Can DC Become a Silicon Valley for Social Enterprise?

A few weeks ago, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend the Ashoka Future Forum (AFF) on behalf of D2International, a social impact group I am a part of through my day job at Deloitte Consulting, LLP. As soon as I walked into the conference at the beautiful Newseum in Washington, DC, I immediately felt a rush of excitement, hope, and a strong feeling of community. From a dynamic panel featuring Ai-jen Poo, Todd Park, and Sara Horowitz, which resulted in exciting realizations by the speakers for potential collaboration across issue areas and movements, to an interactive workshop on human-centered design by the Stanford D School, to presentations from Ashoka’s youngest and brightest changemakers, AFF filled me with inspiration and motivation and reinvigorated the entrepreneur inside of me. So many of the themes that were addressed in the forum align with what the Hatch International team fundamentally believes in and has been working on tirelessly this year: Infusing empathy into solution development, a “team of teams” approach, community partnerships, and co-creation to drive systemic and transformative social change.

So, what do all of these buzzwords mean? Why was every panel and workshop at AFF so focused on themes such as empathy and co-creation? What is compelling so many thought leaders to come together and discuss how to team across sectors? We are now seeing a global movement and broader recognition that these approaches and themes are the foundation for systemic social impact. AFF’s participants and speakers brought to light the importance and dire need for communities and thought leaders to organize differently than they have in the past. In order for there to be systemic change, a community’s changemakers (individuals, thought leaders, and organizations) need to align around a social issue to co-create empathetic and innovative solutions for collective social impact. As our society is increasingly seeing progress as a result of innovation across sectors, it is critical for all of us to realize we are part of one community and system for change. In other words, all of us are key players in this global ecosystem, and all of us need to work together to innovate and create systemic social change.

After hearing some of the social impact sector’s greatest leaders provide such valuable insights into how we can be part of creating a better and stronger foundation for social change, I was inspired to reflect on how I can more effectively infuse some of these thoughts into the work the Hatch team is doing here in Washington, DC, to support early-stage social entrepreneurs, such as the three we are currently incubating (Bandha Bikes, BioD, and Solaii). As an organization which  fundamentally believes in providing support to aspiring and budding entrepreneurs, events such as these inspire me to continuously reflect on how Hatch can help those with innovative ideas but who need proper guidance and resources to help “hatch” them into viable social ventures. 

Since our entrepreneurs were lacking fundamental support from their local community, it occurred to us that Hatch could improve as an organization and more effectively meet its mission by partnering with other organizations in the DC area to provide that critical support. But how can public, private, and social sector organizations and individuals come together as a larger community to truly affect systemic change for social entrepreneurs? Can DC become a Silicon Valley for social enterprise?

We think it can. Hatch has spent the past several months reaching out to local organizations across sectors, including consulting firms, law firms, productivity spaces, and nonprofits, to help fuel a more aligned and supportive ecosystem that early-stage social entrepreneurs can turn to in order to effectively build innovative social ventures from the ground up. Hatch is working to help our key partners align to a common mission and vision of supporting idea-/early-stage social entrepreneurs. We have made empathy central to our discussions, identified specific alignment opportunities that will support organizational missions and value chains, and most importantly, have received acknowledgement of strong leadership, engagement, and a willingness to co-create from our partners.

I challenge and call upon all of you in the greater Washington, DC, area to come together to create productive partnerships, and to identify alignment opportunities that will further your mission while creating a unique environment that will breed innovation and progress. I truly believe we can help build an ecosystem for changemakers that will make Washington, DC, the Silicon Valley for social entrepreneurship, and hope you will be a part of this movement.

This blog post was written by Shivangi Khargonekar, Executive Director of Hatch International. If you or your organization/company are interested in being part of this ecosystem for changemakers please email her at [email protected].

DC Bamboo Bike “Artist,” Ugandan Bark Cloth, and New Co-Director Help to Strengthen Bandha Bikes

The vibrant reds of Ugandan soil against the radiant greens of plantain trees captivated me during my last trip to Uganda in late December 2014. It had been almost two years since I last visited the very country that had inspired the creation of Bandha Bikes, and while I had been receiving regular updates on the progress that our on-the-ground partners had made, I was eager to see it for myself and reconnect with many familiar faces in person.

In August of last year, Bandha Bikes sent two team members to Uganda to conduct a bamboo bike building training session with two local builders identified through Skills of Hope Africa as well as visit with project partners at Nansana Children’s Center. The August training demonstrated great growth among the project, but also introduced unforeseeable challenges, particularly around accessing the necessary bike building materials that could not be found in any local Ugandan market. However, during my December visit I had the privilege of reconnecting with both project partners and their organizational leaders — Katongole Issa of Nansana Children’s Center and Amos Bobo of Skills of Hope Africa — and received invaluable feedback on which areas of growth to prioritize since the August visit. Bandha Bike’s building manual, training session, educational tools, and technical assistance protocols for in-country builders will continue to be areas of development throughout 2015.  

In news closer to home, in recent months Bandha Bikes had the incredible opportunity to work closely with David Wendt, founder of Three Penny Bikes, a DC-based bamboo bike creator who has specialized in the art for years. David’s mentorship on the art of bamboo bike building has been an asset to the project and will strengthen our next prototype iteration, which will feature bark cloth built into the frame structure. Bark cloth is a Ugandan-made material, vibrant and beautiful in nature, yet full of strength and character. The bark cloth will aim to add a supplemental layer of durability particularly to the most vulnerable joint areas such as the bottom bracket, as well as continue to support the local Ugandan market and manufacturers.  

