The Global BrightLight Foundation has opened a new solar energy social enterprise in Latin America, focusing on the 30 million people in the Western Hemisphere with no access to electricity. Having completed projects in 9 different countries around the world since 2011, CEO Benjamin Bunker and the GBL Board of Directors concluded that the best way for GBL to maximize its impact was to narrow the organization’s geographic focus and become the leading supplier of energy solutions for off-grid communities in Central and South America. GBL will continue to evaluate opportunities outside of Latin America on a case-by-case basis.
In addition to a new geographic focus, GBL is also excited to share that it has adopted a new strategic approach referred to as “social enterprise” to help meet the needs of those without electricity in Latin America. Throughout its history, GBL has experimented with a variety of different models for providing solar power to remote off-grid communities. Some of these models were wholly charitable and people were not asked to contribute towards the cost of the solar lantern they received. This approach was reserved for situations in which it was unreasonable to expect people to contribute anything towards the cost of the lantern due to their abject poverty.
In other situations, GBL asked recipients to put some “skin in the game” by contributing financially. GBL found that not only did those who paid towards the cost of their lantern end up maintaining it better, but also that the revenue generated from that sale could be reinvested by GBL into reaching additional people. GBL’s experience has shown this model, commonly referred to as “social enterprise”, is the most effective, sustainable, and scalable approach to helping to eradicate energy poverty.
GBL will continue to operate as a tax-exempt 501c(3) organization in the US with headquarters in Washington, DC and has established regional headquarters in Guatemala and Peru to serve Central and South America.