Since appearing on the popular show Shark Tank, the LuminAID solar lantern has become well-known for its durability and variety of uses. The company designed its first lamps after the Haiti earthquake in 2010. They are designed to be an easy way to access light in areas without electricity and are marketed to individuals in countries lacking infrastructure or refugees who are living in transit.

New and Improved Design

The organization has now invented a new version of its lantern: the PackLite Max Phone Charger. The lantern is like the original, but also includes a battery and a USB port that can charge mobile devices. The battery can be charged by the solar panel through 12 to 14 continuous hours of direct sun exposure. The fully-charged lantern can then give 50 hours of light and fully recharge a smartphone.

The new lanterns target refugees. LuminAID noticed the need for phone charging capabilities while distributing its original lantern in refugee camps. Refugees use their mobile devices to contact family members and get help in emergency situations. One nonprofit partner, SCM Medical Missions, already plans to ship aid supplies to Syrian refugees in Jordan, having previously distributed the first LuminAID model to refugees living in Greece.

The LuminAID solar lantern is part of the organization’s “Give Light, Get Light” program, which prioritizes giving lanterns to people living in areas lacking traditional sources of light. The lanterns are inflatable, lightweight and waterproof, making them essential for individuals living in especially unforgiving situations.

Helping Those In Need

LuminAID also sells to consumers in retail stores and through its website, but emphasizes humanitarian efforts. It partners with numerous nonprofit organizations and NGOs throughout the world to distribute the lanterns. One consistent customer is ShelterBox USA, which provides disaster relief to communities in unexpected danger. The organization obtains donated lanterns from LuminAID or buys them at a lower price.

Backers of the LuminAID solar lantern’s online Kickstarter campaign can receive the LuminAID solar lantern and a charging cable for $30. Backers can also pledge more to receive a lantern and send one to a Syrian refugee. The company also has a goal to send 500 lights to refugee camps in Jordan.

The campaign already surpassed its fundraising goal, and the new solar lantern is expected to be an extremely helpful product for refugees from Syria and other war-stricken countries who need constant access to their mobile devices. Refugees rely on mobile phones as an essential support system to contact their families and others who have been through similar situations. LuminAID’s new solar lantern with phone charging capabilities will help refugees remain connected throughout their journeys.

Lindsay Harris

Photo: LuminAID

The Little Sun Charge, a solar­-powered phone charger, is finding success on Kickstarter. The project was launched as a part of the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative (SE4All), originated by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, which aims to ensure global access to modern energy services by 2030.

The Little Sun Charge is powered entirely by solar power and charges phones in less than five hours. Other conventional solar-powered phone chargers require between eight and twenty hours to charge a phone. The device is barely larger than a smartphone and uses a USB port, so it can power other electronic devices as well.

While marketed on Kickstarter for travelers, hikers, campers and freelancers, Little Sun Charge has particular relevance for those who live off-grid. With this device, phone ownership is a greater possibility, as those individuals could have a means to power their phone. Currently, 1.1 billion people live without access to electricity.

The project was initiated by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson and Danish entrepreneur and engineer Frederic Ottesen.

The Kickstarter project has a fundraising goal of 50,000 Euros by the end of September; it is currently at 40,000 Euros and is expected to meet its goal. Proceeds from the project go towards support solar power initiatives in Africa and the SE4All Initiative.

Little Sun Charge is the second Little Sun project; the first was an LED lamp. 200,000 of these Little Sun LED lamps have been distributed in Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan and the United states in addition to 10 African countries, including Zimbabwe, Ghana, Senegal, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Both devices aim to support sustainable energy initiatives in Africa, especially solar entrepreneurship.

The charger is expected to be released in March 2016 at a retail price of 120 Euros. ­

– Priscilla McCelvey

Sources: Climate Action Programme, Wired,
Photo: api.ning

In 2014, the space-based video game ‘Star Citizen’ raised almost 40 million dollars via crowdsourcing, earning it a Guinness World Record for the largest single amount ever raised through crowdfunding. To put this in context, funding for all of the specialized agencies of the U.N., including WHO, UNICEF and UNDP, totalled about 20 billion dollars in 2011, only 500 times the amount raised for a single video game.

Crowdfunding, the raising of funds for a particular venture or project directly from the population through the internet, has been gaining considerable steam in recent years. Worldwide crowdfunding volume in 2011 was over one billion dollars. In the U.S. alone, there are over 190 platforms for crowdsourcing.

In 2012, social causes made up 30 percent of all crowdfunded projects. This statistic reveals that it is possible to enthuse the public about socially beneficial projects, consequently reducing the burden on the government.

Floating Doctors is just one example of such a project. The organization aims to provide free medical care and deliver medical supplies to isolated populations of Central America. The unique approach of this project is that they voyage by ships to reach these populations and their ships are completely self-sustained in their ability to serve as a doctor’s office. They do not require the existence of a permanent hospital building in the locations they serve. In 30 days, they have been able to raise 3,000 U.S. dollars on KickStarter, a crowdfunding platform.

