners, and for what outcomes.

Once you have refined/clarified the vision/mission, I'm also confident the OpenIDEO community can help brainstorm ways to prototype solutions many of these unknowns, and point to past successes and experiences!

I'd love to discuss these things further as you work in this phase- let me know how I can help with refinement - we can jump on Skype, or chat here, whatever would be the most help.

Thanks and congrats again!
-Aaron

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

Hi Aaron, thanks for those great insights. I'll jump in and have another crack at refining. Would be good to skype, or do you use Line? I'm not sure of the time differences - where are you based?

Photo of Aaron Sebesta
Team

Hey Tosh - I'm in the US, on MST so you're 18hrs ahead. My email is just my first name . last name at gmail - shoot me a message and let me know when you're available and we can setup a time. Thanks!

Photo of Anja Kantowsky
Team

Tosh, I just added you to the team for a little idea I had:
https://openideo.com/challenge/renewable-energy/ideas/from-excessible-to-accessable-public-plug
Could be one element to make the platform more known in case it rolls out. Neiter a designer nor really part of the renewable energy crowd I am more than happy to see it gain shape.

Photo of Shuting Zeng
Team

I come to say hi again Tosh and hope to share these two websites a friend left on my P2P idea:

https://joinmosaic.com/
http://www.powerhive.com/our-technology/

Maybe we can look at them and share ideas!

Photo of Joanna Spoth
Team

Hi Tosh,

In a similar vein, I recently came across this effort: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/building-community-through-solar and thought you may be interested in pulling some elements from their model. Excited to learn of updates to your idea!

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

Hi Joanna, shuting. We are familiar with those models. We have deliberately structured our model differently, so that the financial benefits of solar have broader appeal beyond clean energy. We believe this will give us the potential to engage a bigger audience. I think i mentioned before we are chipping away at a model that can blend financial and social dividends for investors, but need the right partners for this.

Photo of Aaron Sebesta
Team

Hi Tosh - it's great to see the traction and interest in crowd funded solar! I think you guys have a great model with regards to focusing on funding solar for schools and community groups.

I've been asked by the OpenIDEO team to help mentor ideas, and would love to work with you and The People's Solar team if you'd be interested. I've also included some questions that may help clarify your post/model.

Have you collected any metrics from the projects you've funded (or other local solar projects) on the savings (and community re-investment) the organizations should anticipate, over a certain time period? That may help donors see the impact they're going to have.

One idea for additional "repayment" is through local community projects/training/etc. Agora Partnerships has a great program that I love called Thriive (http://agorapartnerships.org/thriive/) that has a similar repayment model to yours, and could give you some ideas for additional community "re-investment". For example, with Thriive, the organization that receives the capital offers to extend that amount of services "in-kind" back to the community - be it training, donations, etc - whatever the organization produces/specializes in. I could see a similar model with The People's Solar, allowing the organization to host special community events showcasing the funding they've received (raising the profile of your site) and giving back.

I would anticipate a project like this being very community focused - e.g. most of the donors are connected to the organizations they fund - have you found that to be true? If so, I think the measurement of impact will be a big part of reaching scale and generating buzz beyond the early adopters who just love renewables, so I'd love to hear more about what you've been working on for that, and can help brainstorm ideas!

Let me know if you'd be interested in having me help serve as a mentor - look forward to hearing from you!
-Aaron

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

Hi Aaron, yes I'd really appreciate your help, and taking a look at Thriive I can see the overlaps.

We have been developing a framework for measuring our impact, both in terms of bringing people together during the fundraising process, as well as the impact of the community dividend being invested. So this is work in progress.

We try to articulate the impact the community dividend will have as part of the crowd funding and we have been successful with that sort far, but because our oldest project is still only 6months old, we haven't been able to see or measure this in real terms yet.

I definitely see that as the energy savings from projects start to flow and have an impact, it will really help catalyse more projects and support.

We use remote energy monitoring to track how much energy is being produced by our solar projects, and how much money is being saved, so that metric is covered.

We are finding that about 50% of the funding comes from the immediate community, about 50% from a broader audience that we reach through social media and email lists.

Hope that helps clarify a few things for you.

