SociaLite Lighting Systems Inc

Engineering for the Middle of Nowhere

SociaLite Lighting Systems, founded in 2017, works to increase awareness of, and alleviate light poverty by developing and installing solar powered mini-grid systems. We actively seek, and work with impoverished, marginalized, forgotten communities—subsistence farming families living in remote locations without access to modern infrastructure, now struggling to accommodate climate change. With light and communication come education and the possibility of breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty.

Mission

The organization emerged from a 2006 first-year engineering class at The Cooper Union for the Advancement for Science and Art presented with the challenge “working with the poorest of the poor, design a lighting system to address their real needs.” During extensive field trials over the past 14 years, we, and our local mentors, have worked directly with hundreds of members in seven of these impoverished communities throughout Ghana and Rwanda. With this learning, we have developed and proved an engineering methodology and design philosophy to address the fundamental needs of the extreme poor—solutions that must function in the middle of nowhere.
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The mini-grid and lantern systems are delivered as kits, by foot in some instances, to these remote communities. Requiring nothing but community enthusiasm and the shade of a tree, people are taught to build, install, operate and maintain these systems. With this learning emerge numerous opportunities for local employment and entrepreneurship—from the establishment of supply lines to system operation and maintenance. Expansion across these communities and regions is achieved through cooperation and knowledge shared.

We have built and installed robust, self-sustaining, affordable, easily operated and maintained, fixed and mobile solar systems that can be used for lighting, mobile phone charging and audio/video entertainment. We have learned that imbuing communities with a sense of ownership and the knowledge to assemble and subsequently maintain the equipment are key to ensuring long-term self-sustenance of these systems.

Current Goal

Our initial design for portable lanterns that share a single solar powered community charging station, has evolved into a more versatile community resource with facilities for lantern and cell phone charging, video projection and high-power audio—the mobile equivalent serving multiple, closely-spaced communities. Our typical mini-grid comprises a box containing a lead acid battery, charge controller, charging outlets for up to twelve cell phones and twelve lanterns, an audio amplifier, two loudspeakers, a pico projector and a 100W PV panel. These components are placed on a locally-built, hand-pulled cart able to easily traverse the most rugged terrains and function in all weather conditions.
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We seek funding to install these lighting and entertainment facilities in up to 250 “forgotten" communities throughout Ghana. In so doing we will share our design methodology and hopefully inspire others with greater resources to power these same communities the world over. We can also realize our dream of installing systems in clusters of communities, helping them work together to create the support structures necessary to operate and maintain these systems on a much larger scale. Central to our path forward, is the use of knowledge gained to explore new models of ownership and accountability that accommodate rapidly evolving societal norms and greater mobility.

With the engineering aspects of the project generally resolved, we continue to innovate and evaluate operational practices and payment schedules. Active community engagement, responsibility and ownership remain central to success but present the largest challenge in the long term. Prospective user communities are now subject to a more extensive application process coupled to a dialog designed to strengthen future community responsibility.

The most economic way to donate is through Facebook—we receive the funds in 60-75 days with no deductions through Network for Good. If you are happy paying directly into our bank account, please send an email to [email protected] and we'll send you our account details. If you want to give now, please click on the Donate logo at the bottom of this page and you will be taken directly to our PayPal page.

Thank you