Wednesday, December 06, 2006

News on Stoves and CSU Masters Program

Realize I haven't been a good blogger recently, and that while there may be good reasons, there are no excuses in the bloggosphere.

Good news on two fronts.

First, the Bright Light Stove project is moving forward. I often say that the key ingredients to a start up are an idea, a team and a little money. This was the first project to emerge from the CSU Global Innovation Center that my colleague Bryan Willson and I started with a vision that we could apply the "Envirofit" model to develop other commercially viable solutions for chronic pollution problems in the developing world.

Our idea was an improved cookstove that replaces open fires and stoves with a clean source of cooking, heating and light. Indoor air pollution from cookstoves is one of the largest causes of repiratory disease, miscarriage and infant mortality in the developing world. Close to half the world's population still cooks with traditional methods and biofuels (think "campfire in your kitchen"). Our stove looks much like the old pot bellied stove, with a few differences. It is made largely from sheet steel, the ceramic combustion chamber is smaller and more efficient, and it uses a thermoelectric generator to convert waste heat into electricity, which can be stored in a battery and used later for running a light or small appliance (radio). This project was started by CSU engineering and business students last fall, and they came up with a strong business plan last spring.

Several important action items were identified. Getting primary market research from users and forming local partnerships for manufacturing and distribution. We were very fortunate that the NCIIA provided a start-up grant and that our engineering team won a Mondialogo Engineering prize for the design.

With this encouragement (and money), the student team has been hard at it this fall. Again, good fortune led to a connection with two great organizations in India, SEWA Bank and SELCO. And Vinod, who hosted one of my students in an semester in India, introduced us to Jaynix, a firm in Nashik with metal working expertise run by a family with big hearts. With their assistance, we have developed a primary research approach, where we will install stoves in the households of women microentrepreneurs who are SEWA Bank customers. This Friday, the first of our team leaves for India, and we hope that by next week our stoves will be puffing away in Ahmedabad. I feel very lucky to be working on such a meaningful project with such wonderful people.

The second item of good news is that last night, the university gave final approval to our new graduate masters degree program in Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise. This will be a 3 semester program, with a significant field work component. I believe it is very different from most business degree programs, and will be well suited to those who have made the decision to embark on the journey of creating, building and leading enterprises that are based on solving our global challenges of poverty, pollution and disease. I have been encouraged by the support around the university and from many others in the field. In particular, Ashoka, SocialEdge, and Echoing Green have been helpful in providing some giant shoulders on which to stand. And Jim Collins's work has been reaffirming and helpful as we set our BHAG ("Big Hairy Audacious Goal")for how our institution can do meaningful and relevant work in the future.

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