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Nuggets of Insights

The Rockefeller Foundation’s odyssey to bring clean energy to rural India began 14 years ago, and included enormous highs as well as deep lows.

All along the way, The Rockefeller Foundation strove to quantify solar mini-grid impact in an effort to improve it. As one example, a report from data gathered from 2016-2018 provided credible evidence that solar mini-grids were boosting village economies, jobs, health, and general well-being, and further suggested a relationship between electricity consumption and economic growth.

Those who helped clear the path learned lessons along the way. “It was so exciting when we started to see this really starting to take hold and early indications of the transformational capacity it had on people’s lives,” Dr. Rodin said recently.

  • Inspecting solar panels in Nabiganj, Bihar (Photo Courtesy of SPI)
    Inspecting solar panels in Nabiganj, Bihar. (Photo courtesy of SPI)

Here is some of what those trailblazers said they learned:

  • Your original solution it almost certainly going to need massive adaptation along the way, but as long as your deep conviction about the potential to transform lives remains unshaken, you have to be courageous and stay the course.
    Ashvin Dayal
    Senior Vice President, Power and Climate, The Rockefeller Foundation
  • You can try to do all the analysis you want before making a big bet, but in the end, when something makes your toes curl, your experience and intuition are telling you something. That's when you take the leap.
    Zia Khan
    Senior Vice President, Innovation, The Rockefeller Foundation
  • Whether at the global, regional, national, or local level, prioritize women and their well-being. When women’s viewpoints are solicited and incorporated, the family and community benefits.
    Deepali Khanna
    Vice President, Asia Regional Office, The Rockefeller Foundation
  • Transforming bold ideas into something tangible and valuable demands an entrepreneurial mindset. The key lies in executing with excellence on the field, measuring data, and having the agility to learn and innovate. The Rockefeller Foundation’s establishment of SPI nurtured such an entrepreneurial ecosystem.
    Jaideep Mukherji
    CEO, Smart Power India
  • Aerator powered by solar in Paradeep, Odisha in 2022 (Photo Courtesy of SPI)
    Aerator powered by solar in Paradeep, Odisha in 2022. (Photo courtesy of SPI)
  • The supply side is the easy part. The demand side is critical. And to tap that, you first and foremost have to interact, engage, and understand the needs of the community. Don’t underestimate them. They know best what they need and what will work for them.
    Samit Mitra
    Director, Program Implementation, SPI
  • Put aside for the moment arguments about energy democracy and how communities need to own their resources. In simple economics, the logic of decentralized renewable energy is so strong that it can only be a matter of time. So stick with it, whatever the challenges.
    Shrashtant “Pat” Patara
    CEO, Development Alternatives
  • Don’t shy away from gnarly problems that seem impossible to solve. Those are exactly the problems we want to tackle. Bring together unconventional partners to focus on a transformative goal, and stay in it for as long as it takes, even through moments of doubt.
    Suman Sureshbabu
    Managing Director of Demand, Jobs and Livelihoods, GEAPP
  • Don’t be scared of very outrageous ideas. Sometimes from outrageous ideas, you get success. But at the same time, give those ideas three or four quarters. Then if they aren’t working, jettison them, because teams are demotivated if they cannot taste the possibility of success.
    Sidhartha Vermani
    Senior Director, SPI
  • Rice huller and spouse in Nagaland benefitting from solar mini-grids 2022 (Photo Courtesy of SPI)
    Rice huller and spouse in Nagaland benefitting from solar mini-grids 2022. (Photo courtesy of SPI)

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