In the beginning of 2020, we were guests of the Solarplay company in Monza, supporter of our projects for some years, becoming protagonists for a day organized by the company to raise awareness to employees and internal collaborators about our organization and activities, as well as the projects we share in Senegal.
We left nothing to chance, planning the morning in detail: the first theoretical part, with our reports from Africa and the videos on the Corporate Social Responsibility projects supported by the company, the second part on “practical” activities , with a workshop led by our team where the corporate stakeholders have made their own solar lamp with their hands.
“However, we had not foreseen the deep and genuine interest generated in our interlocutors, with numerous enthusiastic questions and observations of the projects that their own company supported.”
We found ourselves talking about when we got stuck under a baobab for hours because the local project manager had forgotten to pick us up at the end of a workshop, so as strategies we have to invent every time to fix solar panels to roofs.
We explained how the base of each streetlight must be able to prevent and resist to goats and various other animals from knocking down the pole with their head and have answered all the questions and curiosities that have been made to us.
“In sharing knowledge, the challenge is always to bring together two different worlds unknown to each other. In African rural areas as in the company.”
At the end of this experience we understood h sow powerful stakeholder engagement is when it comes to sharing knowledge which the companies are using to work on the corporate culture of their stakeholders, making it increasingly oriented towards the idea of sustainability they want to convey.
When we started to work with university classrooms about our projects at the end of 2018, we did so with the Polytechnic of Turin, on the occasion of the PoliTo Design Workshop, an academic week in which students of different courses can choose to participate in thematic workshops of their interest.
In the workshop led by us, we talked about the different impacts that our projects can generate locally and how a systemic vision is essential for working in development cooperation. We shared our projects and our work processes with the students and received in exchange a lot of interest and motivation to deepen the topics and above all to move from theory to practice.
“We gave the students a challenge: how to communicate a social business in a rural African area?”
Shortly thereafter, we would have gone to Senegal to conclude a project with the Solarplay company, which would also have funded an international trip for the group of students who have best achieved the assigned task.
The students set to work immediately: at the end of the week, the challenge was won by the group made up of Simone, Luca and Andrea who would soon leave for a completely new adventure.
“The beauty of working with young students in a stimulating place like the University has once again been putting different worlds in communication.”
Sharing our work was an opportunity to inspire and be inspired, putting our projects at the center and thanks to them reaching the most rural and remote areas of the world, starting from a university classroom at the Politecnico di Torino.
Since 1956, the ADI (Industrial Design Association) has brought together designers, companies, journalists, critics, researchers and teachers around the themes of design: design, consumption, recycling, training.
Two years later ADI established the “Compasso D’Oro” award, the first recognition in Europe for the Design sector. From then on, the award acquires ever-increasing prestige up to the present day, where it represents an institution for the recognition of applied talent and creativity.
The 2017 edition of the award saw the nomination of nearly 800 projects, but only 204 of them were selected by the ADI Permanent Design Observatory. Among the proposals admitted to the prize, the solution shown by Liter Of Light Italia has been included in the category “Design for social”.
“Thanks to the collaboration with the Architect Simone Gori, the simple, recyclable and replicable structure of the Liter Of Light solar lamps has managed to reduce to the essential an instrument that, in some areas of the world, from inaccessible becomes an everyday object to those who benefit from it “
We are clearly referring to the social implication that the initiatives and technologies of Liter Of Light bring in the contexts of energy poverty and rurality.
These characteristics, combined with the open-source nature, the repairability and efficiency of the lamps, were decisive for accessing the “Compasso D’Oro” Award, having in 2018 the privilege of the “Honorable Mention” by the ADI’s Standing Committee of Observation and to enter into the “Historical Collection of the ADI Compasso d’Oro Award”.
“The result obtained, with the super- low technological contribution required by the Liter Of Light lamps, underlines how simple inventions can generate a large-scale impact.“
The difficulties generate creativity, and sometimes suggest game-changing solutions; from the favelas of Rio De Janeiro to more than 20 countries, the Liter Of Light solution passes through Italian Design to return, enriched, to the south of the world and to rural life, with the purpose of giving light to the darkest corners of the World. Step by step.
About one hour from Kaffrine, reachable through the sunny beaten track that connects the agglomerations of huts of the rural Senegalese provinces, lies the hospital of Ndiao Bambaly, medical center (Poste de santé) located 5 hours from Dakar, which serves 19 Senegalese villages and represents a key point for many people from Gambia and Casamance.
“A year-long co-planning process”
We were at the Ndiao Bambaly hospital for the first time in February 2019 on the occasion of the first Senegalese edition of the Lightforce project, a Corporate Social Volunteering program supported by the French headquarters of the Salesforce company and its European partners.
Accompanied by our local partner “COMI – Cooperation for the World in Development” and by the medical staff of the Presidium, with the team of corporate volunteers of Lightforce, we had the opportunity to see the true hospitals of the Senegalese rural provinces which are actually small structures mainly off -grids or partially connected to the supply of national electricity which, in addition to exposing them to frequent power drops, does not allow carrying out even the simplest actions in safety.
