BAREFOOT COLLEGE AND SOLAR MAMAS A unique curriculum that shatters the obstacle of illiteracy

lvin Toffler in his 1970 book Future Shock wrote that the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot unlearn, learn

and relearn,” says Regan Leahy from global law firm Hogan Lovells, immediately before facilitating a workshop on constructing solar lanterns. Many people think that those best suited to new technologies are today’s youth, or experts, Regan explains, but Hogan Lovells believes something radically different. “We believe it’s going to be women,” says Regan. “Specifically those with little or no formal education; women who cannot read or write, whose adaptive intelligence – the skill we’re all going to need to achieve the SDGs and build the world we want – will lead us and properly leverage the technology.” As part of its citizenship strategy, Hogan Lovells has established a partnership with Barefoot College – a 50 year-old social enterprise community development organization based in a small village called Tilonia in Rajasthan, India. Barefoot uses a ‘systems change’ approach, combining innovation, opportunity and technology to improve access to energy, health, water and sanitation and rural enterprise. In other words, the college works to address pressing global challenges by empowering people in developing


A FERRARI IN OUR POCKETS Mobile journalism and empowering communities

e all have a Ferrari in our pockets but we’re driving it in first gear,” says Yusuf Omar, the charismatic founder

of Hashtag Our Stories – a global network of mobile storytellers creating videos about people changing their worlds. “Everyone in this room understands the

value of the SDGs; people outside the room don’t. The message about the SDGs will not be communicated by traditional media – it won’t even be communicated by the governments or the United Nations. It’s up to individual citizens using their mobile devises to communicate the values and the solutions they’re coming up with.” Yusuf, who has lived all over the world and now thinks of himself as “completely nomadic – living on airplanes” – is at the event to inspire others to engage with Mojo; or mobile journalism –

hence the Ferrari in your pocket quote. “We aim to empower communities around the world to tell stories using mobile phones and we curate that content in shows,” he says of his work with Hashtag Our Stories. “We produce a show every day that lives on various platforms.” “My generation resonates with optimism and positivity and solutions. I found that many of the stories that were going viral focused on constructive journalism – they were about a problem with society and somebody making it better. It was easy to categorize those stories within the SDGs – because within the framework, you’re talking about all of the biggest challenges.” Yusuf continues: “My relationship with the SDGs is kind of an alignment: I’m a storyteller and my stories focus on hope and people changing the world. This is the same focus as the SDGs – so it’s about connecting them up. Once you pair the stories with the SDGs you gain access

country communities to use some of the skills, knowledge and wisdom they already possess. In partnership, Hogan Lovells and Barefoot aim

to train 400 solar engineers (or Solar Mamas, as they’re respectfully referred to) to solar electrify 20,000 households and bring light to 200,000 people in 35 countries. “We’re two years into our three-year partnership, and we’re on track to exceed our goals,” explains Regan. So far, Hogan Lovells has helped Barefoot

College to achieve a number of goals by: • Fundraising US$400,000 globally in donations from Hogan Lovells people

• Providing over 1,300 hours of pro bono advice to open four new solar training centers in Africa and to educate Solar Mamas on human rights

• Educating 1,000 plus schoolchildren in 12 countries about Barefoot and the SDGs, with 83 percent of students reporting that they would like to work on developing new solutions to global problems

• Enabling and supporting Barefoot to train over 384 solar mamas from 35 countries

• Producing Flip the Switch – an award-winning documentary film, which follows the journey of the Solar Mamas and explores the importance of shared value partnerships to achieve the SDGs. PDoBA& “Technology is often not designed for people in

developed a unique “Barefoot has

curriculum that shatters the obstacle of

illiteracy using color coding, sign language and visual tools to allow women

without any formal training to teach others”

Regan Leahy

the developing world,” says Regan. “But Barefoot has developed a unique curriculum that shatters the obstacle of illiteracy using color coding, sign language and visual tools to allow women without any formal training to teach others. This is technology designed by the poor, for the poor.” There are currently 3,000 solar mamas across 96 countries delivering light to one million people and generating 1.4GW of energy. “The solar mamas have exceeded every expectation and continue to humble us all. They have become role models and leaders,” Regan adds.

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to new networks and partnerships. As a content creator, I gain access to a bigger audience. “Individuals and corporates can use the SDGs to affiliate with a green movement – to do something positive, because if you ask the average kid on the street about the SDGs, they still don’t know,” he says. “If their local corner shop – or a big company they like – is talking about it and it leads them to better understand these 17 objectives, we’re heading in the right direction.”

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