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.
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.
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.
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!
The Off-Grid Energy DELab will take place in 12 weeks in partnership with the Test and Training Centre for Renewable Energy Technologies (TCRET) at Mzuzu University in Northern Malawi, from November 11th through 16th. We have been focused on our strategy and planning to ensure the DELab has a true impact. We are working hand-in-hand with our partners at TCRET, as well as our Flame Tree Fellows, to deliver a unique and innovative curriculum for our participants.
So far, we have developed an initial draft of our DELab curriculum. We aren’t reinventing the wheel; we are taking lessons learned from past DELabs and applying them here. Topics like Financing for Start-Ups, Best Practices in Hiring, Goal Setting, and Business Pitching still apply for the Off-Grid Energy DELab. On the energy side, the curriculum is brand new. We’re excited to introduce new sessions like Productive Use of Energy and Managing Microgrids. We are working in partnership with TCRET to match facilitators with appropriate sessions, while also coordinating with our Flame Tree Fellows who will participate during the DELab.
We are officially opening up our recruiting efforts on Friday, August 23rd. We are seeking candidates who are creative and innovative and aren’t afraid to think outside the box. We want people who are passionate about electrifying Malawi through small business. We don’t expect all participants to have all the technical knowledge needed, but we do need applicants to be fast learners who are interested in building their skill sets. Finally, we are looking for collaborators and team players as we recognize that partnerships can be a critical step forward in launching social enterprises.
We will advertise the posting online and also share within our broad network in Malawi, including partners in the NGO, private, institutional, and higher education sectors. Although our original goal was to have 15 participants in the DELab, we are focused on quality over quantity. We are hoping to reach the best and brightest individuals who are striving to address energy poverty through enterprise.
The applications will close on September 20th and we intend on inviting participants to join the DELab in early October.
By the time we submit our next quarterly report, we will have completed the Project! Please stay tuned for more updates. Thank you for your continued support!
One of the steps that Flame Tree Initiative is taking in preparation to deliver the Off-grid Energy Development Entrepreneurship Lab is strengthening its team in Malawi. In addition to building our partnerships for the program, we have been busy hiring for a Programme Manager who will be integral to the program implementation in November. The Programme Manager will be responsible for monitoring, mentoring, and growing our programs in Malawi. We are designing the program's curriculum to be tailored to the current ecosystem in Malawi. By building a team of staff and partners who truly understand the energy issues in the country, we can ensure that our participants will learn the most relevant concepts that can help them provide customized solutions to their communities.
We are thrilled to share that a part of the team delivering this specialized off-grid energy entrepreneurship training is some of our past program participants. Hastings Mkandawire, whose story we have shared previously, is one of them. As a social entrepreneur in the energy sector and having worked with Flame Tree Initiative for a number of years, Hastings, along with others, will share his professional insight to the participants and help them maximize their program gains.
Flame Tree Initiative’s Country Coordinator, Jones Ntaukira, understands the need for specialized entrepreneurship training. He stresses the importance of developing a strong team for this program, saying, “The problem is that many social entrepreneurs are very smart with bright ideas, but they lack [technical] expertise. Having experts and professionals lead this training will allow them to have access to practical advice and knowledge on how they can start, implement, and scale their business.”
In the past, Flame Tree Initiative has worked with a number of entrepreneurs who have little formal educational background but come to the program equipped with innovative solutions to development challenges. These individuals are mostly self-taught and once they undergo training from our programs, they are able to translate their ideas into viable social enterprises that make a difference.
As we continue to build our team and develop our specialized off-grid energy training for new and aspiring social entrepreneurs, we keep in mind that our participants will likely come from different backgrounds. We look forward to working with them and we are excited to be developing a program that will transform their ideas into businesses that combat energy poverty in Malawi.
Please stay tuned for more program updates. Thank you for your continued support!
The theme for this quarter is learning. To develop engaging and practical material for our Off-Grid Energy Development Entrepreneur Lab, we want to learn from our social entrepreneurs in the energy sector.
One of our scheduled site visits is with Hastings Mkandawire. Flame Tree Initiative first met Hastings in 2015. Since then, he has grown his business and has connected over 3,000 people to electricity through hydroelectric power. Although Hastings gained basic business skills through our social entrepreneurship training, we are eager to learn what kind of support and resources he needed when he was first starting out in the off-grid energy sector. Hastings shared with us, “All that I do is just self-taught.” With years of experience and after building his business through trial and error, we look forward to gaining crucial insight from Hastings to inform our program.
In addition to learning from our entrepreneurs, we have also started to look into the off-grid energy ecosystem in Malawi and began discussions with potential partners for this project. Flame Tree Initiative leadership will be in Malawi in March to begin laying the foundation for the Off-Grid Energy Development Entrepreneur Lab.
We look forward to sharing more with you in our next report!
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating.
We'll only email you new reports and updates about this project.