“Children are born very often in the light of cell phones, power cuts are harmful for the storage of vaccines and medicines in the refrigerator and the sterilization of medical tools is not always possible.”
In February 2020, after numerous e-mails and phone calls with the French team of the Lightforce project’s second edition, always accompanied by COMI and the local medical staff, we returned to Ndiao Bambaly and optimized the hospital by installing three home light solutions to illuminate the rooms of the hospital even in the evening and some solar panels on the roof, essential for the permanent and independent activity of the vaccine’s refrigerator and sterilizer.
An hour’s walk on the outward journey, to be repeated on the way back if you are not lucky enough to find a ride on wheels, drive or towed by animal force.
This is the time normally used by the inhabitants of Sikilo, a community in the Kaffrine region, to reach the capital of the same name and to be able to recharge their mobile phones.
Sikilo is located 6km from Kaffrine, from this distance derives the name of the community (literally, “Six kilomètres”), most of the workers of the community spends a good part of the day in town for job reasons; the luckiest ones in nearby Kaffrine, otherwise: Kaolack, Mbour or Dakar.
“We accepted the challenge: the goal was to allow free and green access to the recharge of mobile telecommunication devices”
Such distance between people and their loved ones requires the use of telecommunications and can find some obstacles on its way, one above all: access to electricity.
Recharging mobile systems is a constant problem in rural communities, so much that most of them are urged to request us to intervene in this field on several occasions.
We accepted the challenge, with the aim of allowing green and free access to recharge of mobile telecommunication devices
From this experience the “Mobile Charger”, multiple solar charging station for mobile phones, was born. This station allows the charging of two devices in parallel, for a total of eight total recharges per day *, in a completely autonomous and green way.
“A small gesture for us, two hours of daily life for Sikilo”
The workstations are installed in public and accessible spots around the communities, so that they can be freely used and controlled.
Thanks to systems such as the Mobile Charger we have made it possible to enable energy access to the telecommunications service: a small gesture for us, two hours of daily life for Sikilo.
* number of top-ups referring to the latest generation smartphones, less “energy-efficient” phones allow a greater number of top-ups during the day.
When we talk about rural communities, images of small, simple and isolated houses surrounded by nature where few human beings live on the products of the ground immediately take over our mind. An almost idyllic, romantic image, where peace and tranquility are marked by the rhythms of nature. Well, rurality is certainly all these things. But rurality is also cold, heat, wind, rain, wild animals, famines, calamities that must be faced on daily basis. Let’s give an example. Let’s imagine ourselves surrounded by a sandy desert, having to face 45 degrees in the shade for nine consecutive months until the rains arrive. After that, let’s imagine three months of incessant rain, which transforms the sandy streets into brown muddy rivers, the clay floors of the houses completely soaked. All of this without access to any form of electricity, which means no light except from kerosene lamps, no air conditioners or heating. No fridge or phone.
This is the reality of Sikilo, in the Senegalese province of Kaffrine, and it is just one of the numerous completely off-grid rural villages Liter Of Light Italia has been operating since 2015 with.
These on-field interventions have led our technicians to question themselves on a lighting system capable of withstanding such extreme conditions. After several years of fieldwork, tests and confrontations with the local population, Liter Of Light Italia has developed a technology that is up to par: the “LIGHTBOX” portable lamp.
Made up of a hermetically sealed ABS plastic box, the lamp allows the recharge with solar energy via a watertight USB input. A 1.5 Watt LED light develops approximately 60 Lumens of luminous energy for 8 hours of continuous use. The LIGHTBOX is designed to withstand shocks and prevent dust from entering and damaging the circuit, while the lamp casing remains inspectable and repairable. The lamp has excellent water resistance, performing even during bad weather.
In other words, the LIGHTBOX is the most essential and resistant liter of light system worldwide.
It is possible to decline the LIGHTBOX for different uses: for example, fixing it to the roof for lighting in a closed environment, or tied to a belt or to means of transport to illuminate a dark road. The LIGHTBOX system provides a charging station which can supply up to 5 lamps simultaneously thanks to a 10 Watts solar panel. Just like the lamp, the charging station is also impactproof, dustproof and waterproof and can be inspected and repaired if necessary, according to the OPEN SOURCE approach of Liter Of Light.
If on the one hand the technical aspects show its potential, what really makes the LIGHTBOX an innovative solution, as well as the other solutions of Liter Of Light, does not reside excessively in technology and design, but in the process thanks to which we have reached to the LIGHTBOX. A process that sees northern and southern hemispheres united, working together to achieve a common result. A solution focused on the human being and his resilience, sustainable in the long run, which responds to specific needs of the context but which at the same time is accepted and used by the rural community, following the ideals of sustainability and dignity of life.
A solution designed by and with the local population, to create real impact and improve the quality of life.