Energy Poverty
Eliminating global poverty will not be accomplished strictly through emerging opportunities and resources for the world’s most vulnerable people but will be done by redefining ideas about poverty. Instead of defining poverty by a purchasing power baseline, Rajiv Shah, the current Rockefeller Foundation President, thinks we should define and measure poverty in terms of power connectivity and electrification, in other words, energy poverty.

Rajiv Shah, former United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator, suggested this idea at the Affordable and Clean Energy for All event in Washington, D.C. Shah points to the idea that poverty is traditionally measured by a “basket of goods” stemming from a “total calories mindset.” Energy poverty defines poverty by the extent of the lack of access to modern energy.

Poverty Definitions Today

Currently, poverty is defined with a mere dollar amount. Extreme poverty is defined as a daily income of less than $1.90, and moderate poverty is living on less than $3.10 a day. The idea of moving from defining poverty from purchasing power to energy accessibility has some weight to it. For example, India in the 1970s defined poverty as the ability to purchase 2,100 to 2,400 calories of food per day depending on if the person was living in the city or in rural areas. In 2011, the Suresh Tendulkar Committee, a namesake for the late economist Suresh Tendulkar, defined living below the poverty line as spending between 27.2 and 33.3 Indian rupees (or between $0.38 and $0.46) per month on electricity, food, education and health.

This measure is thought to be far too conservative, but it does touch on the expanse of resources and services, specifically electricity, that factor into basic living standards. India is said to have 300 million people with little or no access to electricity. That is roughly 23 percent of its population. By taking energy poverty into consideration, a much clearer picture of global poverty rates can be analyzed.

Providing Energy to Areas In Need

Shah and the Rockefeller Foundation are not just providing mere lip service to the conversation on extreme poverty but also real energy service. The Rockefeller Foundation sponsors Smart Power for Rural Development, a $75 million program launched in 2015 that brings solar power to villages. This program has already powered 100 Indian villages with mini-grids that supply renewable energy to over 40,000 people.

Investments in mini-grids such as Smart Power for Rural Development or the $20 million raised from Husk Power Systems (the largest for an Indian mini-grid company) are thought to be the most efficient solutions for securing energy goals for sustainable development. Without reliable energy connectivity, almost half Of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 cannot be achieved. Two of such goals are “no poverty” and “affordable and clean energy.”

Energy is vital to attaining Development Goals such as health, education, inequality and food security. “Access to reliable electricity drives development and is essential for job creation, women’s empowerment and combating poverty,” says Gerth Svensson, chief executive at Swefund, a Swedish development finance institution that works to eliminate poverty by establishing sustainable businesses.

Metrics to Define Energy Poverty

Defining poverty through the proxy of energy poverty can leave vague perceptions. Yet, one metric illuminates the reality of what it means to be energy poor. Energy poverty is being quantified by the Multidimensional Energy Poverty Index (MEPI). The MEPI measures energy deprivation, as opposed to energy access. It is made up of five dimensions: cooking, lighting, services provided by means of household appliances, entertainment/education and communication.

Each dimension has one indicator to measure the importance of the activity, with an exception to cooking, which has two indicators. Each indicator has a binary threshold that indicates the presence or lack of a product or service. Energy poverty defined through the cooking dimension is measured by cooking with any fuel besides electricity, natural or biogas since it would leave a family vulnerable to indoor pollution. The lack of several other products or services complete the index—the lack of access to electricity (lighting), a refrigerator (household appliances), a radio or television (entertainment/education), and a landline or mobile phone (communication).

Measuring Poverty Through Energy

According to BRCK, a Kenyan organization that works to furnish internet connectivity to frontier markets, 18 of Africa’s 54 total nations have at least between 50 and 75 percent of their population without access to electricity, and 16 have more than 75 percent of their population lacking. On the measure of communication, only four of those nations have mobile-phones access for more than half their population, the highest being South Africa at 68 percent.

Using the current standard, roughly 736 million people worldwide are considered to be living in extreme poverty, yet 1.1 billion people were still living without access to electricity in 2017. The means for microeconomic power and poverty alleviation via education, healthcare, business and communication seem to be less about cash flow and more so concerning reliable energy flow, redefining poverty with the idea of energy poverty.

Thomas Benjamin
Photo: Flickr

On October 9, Glasgow University set a precedent for the UK, following suite with other parts of the world. The university announced that it will sell any of its shares invested in companies who produce fossil fuels. This translates to the withdrawal of £18 million of investments over the coming years.

David Newall, secretary of the university’s governing body, made a statement, “The university recognises the devastating impact that climate change may have on our planet, and the need for the world to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.