I see our biggest challenge in the short term is becoming financially sustainable, we are starting to build a revenue model, but as you know everything takes time!

All the best,
Tosh

Photo of Monika Shankar
Team

Wow, great project Tosh! I really like what you've proposed based on its impact and simplicity. I was wondering, is there a way by which you could reach a diversity of audiences? Also, would you incorporate any metrics by which you could judge the success of the projects? Looking forward to hearing more about this!

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

Hi monika, we are already reaching quite a diverse audience by nature of the model, it has very broad appeal and application. Re metrics, yes we have been working on an evaluation framework. In fact I'm working on it this morning! Great to have your feedback and interest!

Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Congrats on this post being today's Featured Contribution!

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

Thanks you OpenIdeo. Slowly falling in love with this platform :)

Photo of Joanna Spoth
Team

So glad you're part of the community, Tosh, and can't wait to see how your idea progresses.

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

Hi Joanna, yes I'm still learning about how OpenIDEO works, and looking forward to next phases.

Photo of Shuting Zeng
Team

Just went to your website and found it a great one! Would you like to share with us how you pick projects for crowd-funding, the success rates, the longer-term followup with the project, and generally the growth and change of People's Power?

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

Hi Shuting, we place a high level of trust in organisations we do projects with. If they start asking questions like "do I only have to pay out the social dividend for 5 years?" or "what happens if I don't pay the social dividend" our antennae goes up and we steer clear. So far we have funded three out of three projects. We have been live for about 6 months. We have around ten more projects confirmed to bring online over the next 4 months. In addition we have one 150kW project that is under consideration. If that came off, we would have done about 300kW in our first 12 months. The exciting bit is that we are talking to communities of 200+ people that are looking at crowdfunding much bigger projects like going off the grid, that's when it get's exciting :)

Photo of Shuting Zeng
Team

Hi Josh so I am wondering if the financial mechanism will be different in Australia and America. I am so happy you are interested to incorporate P2P lending into solar energy system. Haha thanks for sharing your "antennae" system. Would you like to share more completely how your credit evaluation system works! It sounds so great!

I went to check out your website again, and love the photography :). Here is a small suggestion: on the "About Us" page, it could be a more vivid and bullet point style layout for the "fees and process." So people will know better what your project does exactly! For example, they may want to know how you find projects, what basic criteria these projects need to meet, how the whole process works. For investors, they may always want to know first what process their money will go through. For potential communities, they want to see the success rates, etc.

Would you want to share the "why, how and what" of the three projects the People's Power funded successfully? I look forward so much to knowing about it!

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

Thanks for the tips Shuting! We are still in "MVP" phase so everything is pretty minimal, but great to have your feedback as we beef things up. We'd like a financial mechanisms that works globally ideally, and given we are australian based, it needs to work in Oz first ideally. But many ways to skin a cat of course!

Why - because people said yes! and we are all just desperate to get on with "the change" rather than waiting for government grants/policies etc.

How - connecting with people, hosting events, promoting with social networks. People give when they trust, and when they care. So we tap into that.

What - all our projects have been 4kW systems, about $8,000 each, with social dividends going towards education/learning opportunities for kids, focused on sustainability (mainly food and ecosystem).

We'd like to keep our credit evaluation as a social contract - if someone commits publicly to spend their energy savings back in the community, the community of donors holds them accountable. We'd like to avoid making it complicated with lawyers. A trust based system is going to be most powerful in the long run we think.

Photo of Shuting Zeng
Team

Hi Tosh,

Thanks for your answers! It sounds so exciting! "Because people said yes"! :) Thanks for sharing the "public commitment" as a way to establish social credit.
Did you get approached by many projects who wanted to get funding? Do you have an evaluation system already to decide what project to be supported first?

I like the website and think minimalist is good!

I have updated my idea to be built upon yours, and make it simple and open to many many changes and ideas. Look forward to your comments on green P2P lending.

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

Hi Shuting. We have about ten more projects in our pipeline. We have a very high success rate - people want to do projects with us. We are developing an evaluation system for monitoring our own performance, as well as choosing projects for our platform. I'll check out your idea - thanks Shuting!

