Soma Energy

Training Youth in rural areas and refugee camps on clean solar energy through sustainable innovation education

Photo of Gloriah Kisilu
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Eligibility

  • Yes, I fulfill all of the eligibility criteria.

Initiative's representative name

Gloria Mbatha Kisilu

Initiative's representative date of birth

24/05/1995

Initiative’s representative gender

  • Woman

Where are you making a difference?

Rural areas of Kenya : Mombasa, Machakos and North Eastern Counties

Website or social media url(s)

Instagram @Soma_solarenergy

When was your organisation founded?

July/2019

Focus areas

  • Reskilling and upskilling the workforce

Project Stage

  • Pilot (have done first proof of concept)

Yearly Budget: How much capital do you need to accomplish your proposed project?

  • $100k - $250k

Organisation Type

  • Hybrid

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed

Working for a Solar company my task involved working with the youth in refugee camps and learning that the youth can be a vital aspect in creating opportunities for others through a peer to peer platform that increases skills transfer and youth employability. The role of education in lifting rural families to the middle class and enabling change in life trajectory inspired our work with off grid energy youth. Thus working with rural & refugee youth has now brought us full circle to our roots.

2. The problem: What problem surrounding employability or financial capability are you helping to solve?

Rural youth lack key skills & struggle to demonstrate their potential to employers. Relevant courses are expensive, far away, or ineffective, and lack job placement support.Setting up better solar training programs is a short term fix, but the real underlying issue connecting the threads above is the lack of data around the skill development of rural youth over time, which is blocking the ecosystem from solving this on its own.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

In July 2019 we launched our travelling solar academy with an 8-week solar technician training course, with solar agent trainings launching Nov 2019. However, our ultimate goal is to use the academy to develop skill assessment protocols that measure and track students' progress over time across a variety of skills & behaviors (tech/sales/soft/professional) which can be scaled to many solar training programs. The protocols combine self-assessments, trainer observation & other methods into a 1-10 score for each measured skill, to be repeated throughout the training and into employment. A cloud platform will chart individual and class-wide progress. Individual skill profiles will help rural youth gain self-understanding, assist training providers to offer better coaching, and enable employers to make better hiring and training decisions. Class average scores will help training institutes improve their courses and attract funders, students and employers. All unlocked through better data.

4. How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solving the problem?

What makes us different: 1. Solar/Rural Focus: We are focusing on solving the specific needs of last-mile solar companies. 2. Tracking Learning Curve: Repeating the assessments over time to chart a student’s learning curve, which is where the real insights come from. 3. Holistic Skill Range: We focus on basic soft/sales/professional skills that are ignored in most technical training programs. 4. Open Source Standard: The same data can be shared across and used by all stakeholder groups (employers, training programs, youth) to drive self-innovation.

5. Employability: how is your organization or project teaching people to develop the skills that they need to survive in the future job market?

We are focused on a holistic Skill Range: We focus on basic soft/sales/professional skills that are ignored in most technical training programs. Rural Youth have increased access to effective training programs and employment/income opportunities in their communities. The individual data gives them increased self-understanding and an online skill resume that can help them get hired by solar employers. The aggregate data allows them to compare different training programs based on effectiveness.

5a. Please describe which future-oriented skills your organization is focused on fostering and how you have measured / plan to measure progress

Our primary metrics are in three areas: 1. Market Traction: The number of training programs and employers as active implementers, number of rural youth trained using our skill assessments 2. Impact (ideally measured against control group): - Trainee: employment rate, post-hire retention rate, income increase - Employer: Average training cost / retained employee - Training program: change in enrollment / funding 3. Business Model: Amount of revenue streams (i.e. training certification, subscription), revenue growth

7. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There are a number of solar training providers around the world providing rural solar technician training such as Remote Energy, Barefoot College, Schneider Electric, Solar Energy International and VOCTEC (Arizona State University) CREEC and Nakawa Institute in Uganda . Our academy mixes technical with soft skills, and has no fixed campus. However, the real difference is that we see our trainings as the laboratory to our long-term model. Thus while we sometimes compete with other training providers for tenders, in the long run run we actually see them as our partners/customers

8. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

1.Rural Youth have increased access to effective training programs and employment/income opportunities in their communities. The individual data gives them increased self-understanding and an online skill resume that can help them get hired by solar employers. The aggregate data allows them to compare different training programs based on effectiveness. 2. Solar Companies have the data to make better hiring and training decisions about individual candidates and track their progress as employees, thus increasing revenue and cutting business costs. The aggregate data allows them to identify high quality training providers to build recruitment partnerships with. 3.Training Institutions can track individual student progress in real-time, allowing them to impact learning outcomes. The aggregate data helps them improve their training and demonstrate impact to external partners.

9. Financial Sustainability Plan. Can you tell us about you plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

Financial plan model is to have a balance of Equity (donor funding) ,Mezzanine (grants) and Senior debt finance. Our model will help us scale much faster, and we have the freedom to take risks and test different prototypes, if we can leverage private capital rather than constantly raising donor money.

10. Team

Our team has 3 full-time staff we plan to grow over the next two years to 7 full-time staff by hiring 2 additional trainers, a data platform product manager, an skill assessment analyst, and 1-2 outreach manager. This will allow us to: Run at least 6 solar technician and 12 sales agent trainings to train and assess 500 youth, allowing us to further research, test, and iterate the skill assessment protocols

How did you hear about this challenge?

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