A heavily involved student campaign of over 1300 students championed for these efforts. The campaign included rallies and even fake oil spills. The campaign is taking other active steps in reducing harm to the environment. For example, their carbon consumption will be significantly reduced.

The universal campaign is gaining support not only from Glasgow, but from 13 American universities who have also pledged to divest any support from fossil fuel companies. Fossil Free’s website provides a comprehensive list of various religious organizations, cities, counties, and universities in the U.S. who have also pledged to divest any investment in the fossil fuel industry.

In fact, Seattle, Washington, home of The Borgen Project, was the first U.S. city to do so. Their commitment took place near the end of 2012. Other universities who have done so include Stanford University and the University of Dayton in Ohio.

According to a Sept. article by The Guardian, even heirs to the Rockefeller oil fortune have chosen to divest. Thus $50 billion will be redirected from fossil fuel investments, sending a tremendous example to the rest of the world.

With less of a reliance on fossil fuels, the world can change its focus to safer, more efficient and more economical energy sources. The more the world learns to rely on solar and wind energy to power our cars and our homes, the more energy can be a resource for more of the global population.

People living in more poverty-stricken areas of the world do not necessarily have the funds for oil, but with the purchase or donation of a solar panel that could last a lifetime, they will finally have electricity opportunities that could in turn lead to a furthered education, a more literate population, healthier people and longer life spans.

So far, despite this activism, little effect has been seen on the trillion dollar franchise of the oil industry, but with increased participants and awareness this is likely to change. It’s promising that a majority of this change is beginning with the voices of our young people. And with people like those members of the Rockefeller foundation on board, these young people now have a means to make their influence known.

Kathleen Lee

Sources: BBC, Fossil Free, The Guardian
Photo: Flickr

The Work of The Rockefeller Foundation - The Borgen Project

According to The Rockefeller Foundation website, “John D. Rockefeller, Sr., established The Rockefeller Foundation in 1913 to promote the well-being of humanity around the world.” This was how the foundation’s mission began, and over 100 years later, this mission has only been expanded upon.
In order to achieve it goals of strengthening communities around the globe, The Rockefeller Foundation has four primary focus areas: revalue ecosystems, secure livelihoods, transform cities and advance health.

The Foundation’s website provides up to date blog posts, as well as information about its latest endeavors affecting climate change, food security, ecosystems and electricity issues worldwide.

One particular project, the Campaign for American Workers, was introduced in 2007 during a struggling time in the American economy. Unemployment was at an all-time high and workers were not being given the benefits they were accustomed to or deserved.

The project made great efforts to instill public-private partnerships and to give workers “greater access to health care, predictable savings and retirement income.”

Currently, The Rockefeller Foundation has many projects, one being the “100 Resilient Cities” campaign. The foundation is accepting applications from cities all over the world who are ready to build and improve themselves in order to prepare for socioeconomic changes.

The deadline to apply was September 10. The foundation already has 32 cities on the list and include the following: Bangkok, Thailand; Boulder, Colorado; Christchurch, New Zealand; Durban, South Africa; Melbourne, Australia and New Orleans, Louisiana.

Finalists of the challenge will receive not only a support system from the other cities, but also a grant to hire a Chief Resilience Officer. This officer will have access to various building tools as well as communication with experts in city planning and disaster prevention.

Among its many projects, on September 4, The Rockefeller Foundation was noted by the Digital Journal to have openly recognized and appreciated small businesses who are supporting the hiring of young adults.  John Irons, managing director at The Rockefeller Foundation, states, “The Rockefeller Foundation is focused on addressing the youth employment crisis at scale by engaging employers to support young workers’ entry into the workforce, and it is our hope that these noteworthy businesses will provide models for success that can be replicated throughout the country.”

Thus these young adults will have more opportunity and experience for later down the road when searching for a career. The foundation understands the importance of everyone’s role in stimulating the economy.

The Rockefeller Foundation has become a model organization over the past 100 years. Its core values of leadership, equity, effectiveness, innovation and integrity give it an unbreakable backbone. Its board of 12 trustees are constantly at work writing various grant proposals, investment strategies, budgets and the like in order to provide the world with whatever it can. The foundation is one we can trust and one we can look to as an example of advocacy and humanitarianism.

Rockefeller Foundation Joins with USAID - The Borgen Project
In a joint effort with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Rockefeller Foundation has pledged $100 million for a “climate resilience” fund, especially for developing countries. The fund is designed to assist recovery in nations afflicted by natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis.