Photo of Natalie Lake
Team

Hi Tosh,

I sent the introductory email! The two guys who are CC'd are part of a committee that I was also part of during my Peace Corps service (ECPA.) ECPA focuses on training other volunteers in renewables/climate change education and then on helping other volunteers implement projects through both grant funding and advice from the experts (the committee hahaha.) Thank you!

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

Thanks Natalia!! Legend.

Photo of Shuting Zeng
Team

Hi Tosh, I am happy to see another financial efforts with renewable energy! Your idea reminded me of a conversation with Diana about technical and organizational sides of a financial NGO. What is the difference between P2P lending and crowdfunding? How should a NGO categorize itself?


I have always been excited about crowdfunding. And I did a brief research on Kickstarter before on their green energy projects. This is the webpage for the Kickstarter green energy projects:
https://www.kickstarter.com/discover/advanced?term=green+energy

Among the 45 projects, not that many got funded. Back then, I was thinking it must be fun and helpful to do some case studies on the failed and successful green energy crowdfunding projects, to just get a feel about what people like and don't like and how we can relate a project to a community/person. Are you interested in going over them with me?


Also, I have been working on a P2P lending for renewable energy after doing a research project on Kiva.org. Later Oriol's Clean Energy Angels and the P2P idea came together and inspired each other!

You can see our ideas here:
https://openideo.com/challenge/renewable-energy/ideas/using-p2p-micro-finance-for-powering-up-renewable-energy-more-evenly

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

Hi Shuting, we class ourselves social enterprise, and will probably become a certified B-Corp to help solidify this. So we are a business, but we have controls in place to make sure it's not all about profit, in fact it's anything but! We'd love to enable P2P lending for projects, or community investments and have been exploring different ways of doing this for about 12 months. We haven't found the right partner for us yet, but continue to look around. I think the focus needs to be on a commercial models that is good for communities first. In some ways the technology/financing mechanism is the easy bit - ensuring people are the ones benefiting the most is the hard bit - that's what we are trying to do

Photo of Shuting Zeng
Team

Again hi Tosh LOL...Yes I felt that your project is a B-Corp which is very nice :) Would you like to share your exploration about different ways to do P2P? I am so excited about it. I wonder if you know Kiva.org well and what you think of different micro-finance models.

Yes Kiva mentioned it too -- it is harder to find the people benefiting the most. I am very curious how you plan to locate your next projects. And as I said before: how did you find the three projects that are already there?

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

Hi Shuting, the short answer is we need a financial services licence, or a partnership with someone that does, to to P2P robustly. So it's finding the right partner that is the key (the right "ethic", someone open to starting small, etc). I know of Kiva, but don't know it inside out if you know what you mean. For example, I've not sure if they have a financial services licence.

We find our projects with word of mouth for now, we aren't doing any specific marketing/promotion other than maintaining a social media presence and getting a bit of media coverage of our projects. We'd like to keep everything social network based, with projects coming that way

Photo of Shuting Zeng
Team

Social media is good way to go Tosh! Hmm the financial services license is a good question. But I don't seem to remember reading that it would be hard for a startup to give financial services. At least in the States it is not that hard. You also mentioned "lawyers issue." Yes but I think that it should be too much legal issue and the important thing is to do it! Have you tested about P2P by asking people if they would consider doing it? Did you compare P2P and crowdfunding before you decided to do crowdfunding?

Photo of Oriol Segarra
Team

Hi Tosh! Your website looks really good, and I think you got in a really good direction. I agree with Shuting that P2P is a great option, I can put you in contact with a cooperative who uses p2p from the members to fund their clean energy projects and then get the energy from their own installations. They are based in Spain, I don´t know the technical financial stuff but maybe the could help you. At the end we are all seeking for the same purpose.

https://www.somenergia.coop/ (in spanish)

One more question about your project: which perks do the funders get when they give money to one project?

Cheers and a lot of energy!

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

Hi Oriol and Shuting we are confident people will invest in our projects. At the moment, none of the donors get any perks beyond the feel good of giving. This is important because intrinsic motivations can be crowded out by extrinsic ones.

We are just waiting to put together the right partnership or structure so that we can do invesment based projects - it has always been in our plan to do this. Oriol - I'ld love an introduction to the spanich co-op you mentioned!

