The journey of Powering Education can be encompassed by one African proverb “If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Originating more than a year ago, this initiative brought together two Hubs, Rome and Nairobi, united and driven by a shared mission to improve the state of the world through the Global Shapers Community. Powering Education has been developed in collaboration with GIVEWATTS, an NGO that that brings renewable energy solutions to developing countries.

The hidden crisis of energy poverty currently affects more than 1.2 billion people worldwide – 93 million of these are school-age children living in the rural areas of Sub-Saharan Africa. This means that roughly a quarter of humanity lives without lights at home in the evening, without power at the workplace during the day, with very limited access to modern and adequate healthcare facilities and without the possibility of reading and studying after dark. Basically, energy poverty implies that most people cannot enjoy a decent standard of living.

This was a global issue that could not be ignored. Replacing kerosene lighting with renewable sources is a process with the potential of achieving more than just a cleaner environment. For thousands of young students, it meant securing access to an adequate education and a better future.

Lighting the Way

Powering Education entails the distribution of approximately 300 solar lamps to 300 students located in 12 schools in rural and off-grid communities in Kenya. By replacing dangerous, expensive and heavily polluting kerosene lamps, solar lamps enable children to study longer and families to save money. Through a randomized control trial (RCT) model designed and managed by the Team, Powering Education has been able to collect and analyse data on the ‘energy-education’ linkage.

Powering Education represents the pilot project of a broader initiative called Powering Impact. Among others, last January in Davos the project was awarded an important acceleration grant by the World Economic Forum and The Coca-Cola Company to scale up our effort in driving social change and sustainable impact.

Our results show that, on average, a student that does not own a solar lamp performs significantly better if s/he is in a class where most students own lamps (positive spillover). We also found that students tend to spend more time studying at home, with a reported average increase in study time of 17%. Besides, results of the analysis conducted at household level show that families whose kids had been given a solar lamp have been able to reduce their expenses, cutting their weekly lighting bills by 10- 15%. Follow-up research conducted on the ground by our Team shows that families allotted a significant portion of their increased savings to other household needs, such as better sanitation facilities.

'A direct recipe for success'

It is clear that the success of Powering Education stems directly from the unique characteristics and strengths of the Global Shapers Community: the fact that such a Community links extraordinary young people in different countries with multidisciplinary backgrounds that complement each other implies a direct recipe for success. From a human rights lawyer to a landscape architect, the skills of the team made it possible to tackle apparently disconnected issues, such as energy poverty and education, with extremely innovative approaches.

Through Powering Education, 300 solar lamps were distributed in twelve off-grid, rural communities in the Amboseli region, at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro. More than 300 surveys were carried out at each of the four rounds, involving a team of 12 people conducting the on-the ground surveys with the students and teachers and the following digitalization of the results for the analysis. Each assessment took an average of a full week of work.

Powering Education has already impacted the lives of 1750 people. The creation of Powering Impact and the launch of the second phase of the project in January 2015 will directly impact over 3000 families. The Global Shapers community has been the catalyst for creating an impact that surpassed physical boundaries and went beyond expectations. Words cannot explain and thank you notes will never be exhaustive for each and every individual that has worked endlessly to make this project a success. “If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far, go together”

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