Another example is Energy for Old Fadama. It is trying to provide solar energy to a large urban slum in Ghana. In 18 months, the organization has equipped 20 community buildings with solar energy and are also trying to empower women in the community by providing them the opportunity to be small solar system entrepreneurs. So far, Energy for Old Fadama has raised 17,000 euros from 59 backers.

Several platforms dedicated specifically to civic projects are starting to appear. According to Deutsche Welle, one such platform, Germany-based nonprofit, has collected 10 million euros for 5,000 projects in 147 countries since its launch in 2007.

StartSomeGood is another example. This platform, as the name suggests, supports projects focussed on social good. The platform generates revenue for itself only if a project on its platform meets its fundraising goal. Start Some Good also asks fundraisers to decide on a “tipping-point goal”, an amount required to launch all projects. Donations are only processed if a campaign raises enough to meet its tipping-point. In this way, donors are assured that their money is going toward a goal that will be realized.

Like any good investor, a donor should also be able to evaluate a project for its merit. BetterPlace accommodates this by allowing donors to rate projects and ask questions to project organizers. Incorporating more approaches like donor questions and tipping-point goals will give crowdfunding campaigns more credibility.

Crowdfunding allows for innovations for development to be realized. As it grows, crowdfunding might well become another mainstream approach, just like aid from governmental and intergovernmental sources, to secure funding for civic projects.

– Mithila Rajagopal

Sources: Daily Crowd Source, Deutsche Welle, Guinness World Records, Statista, Start Some Good, World Watch
Photo: Flickr

The crowdfunding website, Kickstarter, has enabled a Grenada based organization, the Grenada Goat Dairy Project (GDP) to successfully fundraise enough money to build a new school. The GDP trains local farmers to make the transition to sustainable income-generating production and marketing strategies for high quality dairy projects; in doing so, they reduce the carbon footprint associated with imports, and help support local products.

Grenada imports the majority of its food, which means much of it is full of preservatives, dyes, and other chemicals. The GDP looks to break this dependency on processed goods by creating a self-sustaining system that provides nutritious, organic food. The GDP operates several projects, including breeding, research, and consulting programs that advocate for further support for rural farmers.

With a herd of 35 goats, the GDP produces milk and then processes it into a variety of cheeses and chocolate. While the profits from the sales of these dairy products covers approximately 70 percent of the cost of the project, they aim to eventually become a model of self-sustainability and to leave the cycle of aid.

What is notable, however, is that the Goat Dairy Project has harnessed the power of social media and online crowdfunding in order to raise money and awareness for the organization. In September, a new GDP school will open, with funds for the project having been raised almost exclusively on Kickstarter.

The educational dairy facility is specifically aimed at youth development, and will be a fully functioning goat farm that integrates primary education with community empowerment, food-security, and responsible citizenship in Grenada. The Kickstarter project was launched in August of last year, and within six weeks $63,160 had been raised, exceeding the target of $55,000.

Kickstarter allowed GDP to make connections with individuals and organizations that have a wealth of knowledge and passion, and to share its progress and news with donors all over the world. GDP created a video to promote its cause, initiated “matching funds challenges” when donations began to plateau, and engaged the local media in Grenada, and on an international scale. Through other social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, GDP maintained interest and was able to show people how their money was being spent.

The success of the Goat Dairy Project and its online fundraising efforts remains a positive example of the power of social media and its ability to garner interest, support, and donations from across the world.

– Chloe Isacke

Sources: The Guardian, The Goat Dairy Project
Photo: The Goat Dairy Project 

American directors Mo Scarpelli and Alexandria Bombach are working on a new documentary about photojournalism in Afghanistan called Frame by Frame. The directors joined Afghan war photographer and Pulitzer Prize winner, Massoud Hossaini, in his home country to document the rise of journalism in a place where taking a photo was once a crime.

A new culture of Afghan reporters and photojournalists has been growing ever since the ban on photography was overturned just over a decade ago. The documentary features the stories of four photographers, including Farzana Wahidy, whose work is uncommon for her gender in Afghanistan.

These four photojournalists and more have made great strides in the documentation of life in Afghanistan, the war, and the issues that are important to them. The necessity of journalism from the source is “to build democracy and independence, to check and limit those in power, to drive social and political change,” according to filmmaker Mo Scarpelli.

Local reporters have access to places and people which rarely welcome international reporters. Freedom of the press has improved since the people have gained the right to take photos and share the realities of day-to-day life with the world, but some are concerned about the future of such freedoms. With international forces leaving the country over the next year, international press will also be exiting. Defense, governance, and journalism will all be exclusively in the hands of the Afghan people, who face the threat of the Taliban reverting the country back to the time when snapping a photo was a crime.

The project was started in 2012, which was funded completely by the filmmakers themselves, one of whom drained her bank account entirely and even sold her car to make it all the way to Afghanistan. Frame by Frame is unfinished as of now, and the directors are relying on donations through Kickstarter to raise the funds needed to send them back to Afghanistan to fill-out footage for the film. Backers who want to see the film to completion have until August 28th to make a a pledge.

– Jennifer Bills

Sources: Humanosphere, Kickstarter, Frame by Frame
Photo: Boston