Kopernik's Wonder Women initiative is expanding energy access in remote parts of Indonesia by empowering women to sell clean energy technologies in their communities. Since 2011, more than 300 women have gained the skills, tools and confidence to succeed as micro-social-entrepreneurs, selling solar lamps, water filters and clean cookstoves.
Kopernik empowers Indonesian women to make clean energy technologies available to families in villages across Indonesia. Through their Wonder Women initiative, Kopernik invites women to sell solar lights, water filters and clean cookstoves in remote communities. The women are equipped with the training and skills to become clean energy micro-social-entrepreneurs, confidently promoting the economic, environmental, social and health benefits of owning these technologies. The women receive the products on consignment and earn a commission on every sale, allowing them to boost their income without going into debt. They contribute a portion of their commission to support their women’s group, going into activities such as savings and loans programs. Energy access is a huge challenge in Indonesia, especially in remote communities. From Papua in the east to Aceh in the west, Indonesia stretches across a distance as wide as the continental United States and encompasses more than 17,000 islands - many of them volcanic. 120 million Indonesians live in rural areas, where two thirds of the population live without electricity. Tens of millions of people still rely on dangerous and polluting kerosene lamps and three-stone cookfires to meet their basic lighting and cooking needs. Kopernik's Wonder Women initiative is expanding energy access and opening up new economic opportunities for women in Indonesia - where only 51% of women participate in the workforce and earn 25% less than men.
The initiative has already directly benefited more than 300 women across Indonesia. It has also benefited their families, as the women spend their extra income on food and education. The products they have sold have helped more than 50,000 people gain access to clean, renewable energy technology.
More than 300 Indonesian women have joined the program to date, participating in training and receiving technologies to sell on consignment. The most recent impact evaluation, conducted in October 2014, found that women have increased their monthly income by an average of 30% from selling technologies. The women are spending this extra income on food for their families (58%), education for themselves and their children (40%), and growing their businesses (30%). The women have collectively sold more than 10,000 clean energy technologies to date, primarily solar lamps, solar home systems, water filters and clean cookstoves. These technologies are saving families time and money, improving health and safety, easing pressure on the environment, and opening up new economic opportunities. For example, 84% of technology users surveyed reported that they now drink more water each day since buying a Nazava water filter.
Kopernik mobilises funding from individual donors, foundations and aid agencies to fund the upfront cost of delivering training and providing technologies in consignment. As the women sell the technologies, they repay the cost price to Kopernik and can replenish their inventory. Kopernik reinvests the repayments in more technology, creating a revolving fund for clean energy technology. By bundling small orders and consolidating shipments, Kopernik is able to take advantage of economies of scale.
In order to scale up the Wonder Women initiative and replicate the program in other locations, Kopernik has identified several areas for improvement: 1. Closer collaboration with local partners in order to simplify the recruitment process with an improved data collection system and a stronger credit control process. 2. Designate staff responsible for tracking of actual sales and repayments. 3. Rent office or storage space in remote areas, to enable better inventory distribution and allow staff to be more connected.
Women join the program as either Tech Agents or Tech Kiosk operators. Tech Agents sell technologies from home, through their networks, at market stalls, or at community events. Tech Kiosks are existing small shops (warung) which sell clean energy technologies alongside everyday goods. Now when customers stop by to pick up cooking oil or batteries, they can learn about solar lights, water filters and clean cookstoves. Kopernik offers women training in technology use and maintenance, sales and marketing, bookkeeping, financial management, and public speaking. These training sessions equip them with the skills and confidence to become successful businesswomen. Kopernik first introduced the Tech Agent model in Bojonegoro, East Java in 2011. Since then, they have expanded the program to four more locations in East Java, Aceh, Lombok and East Flores. Kopernik’s Tech Kiosks have been operating primarily in East Nusa Tenggara, one of the poorest provinces of eastern Indonesia, since 2013. Over the next three years, Kopernik plans to expand the initiative to nine more provinces in eastern Indonesia, training 500 women to distribute 56,000 technologies.
Kopernik implements the program through strong partnerships with technology producers, local organisations and funding agencies. Partnerships with technology producers, primarily d.light design, Prime cookstoves and Nazava water filters, allows Kopernik to negotiate favourable prices and engage the product designers in training sessions with the women. Kopernik also collects and shares feedback from customers with the technology producers, so they can continue to refine and improve their products to best serve the needs of people in the last mile. Meanwhile partnerships with trusted local organisations in each community play a crucial role in identifying and inviting women to join the program. The funding partners include ENERGIA, the Australian Government aid program’s MAMPU program, USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures program, and ExxonMobil Foundation. Kopernik conducts baseline and follow-up surveys with Tech Agents, Tech Kiosk operators, and technology users to measure changes in the socioeconomic conditions of the women. Nine Field Officers and one volunteer conducted the surveys using Magpi, a mobile data collection system.