Solar for All: Providing Electricity to the Base of the Pyramid Through Social Entrepreneurship (2014)


Client Organization: 
Ashoka: Solar for All Initiative
Client is confirmed: 
Secondary Client Organization: 
Secondary Client Confirmed: 


SNRE Faculty Advisor: 
Thomas Gladwin
Advisor Confirmed: 
Master Students Involved in Project: 
  • Wan-Ning Chen, MS Environmental Policy and Planning
  • Annelise Guedes Lemes, MS Sustainable Systems
  • Lukas Strickland, MS Sustainable Systems
  • Aditi Moorthy, MA Economics/MS Sustainable Systems
  • Yicong Zhu, MS Environmental Policy and Planning/Sustainable Systems 
Contact full name: 
Xiaowen Lin


Job title: 
Senior Manager of Ashoka
State or Country: 
Contact Phone: 
1 (202) 351-1227 (mobile)
Contact e-mail: 
Contact information: 
I am a staff member of a potential client organization
Student Project Contact: Lukas Strickland;

Project Status

Project Status: 
Project in Progress

Project Details

Project Location : 
Africa, Asia, Latin America
Summary of Project Idea: 

Solar for All (SfA) is a global initiative that wants to make solar energy affordable to people worldwide living without access to electricity.

SfA aims to make tangible impact on the PV industry, the financial sector and rural development fully recognizing the important social and economic value proposition of clean decentralized energy for our world's villages. The initiative was launched in 2008 through the joint efforts of more than 50 of the world's leading organizations working on energy access in developing countries. The initiative is led by:

  • Ashoka (USA), a global network of the world's leading social entrepreneurs in over 70 countries, including several hundred fellows working in the area of renewable energy and poverty alleviation.
  • The Canopus Foundation (Germany), which provides business development assistance and market intelligence to social enterprises in the field of renewable energy since 1997.

Presently 1.4 billion people worldwide, mostly in developing countries, live without access to energy. Modern energy fulfills basic needs, but is also a necessary motor for socio-economic development. Electricity advances developmental factors such as small business development, access to appliances (e.g. refrigeration), extended operation and working hours, access to communications, more security, enhanced education levels and rural development. Energy can improve the lives of millions.

The Solar for All initiators have developed a three-tiered strategy to advance change: social entrepreneurship, solar technology, and venture philanthropy.

Through this master's project, the student team will assist Solar for All and its partners maximize the impact of their initiatives. The specific focus of the project is under discussion with Ashoka. Please contact Lukas Strickland ( for the most up-to-date information.

Skills/Expertise Needed: 

Desirable skills:

  • Familiarity with or interest in social entrepreneurship strategies
  • Experience with impact investing (SfA provides catalytic finance to solar enterprises throughout the supply chain)
  • Knowledge of renewable energy systems (PV, island grids, etc.)
  • Experience working in rural areas of developing countries, particularly those lacking electricity
  • Strong and "creative" research skills (information can be difficult to obtain in rural areas)
SNRE Program Areas: 
Environmental Policy and Planning
Behavior, Education, and Communication
Environmental Justice
Sustainable Systems
Professional Career Development Benefits: 
  • Experience working with Ashoka - one of the world's best known promoters of social entrepreneurship
  • Access to Solar for All's extensive network of international partners, including socially responsible investment firms (e.g. Bamboo Finance), foundations (e.g. Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation), and NGOs (e.g.  International Renewable Energy Agency).
  • Experience with renewable energy system technology
  • Direct involvement with social entrepreneurship strategies to improve access to electricity
Funding Sources: 

Under discussion with Ashoka

Identify expected products/deliverables: 

Report(s) to Ashoka/Solar for All - details under discussion.