How to Engage Millennials in Energy Access

Miriam Cartheret from Germany, Shu Fen Ong from Singapore, and Bettina Bergoo from the US, are three young women who have worked in rural Uganda to build enterprises that sell clean energy products for local communities.  Kerosene is prevalent in these communities for lighting, while three-stone fires are used for cooking, and people still drink contaminated water.  These are huge problems, but there is no shortage of recent graduates from around the world who want to do good and work on these challenges.  Many are thinking about tackling these issues through high-impact entrepreneurship.  Despite existing businesses, there are too few opportunities for millennials to enter the field, gain field expertise, and design solutions.

2015-12-21-1450662879-6069169-12239193_4744057795628_9163311140004757635_o.jpg Bettina sets solar lights for the store launch.

On the flip side, many rural nonprofits in developing countries are thinking about entrepreneurship beyond traditional aid models.  While it is easy to raise money from a foreign church to hand out improved cookstoves to women in their community - it's not sustainable. Donor-led projects consistently hurt local communities, making them rely on hand-outs instead of supporting businesses that can grow the local economy. 

2015-12-21-1450663196-4252409-Openingday04.March2013.JPG Miriam talks to a crowd that has formed around the new clean energy store.

Enter ENVenture. ENVenture pairs volunteer Fellows that want the experience of launching an enterprise from scratch with a community based organization (CBO) in Uganda in need of on-the-ground support in starting an enterprise.  It's a win-win model; Fellows leave Uganda with experience in launching a business in a challenging environment, while the CBO owns a sustainable enterprise that provides an additional revenue stream to their current funding sources. This allows the women in the community to buy the improved cookstoves from the enterprise, rather than receive them, which ensures that they will use and value the product. Thus, the ENVenture Fellowship program has developed a truly unique learning experience that paves the path to foster a culture of entrepreneurship in the most remote parts of Uganda.

2015-12-21-1450663415-9991466-DSCF4320.JPGShu conducts market research in the community on solar.

It's clear - in order to accomplish the Sustainable Development Goal 7 of universal energy access by 2030, we need an educated, inspired, and motivated workforce; a system that includes empowering young people like Miriam, Shu, and Bettina, as well as empowering locals with business knowledge and expertise to create and manage rural energy businesses.