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I recently returned from the 25th Anniversary Conference of Social Venture Network. SVN works tirelessly with companies such as Seventh Generation connecting, supporting and inspiring business leaders and social entrepreneurs to expanding practices that build a just and sustainable economy.
In the past 25 years I have watched companies such as Seventh Generation, Stonyfield Organic, and Ben & Jerry’s create companies that work in a sustainable way. I have watched a young Muhammed Yunus talk about his dream of lifting up women globally through micro-finance, and I have listened to Eileen Fisher talk about creating a sustainable revolution in the fashion industry.
Yesterday, my mind was blown once again. We were introduced to Bunker Roy, a brilliant thinker and founder of Barefoot College, an organization he started 40 years ago in the village of Tilonia in Rajasthan, India. He has built the only fully solar electrified college managed and owned by the rural poor earning less than $1 a day. Barefoot College acknowledges and honors the life experiences of illiterate grandmothers of the village by giving them the power to construct sophisticated solar engineered structures. This training is done without the need to teach the grandmothers to read and write, and the women who partake of the training are chosen by the entire village. Once trained, they travel to other parts of India and Africa to teach solar engineering to other grandmothers – thereby multiplying the amount of electricity powered by solar structures in each region.
Bunker Roy is a visionary in the truest sense of the word. He has empowered illiterate women from depressed, marginalized communities and brought self esteem and dignity to millions of people. His social venture has resulted in electrified communities without the use of kerosene, wood, or petroleum. He has shown that the most vulnerable of people can be trained to take care of their communities –- without the need for advanced degrees. Bunker Roy, together with his army of “solar grandmas” deserve a Nobel Peace Prize for this incredible work.
For more information on Bunker Roy and Barefoot College please visit, www.barefootcollege.org.