Really appreciate everyone's generous feedback and support
Tosh

Photo of Natalie Lake
Team

Hi Tosh,

This is a super sweet project! Could I suggest putting a link to your guys' website in the above description so that people reading this post can easily find out more about your group?

This seems like a dream project, what sorts of challenges did you guys face with the first three installations? Do you think you could share a brief description (start to finish) of one of your finished projects. It would definitely paint a great picture of how your process works.

Are you guys installing just in Australia or all over the world? If you are interested in all over the world, I know of some Peace Corps volunteers with solar backgrounds in Peru who would love to have their projects crowd funded! I'll be sure to pass along your website url!

This is an awesome initiative and I cannot wait to hear more about your successes!

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

Thanks Natalie! I'll get onto it now. Would love to be put in touch with Peave Corps folks, you can give them my email - contact@thepeoplessolar.com if you like. Thanks again for your support and feedback!

Photo of Natalie Lake
Team

Hi Tosh,

Looking forward to it! I'll send an introductory email as soon as the guys get back to me (we don't always have the best access to internet in the Peace Corps.) Thank you!

Photo of Risa Blumlein
Team

Tosh,

Based on your extensive experience in solar I'd love to hear your thoughts on the viral SBS idea (https://openideo.com/challenge/renewable-energy/ideas/take-solar-viral-pioneer-a-solar-block-share-sbs-program-in-cities-with-incentive-structure-to-encourage-100-participation-by-a-certain-time-i-e-2020) and if communities you know about have done anything like this and/or seen any success out of it?

I'm also still learning the OpenIDEO platform so am hoping I get the language right here - am thinking you would be a great member of my "team" if you are so inclined?

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

Hi Risa, I've had a look at the SBS idea - in principle it's great, but a few barriers come to mind. In Australia, if you just feed your power into the grid, you only get paid a very low feed in tariff, so unless a jurisdiction/government has a good policy around this, it will be difficult to scale the idea based on financial incentives alone. The other limitation might be the volume of energy that can be attached to powerpoles - fo example if there is one pole per house in a street, that would mean only a small % of energy demand could be met using the approach you'e outlined. The principles of keeping it local, keeping at the street/neighbourhood level is great, and it's also good for homes/business that might not have access to clear sun!

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

Great to see you've posted this to our Ideas phase, Tosh! You mention you've created a web platform. Can you share a link to that with us? (if yes – please add it to your post above by following the tips here: http://bit.ly/oi_link  

In terms of your desire to "build a community of supporters and activists that can leverage the platform to deliver change in their communities." – perhaps you'd like to think about lightweight experiments you might run towards reaching this goal. Here's some tips: http://bit.ly/pr0totype

Looking forward to seeing this idea evolve...

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

Thanks Meena!

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

Total pleasure, Tosh. We're so excited that you're participating on our challenge with all your extensive experience and rich perspectives. We'd also recommend you think about refining the summary section of your post (above the image) to clearly articulate the idea you're proposing here (as opposed to but extending from your current work)

Here's a template if you need some help, though feel free to come up with your own clarifying sentence structure.

Our idea is a_________________ [campaign/app/service/program/online platform/toolkit/social enterprise/etc.] that tackles the problem of _____________[the issue being addressed ] by __________[what your idea looks like in practice].

Hope that helps!

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

Thanks Meena, have had a crack!

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

Top notch iteration :^)

Photo of Selina McPherson
Team

Awesome Tosh! I'm so happy to see The People's Solar in the idea's phase :) Are there any specific challenges or hurdles that The People's Solar faces at this point in time that the OpenIdeo community could help you to solve?

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

Our big challenge right now is just scaling the model. We don't make any money from it, and have no external financial support other than our own incomes (we run a seperate business. We've got a bunch of things lined up for the year to tackle that, with a focus on: getting support from philanthropics and corporates to help finance us, as well as our projects; building a network of supporters - people who have spare time and capacity to help us identify projects and raise funds for projects; and we are also working on a few ways to leverage mutually supporting commercial partnerships so we can get paid for providing services that are complementary to the crowdfunding.

What do you think OpenIdeo community? we love what you do and we'd love your help