Jul 13, 2020

Leveraging Technology for Adaptation and Innovation

Online platforms can aid social enterprise
Online platforms can aid social enterprise

Overview

Spring 2020: the COVID-19 pandemic has brought unexpected challenges to the way in which the Flame Tree Initiative operates. Yet we aim to see opportunities in every crisis and pivot, innovating to accomplish our goals. We continue to be in constant communication with entrepreneurs digitally, helping to sustain their businesses, create jobs, and generate positive community impacts.  

 

DELab and DEStudio innovation

Our sequential programs, DELabs and the DEStudio, which focus on mitigating energy poverty, are still moving forward! The recent DELab focused on creating supply and demand for off-grid energy, training and networking Malawians across a range of technologies. 

The DELab has previously been offered in-person, as a six-day training conducted on a university campus. In the context of COVID-19, we have transitioned to an online modality, meeting weekly with participants for a seven-week period using videoconferencing platforms such as Skype and Zoom. This shift in delivery has allowed DELab to integrate training on these platforms into our program, a change that has been valued by our participants. Banda, DELab graduate and founder of his own agricultural enterprise, appreciates how learning to leverage technology for social enterprise in this current COVID-19 era builds future frameworks to “network with other entrepreneurs regardless of the season." 

Our new online platform allowed us to expand mentoring on topics such as accessing information and networking online, the importance of a website and online branding, and use of social media for connecting with potential future customers. Chimasula, DELab graduate and current DEStudio participant, explains that she "learnt that visibility through social media and other channels provides a lot of opportunities.” 

Another innovation is the creation of small group, community-based energy projects, some of which will carry forward as partnerships worthy of external support. In this way, the extended DELab timeline allows for some skills and learning to be put into practice while participants are still part of the program and can receive more direct assistance. Meeting online eliminates the need for travel to a specific location which has decreased costs for Flame Tree Initiative experts and for our participants who may live in rural areas. 

 

Summary

While the pandemic impacts our work, we have pivoted to address the challenge and grew stronger than ever. Thank you for your continued support!
 

DEStudio 2020
DEStudio 2020
Mask to protect against COVID-19
Mask to protect against COVID-19
Meeting with our Founder over Zoom
Meeting with our Founder over Zoom

Links:

Mar 6, 2020

Welcome New DEStudio Members!

Introducing our DEStudio Cohort
Introducing our DEStudio Cohort

During 2019, we hosted three, distinct DELabs for 40 entrepreneurs. In January, these individuals were invited to apply to to our DEStudio program. We are so pleased to announce that we have accepted 12 entrepreneurs to join the next cohort of DEStudio Members. These individuals will join the other 20 entrepreneurs who have been a part of the DEStudio since September! Over the course of the next year, they will gain knowledge to propel their businesses forward, perfect their pitches, make connections to partner organizations, and become investment-ready. 

Already, they are hitting the ground running. The DEStudio Members in the Southern Region of Malawi had a workshop this week on financial literacy and had the opportunity to have one-on-one site visits with our Programme Manager, Chifuniro Kandaya. In between in-person meetings, each Member will work on individual goal setting and Chifuniro will support and encourage them to reach milestones. 

Links:

Nov 19, 2019

Our Off-Grid Energy DELab is Complete!

Pitch practice
Pitch practice

Thank you! On the 16th of November, we completed our Off-Grid Energy DELab! We are so grateful for your support. Without it, we couldn’t do what we do.

Our Participants

We received more than 40 applicants and ended up with a cohort of 13 entrepreneurs working in the off-grid renewable energy sector. These individuals are starting up or scaling businesses working on solar energy, biofuel, clean cooking, or mini-grid development. One area where we see a major need for improvement is in the recruitment of female entrepreneurs in this sector. Unfortunately, only one of the 13 participants in this DELab was a woman. Each person attended the training program at Mzuzu University (locally known as Mzuni) for five full days of training, followed by a sixth day of pitching, a certificate ceremony, and, of course, photographs.

Our Facilitators

We are proud of the uniqueness of our program. Part of what differentiates us from other entrepreneurship training programs is the varied expertise of the facilitators. Fifteen individuals facilitated 25 sessions over the course of the five days. We covered topics ranging from Government Policy on Renewable Energy to Budget Forecasting, Planning, and Performance Management to Digital Marketing for the Future and a variety of topics in between. It was technical as we looked into the future of renewable energy in Malawi and also business-oriented as we encouraged the participants to make progress towards launching or scaling their enterprises.

Next Steps

In January we will open the Call for Applications into the DEStudio program to the Graduates from the DELab. This is our hybrid-incubator program where we work hand-in-hand with each DEStudio Member for a 12-month period. Thank you for being a part of this journey and for supporting access to electricity in Malawi through entrepreneurship!

Mathias and Hastings
Mathias and Hastings
Group presentations
Group presentations
Brainstorming
Brainstorming
Discussions
Discussions

Links:

 
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