2. How much work has been done on developing the solar training? What additional expertise would you be bringing on board? Solar Training Related: The solar training program is well entrenched and we have trained 783 international solar engineers in 83 countries so far. The Enriche program is built on Barefoot College’s 45 years experience of demystifying knowledge and skills and putting them in the hands and control of non formally educated people. The Enriche curriculum uses this expertise to design for illiterate and semi-literate learners using practical activities and visual teaching tools relevant to isolated rural areas. Additional Expertise is brought onboard by a talented team of professional bringing expertise in specific areas of the program, for e.g. Reproductive Health & Nutrition (Dr. Monalisa Padhee), Beekeeping (Pierre Canevet), Coffee farming (Lawrence Miglialo), Social Enterprises Development (Nishit Singh). This expertise is complemented by the expertise of our outstanding partners (Ecofemme, Bees For Development, Tostan, Fundacion Capital, Jaipur Rugs etc.)
3. How would Asha find out about Barefoot College and the project? Would you tell me more about the solar training and certifications Asha would receive? How long is the training and is it full-time? What are her employment prospects post-training? Our ground partners (GP) are the most critical link between Barefoot College and the communities that are selected to be solar electrified. They help identify non-electrified villages which in most likelihood would not be a part of the government's electrification grid due to their remoteness. Typically the GPs have been working in these communities over a period of time and have invested in creating strong relationships. Meetings with the village elders, women’s groups and eventually the entire community ensue. These help determine their interest in solar electrifying the village for a periodical fee that would be a little under their current fuel expenses. Further meetings detail the entire process and the villages to be electrified are shortlisted. Asha finds out about Barefoot College as a part of the meetings held in the village. Her selection is a collective decision of the community, the GP and Barefoot College. The solar training is a full time six month residential training. No certifications are given. We believe that her “certificate” will come from her community benefiting from the solar equipment: Upon return to her village, Asha solar electrifies the households in her community and receives a stipend from the community for installation, repair and maintenance of the solar equipment. Barefoot College along with the ground partner raises funds for the solar equipment and ships it to the village with support from the ground partner.
4. Specifically for the solar training, what is the timeline for the project over the next 1 to 3 years e.g. year 1: identify training provider, solar panel manufacturer etc. For our Solar Program, we are currently focusing on scaling up our approach and training capacity via the opening of Regional Training centers via People-Public-Private partnerships. Our objectives in targeted countries is to achieve financial allocations within National Energy Budgets to fund decentralized Renewable Energy (RE) initiatives with women at the center. We opened our first Regional Training Center in Zanzibar in August 2015. Within the next 3 years, we aim to open other Regional training centers in Madagascar, Liberia, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Guatemala, Myanmar, and Fiji.
Integrating our Solar and Enriche program would allow to support women from rural communities to 1) fabricate, install, and maintain Renewable Energy technologies in their communities, 2) start-up their enterprise and have access to credit (grants/loans), and, 3) count on an enabling environment from pertinent authorities and support from their communities, and 4) socio-economically empowered, act as role models and advocate for the promotion of gender equality and improved quality of life.
Here are our responses to your questions: Q1. Am I right in thinking that you would be providing solar training to women utilising your four phase program? Rural women undertake a six month residential training to become solar engineers at our regional centers. It is an intense training program, six days a week focusing on hands on learning. This culminates in the women becoming solar engineers who have the skills to install, repair and maintain household solar equipment in their community.
What is important to note here is that these women are typically from far flung areas and have extremely limited access to information or resources. Ingrained patriarchy and other socio-economic factors have restricted these women to realise or understand their dreams and ability to pursue them. Many of them are not respected in their communities and have little decision making power. Hence unsurprisingly when these women spend six months in an atmosphere where they are treated equally as men, recognised for their traditional wisdom, courage to step out of their villages and learn a skill which will benefit their entire community , this becomes a life changing experience.
These women gradually gain confidence and never cease an opportunity to learn much more than solar. This direct feedback from the trainees led to the development of the holistic Enriche program. The journey can be broadly divided into 4 different phases and covers 8 different building blocks which have been identified to help these women to reach their full potential, accomplish their dreams and transform their communities. The ENHANCE and ENABLE phases are covered during the period of solar training. The ENGAGE and EMPOWER phases are covered once the women are back in their communities. These four phases of the journey enable these women to become agents of change to create sustainable positive impact in their communities.
ENHANCE (Awareness and Aspiration): Workshops, discussions, role plays, activities related to Self Awareness & Agency, Women’s Health, Digital Literacy, Financial Inclusion, Micro-Enterprise, Human Rights & Civil Society and Environmental Stewardship.
ENABLE (Livelihoods): The solar trainees undergo an additional livelihood training during their six month stay. Additionally we reach out to rural women to train them in livelihood skills such as beekeeping to enable financial security.
ENGAGE (Community Outreach): In the design phase at present. Based on the community needs and aspirations, extending ENRICH related workshops directly to the rural communities.
EMPOWER (Self-reliant Entrepreneurs): Discovery phase, exploring different models that provide Financial Services, Mentoring & Market Linkages work (such as BRAC’s Graduation Approach) and connecting with different organizations to learn from their successes and failures.
Enriche Social Enterprises focuses on (1) Providing rural Women with a full understanding of the value chain including experiencing the virtuous cycle from thought inception to sales in a supportive structure. (2) Using centralised branding, Marketing and Sales strategy support to ensure success, confidence and competence. (3) Creating products and services that deliver social and environmental benefits. Barefoot College Training Centers in India and abroad serve as Incubation Hubs, where Enriche enterprises benefit from a dedicated entrepreneurial team with local expertise ranging from technical training to end-consumer marketing. Transforming livelihood opportunities into vertically integrated Social Enterprises providing adequate support throughout the entire Value Chain. Our Social Enterprises are adapted to the local needs and resources as well as market opportunities. Enterprises focusing on beekeeping, coffee farming, tailoring and traditional nutrition supplements have so far been launched under the B.Barefoot brand.