A journey to discover the people who change our world.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Bit Behind

Ok, so I am a bit behind. After six months of non-stop travel, and about 80 interviews in, my body told me to slow down for a while. I hit Vietnam with a bit of a bang- of the intestinal variety. It’s all part of the travel package really, but when it comes it knocks you for socks, and shoes, and flip flops… I had to lay low for a while, take it a bit easier, and just let all experiences of the last six months try to settle as my tummy recalibrates.

I did get to see a few interesting things from my hotel room tough… just to prove that I have been to Vietnam.

But I am glad to say, I’m on the mend. I’m also on the road again. For this segment of the trip I’ve met up with my mother, Geraldine, and we are travelling through Australia and New Zealand. The plan is to see some of the sights, while meeting some people along the way.

Thanks to Harry Andrews from Barefoot Power for putting us up in Melbourne. Harry and Steward Craine are two years into a very interesting ‘social enterprise’, or a business with a social edge, rolling out solar power solutions in Papua New Guinea and Fiji. Harry told me that only 10% of PNG’s population has electricity, which gives rise to a significant business opportunity. Combining it with low cost solar energy solutions (solar power lanterns and battery chargers, for under US$5), makes for a chance to mainstream renewable energy systems into these countries.

Harry’s house was full of solar power gadgets which Barefoot Power are piloting in different regions. Hearing about their journey over the last few years was interesting. A young professional, working in the corporate sector and travelling as a tourist overseas, Harry had that nagging feeling, ‘there has to be more than this’. With a background in environmental science and project management he wanted to make better use of this skills. He teamed up with one of his colleages, Steward, who was having the same feeling. Steward background was in enginneering, and they realised during frequents chats over a few beers that a business idea was brewing. (Steward was away on business when I was in Melbourne, so I didn’t get a chance to meet him) It was either all or nothing...and so they packed in their jobs, and set up Barefoot Power, researching opportunities, seeking finance, piloting initiatives, looking for scaleable models. It is still early days for them, and Harry is aware of the steep learning curve they are on. The business model has been drawn and redrawn as they incorporate new ideas and learning into their plans.

Young, committed, eager, interested. It’s a good combination. Hard work certainly, but as Harry explained, it is worth the try.


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