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CauseTech launches Burundi Renewable Energy Challenge

CauseTech launches Burundi Renewable Energy Challenge

Jun 9, 2015

– The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council and the Business Performance Innovation (BPI) Network have launched CauseTech‘s first contest, named Burundi Renewable Energy Challenge. CauseTech is a new private sector initiative to crowdsource breakthrough ideas, inventions, products, and emerging technologies that can advance the work done by the UNICEF Global Innovation Center worldwide.

Dubbed “Succeed Where There’s a Need,” the campaign promotes social entrepreneurship and aims to aggregate the world’s best and brightest innovators, technologists, IT professionals, product developers, researchers, entrepreneurs, academics and post-graduate students in a global open innovation ecosystem.

The aim is to tap into collective thinking and input to identify, adapt and deploy inventive technology solutions that can help UNICEF scale its efforts to meet the ever-growing needs of the poorest and most vulnerable and excluded children across 150 countries.

A dedicated community site (CauseTech.Net), powered by innovation platform leader IdeaScale, will enable participants to share ideas, vote and discuss refinements to “inspirations that overcome limitations.” CauseTech.Net will register and profile contributors and run crowdsourcing contests and challenges developed by UNICEF offices located in more than 150 countries.

CauseTech’s first contest focuses on renewable energy solutions for Burundi, the most energy-poor country in the world. Lack of access to safe, clean, and affordable energy is a key bottleneck for children and their families in the Base-of-pyramid markets.

In the context of Burundi, only 3% of the population is connected to the central electrical grid. The vast majority of the population is reliant on simple biomass fuels, such as wood, coal, and kerosene, to meet their cooking and lighting needs. These energy sources negatively impact all aspects of daily life – exposing households to severe health risks, restricting income-generating opportunities to daylight hours, stunting learning outcomes for children, and preventing the delivery of critical health services.

A switch to sustainable, off-grid energy solutions is urgently needed. Yet efforts to electrify rural Burundi are complicated by the following barriers:

  • Limited availability of quality energy products and services
  • Weak private sector presence
  • Low local capacity to operate and maintain renewable energy products
  • Limited infrastructure

The Challenge: How might we create sustainable renewable energy solutions to electrify rural Burundi?

The contest will run until August 31st, and will be followed by a judging period. The winner will be announced at the annual Base-of-Pyramids Convention, to be held this year in Mexico City. The winning solution will also be tested in the field in Burundi, with the potential to be scaled across regions.

“We hope private sector partners will step forward here to provide funding for crowdsourced innovation challenges such as the Burundi Challenge and to help us engage smart minds in solving real-world problems UNICEF workers are facing in the field,” notes Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council and BPI Network. A new global survey on Disruptive Entrepreneurship by his BPI Network, highlighted the top ways corporations could help advance social innovation. This includes:

  • Investing startups and crowdsourced ideation contests and challenges
  • Allocating resources to social innovation programs within the company
  • Supporting social causes focused on advancing technology innovation

“UNICEF is committed to ensuring innovative solutions be scaled to address needs for all,” notes Dr. Sharad Sapra, director of the UNICEF Global Innovation Center which has R&D labs in 10 countries. “Despite incredible developments and technological advances across the globe, there are still many populations that are remote and deprived.”

“Our development strategy is to be the connector between all the relevant actors in the value chain, to ensure innovative solutions can be successfully implemented and scaled across regions and contexts,” adds Dr. Sapra. “Achieving our goal of reaching every child requires disrupting ‘business as usual.’ New ways of thinking have to be developed. Assumptions and strategies must change. That’s why innovation is so important,” he adds.

Using the tagline, “Your Brilliance Can Make a Difference,” the campaign partner groups represent more than 12,000 high-level executives (CMOs, CIOs, CTOs, COOs, CFOs, LOB leaders, etc.) in 110 countries.  Other partners and affiliates include media and publishing groups, corporate R&D centers, universities, incubators, accelerators, venture capitalists, angel investors, and serial entrepreneurs.

Click here to register now

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