“The odds were against you.”

December 15, 2008

It’s always nice to accomplish more than what is expected of you. So after deploying the last of our 162 lanterns, I returned to Delhi to hear the CEO of the lantern manufacturer tell me that the odds were in fact against us.

Trevor and I held steady from the beginning that through the avoided costs of kerosene and the increased productivity as a result of extended working hours, these lights would pay for themselves. Making the idea a reality was not easy, and perhaps the CEO had a point. New to development work, Trevor and I spent hours debating execution strategies only to find neither of our ideas were applicable. Shipping and logistics became a monster in itself. Complicating matters more was the routine call from our NGO contacts that our idea wouldn’t work: they told us the villagers were too used to handouts and wouldn’t pay. All of this on top of the typical issues associated with traveling in India, such as translation difficulties and recurring stomach irritations. Your average cubicle job it was not.

But the challenges are what make the end results so much more rewarding. Providing tools that will allow the villagers to live more productive and healthy lives as well as injecting funds into the village that will provide capital for further development has made it all worth while. Aside from the immediate impact to the 162 households that save money on kerosene, have light to work and study, and breathe cleaner air without the threat of fire, what excites us most is that with the proper amount of fine tuning, the process is repeatable. More importantly, it’s scalable. At time of writing, all of the villagers have been up-to-date with their payments; the data is supporting our hypothesis.

Trevor and I are both back in the States now, and are working on a video that will capture our efforts in a more visual medium. We plan to issue a press release in the upcoming weeks that will hopefully result in more exposure. As Beyond Solar looks toward the future, our deployment process is one that, along with our partners, can be executed without returning to India. So our current goal is to do an annual fundraiser where we can have lights shipped to our partners and deployed.

Readjusting has been interesting, as anyone who has experienced reverse culture-shock can tell you. Trevor is living in San Francisco and has started a new job with the solar cell manufacturer, Q-Cells. I am back in the Chicago area seeking a position in renewable energy industry.

Beyond Solar would especially like to thank all of the donors who contributed to our organization: without your help, none of this would have been possible.

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