With such natural disasters, the fledgling economies are impeded by the additional costs of disaster recovery and clean up. Together with the Global Resilience Project (GRP), USAID and the Rockefeller Foundation have united in a multi-stage investment to assist Asia and Africa.

Noting the increase in severe earthquakes in the Asia-Pacific region, the project is designed with the intention to minimize the impact of earthquakes and lower the death toll. With Asia and Africa having been impacted with famines, earthquakes, tsunamis and typhoons in the past decade, the GRP has assessed these regions to be the most at-risk.

As part of the plan, the GRP is offering a series of contests for the best ideas in confronting some reoccurring problems, including food security and disaster preparation. Those that are selected will then receive funding to implement the ideas in pilot programs in three selected areas.

While third-world countries have made great economic strides in the past several decades, with the annual GDP growth rates generally higher than that of their developed counterparts, the developing world is widely recognized by economists as the next new market.

Though the GRP has humanitarian reasons in mind as well, the economic benefits for the U.S. are expansive. The disruptions of individual economies have a ripple effect on the larger global economies since they hinder the amount of trade. With the stimulus of the $100 million contingency plan, the GRP hopes to mitigate the effects of these problems and create a brighter future in Africa and Asia.

– Kristin Ronzi

Sources: Scientific American, CBN News

Photo: Wikipedia

Innovative Philanthropy
One of the most significant charity foundations of the past century is the Rockefeller Foundation, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this month. The Foundation has set the bar high for other philanthropic organizations throughout the 20th century, and it will continue to do so throughout the 21st century by means of innovation.

The Rockefeller Foundation has promoted innovation as the key to doing good through the “Next Century Innovator Awards,” which look at projects that do more than just help society, but transform it. The projects find or create new ways to approach huge societal issues including education, sanitation, marketplace literacy, and cancer, for example.

One project that was awarded the “Next Century Innovator Award” was Innovate Salone in Sierra Leone. The organization transformed the education system of the country to help more children attend school. The project did more than just build a school or donate money for education. It gave the young people in the community an opportunity to solve their own problems according to their individual needs. Those with the best workable solutions were given financial support to build on their ideas to create real results while receiving support and feedback from mentors and peers in their community.

Other organizations, particularly universities, have taken note of this new form of innovative modern philanthropy and are joining the effort to transform the world of charity. More people are beginning to realize that donating money can help to an extent, but the best way to achieve long-lasting benefits is to transform the way people think of the art of giving through innovation.

Katie Brockman

Source: Forbes
Photo: EmpowerOU

The Rockefeller Foundation supports work that expands opportunity and strengthens resilience to social, health, economic and environmental challenges. The foundation aims to promote the well being of humanity and is based on a set of core values.  These values include leadership, equity, effectiveness, innovation, and integrity. The foundation actively takes steps towards their vision of a better world, while inspiring others to join them. They work to create fair and equal access to resources and networks, which include all people and perspectives. They attempt to use efficient and creative processes to accomplish their long and short-term goals, working to transform the lives of people and build social relationships.

The Rockefeller Foundation strives to move innovation from idea to impact. The organization has a 100-year history of innovation, intervention, and influence. The Rockefeller Foundation is aimed as tackling four main goals: revaluing ecosystems, securing livelihoods, advancing health, and transforming cities.

The Rockefeller Foundation is working to revalue ecosystems through climate change programs, sustainable employment in green economies, and environmentally sound economic development. They realize that environmental degradation, while affecting the entire global community, disproportionately impacts the world’s poor and vulnerable.

They are working to secure livelihoods through projects aimed at food security, sustainable transportation, and poverty reduction through digital employment among others. The Rockefeller Foundation understands the importance of this issue as entire groups of people can be threatened by economic stresses worldwide, such as migration from rural to urban centers, unemployment and underemployment, and others. Their programs aimed at advancing health include initiatives focusing on transforming health systems, working towards improving food security, monitoring global diseases, and others. They work to incentivize individuals, communities and governments to address their problems, and to contribute to healthy societies.

Finally, the Rockefeller Foundation is working to transform cities through embracing urbanization to catalyze equity. They realize that this shift towards urban areas necessitates improved urban planning, as well as modified health and economic well-being strategies. The Rockefeller Foundation has funded projects working towards improving public transit, climate change strategy, and city dialogues among others.

The Rockefeller foundation strives to take philanthropic efforts to improve the world. Their work focuses on U.S. and global initiatives to ensure their core values are met and that globalization lends all human beings an equal opportunity to succeed.

– Caitlin Zusy

Source: The Rockefeller Foundation