And in other exciting news I am thrilled to announce that Bandha Bikes has a new Project Co-Director! Colorado native Rachel Clement is an avid bike commuter who moved to DC to earn her Masters degree from George Washington University in International Development Studies, with a concentration in youth and gender issues in program management. She was a bilingual case worker for an urban at-risk youth mentoring program for two years and worked as a mentor for five years. She has professional experience working for and with youth in Ecuador, Vietnam, Russia, the Philippines, and Costa Rica. Rachel is passionate about the positive outcomes that increased mobility can have on a person's economic potential, educational opportunities, and health, particularly for women and girls. She brings new perspective and vigor to the team — something that we will undoubtedly benefit from in the months to come.

Hatch International’s Bandha Bikes project aims to improve the well-being of impoverished Ugandans by providing rural communities with economically and environmentally sustainable bicycles. For more information on Bandha Bikes or to help support the project, please click here. You can also follow them on Facebook here.

This blog post was written by Song Nguyen, Co-Director of Hatch International’s Bandha Bikes Project.  

Why Rural Energy Poverty is a Threat to Both the Environment and Women

When we think about the term “energy poverty,” we picture households in the dark, without electricity. These households tend to be in the developing world, particularly in rural communities of sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and Asia. But energy is much more than electricity and modern appliances. Rural households, even those in remote communities in sub-Saharan Africa without electricity, consume energy for basic needs of cooking, lighting, and heating. Their primary sources of fuel — wood and charcoal — pose the world's greatest environmental threat and harm women and children at disproportionate rates. 

Forty percent of the world's population (2.8 billion people) rely primarily on wood and charcoal for their energy needs. Because the burden of collecting and carrying wood and cooking meals falls primarily on women and girls, they experience higher levels of exposure to harmful pollutants such as the carbon monoxide that is released from the burning of biomass. These pollutants also have an acute effect on young children, who often remain by their mothers’ sides while they cook. According to the World Health Organization, indoor air pollution caused by the burning of these fuels kills 4.3 million people annually.

Yet despite these statistics, this issue gets hardly any attention. To put things in perspective, indoor air pollution in the homes of 40% of the world’s population is at least 10 times worse than the outdoor air in Beijing or Delhi. But while the air pollution in those big cities has resulted in the rethinking of energy use and concerted cleanup efforts, indoor air pollution in much of the developing world remains invisible and a non-issue for governments and institutions.

The collection of wood and/or charcoal as well as preparing food with inefficient cookstoves and the pollution that it releases indoors keeps girls out of school and women from partaking in productive endeavors. While the development community is now focusing on investments in rural electrification through solar lamps, micro grids and such, access to clean cooking energy largely remains unaddressed. It is about time we recognize that indoor air pollution is a major development issue which contributes to the vicious cycle of poverty which traps women and girls disproportionately.

While the scale and severity of this issue might seem daunting, solutions exist and represent one of the best investments we can make in ensuring sustainable and equitable community development. Improved cookstoves represent one potential solution. By burning wood and charcoal efficiently and (ideally) conducting smoke outside through chimneys, these stoves limit the emission of harmful gases, and improved cookstoves are cheap and can often be constructed using locally available materials. However, clean cookstoves only represent a partial solution since they still require wood and charcoal as fuel — using these stoves does not address issues of deforestation and associated environmental degradation. We need a holistic approach to tackling the dual challenge of indoor air pollution and environmental degradation that is culturally appropriate, affordable, and scalable.

Biogas is perhaps the most applicable alternative fuel for rural communities in the developing world. By making use of animal and plant waste (which are usually readily available in rural agrarian communities) biodigesters produce methane gas which can then be used for cooking and heating. Biodigesters do not produce the harmful gases that are emitted from burning solid biomass. While biodigesters are more expensive than clean cookstoves, after a short period of time they turn out to be a very worthy investment since they have a much longer lifespan compared to cookstoves and make use of materials that are readily available.

BioD is a novel biodigester which addresses indoor air pollution and environmental degradation by providing an affordable source of alternative energy for cooking in rural communities. Constructed with readily available materials, the BioD takes animal and plant waste and produces both methane to be used as cooking fuel and a nitrogen-rich sludge, which is an excellent fertilizer. Operating the device is simple and requires only 15 minutes every day. This device has undergone thorough testing in several rural communities in Madagascar and is currently being scaled up in partnership with local and international NGOs through a market-based approach.

The environmental issues that we are faced with today are intertwined with human rights challenges. Rural women in developing countries who have been historically disenfranchised by our institutions and structures will bear the brunt of environmental degradation including climate change. The onus is now on us to recognize and address rural energy poverty, and in doing so improve the environment and the lives of rural women around the world.

Hatch International’s BioD  team has developed a low-cost and effective biodigester that converts organic waste into methane gas which can then be used as a cooking fuel in biodiversity-threatened nations such as Madagascar. The ultimate goal is to have a self-sustaining social enterprise run by a community within the next two years. For more information or to help support the project, please click here.

This blog post was written by Rahul Mitra, Co-Director of Hatch International’s BioD Project.

Merry Walker Reflects Back on Her Time as Executive Director

Dear Friends of Hatch:

As some of you may know by now, as of November 3, 2014, I will be stepping down from the Executive Director position at Hatch International, but will continue to be involved in the organization in an advisory role. I have begun a job with the US Department of State as a Foreign Service Officer and will be posted in China beginning November 10. While working for the State Department gives me the opportunity to continue serving our community and country, being posted so far away doesn’t go hand in hand with what’s needed of an Executive Director for a growing organization.

Hatch's Board of Directors went through a recruitment and interview process, and has elected Shivangi Khargonekar to be my replacement. Shivangi has been a dedicated Board Member with Hatch since the beginning, and has managed our projects for the past several years in her role as Internal Director. She is hardworking, extremely capable, and has already started preparing some strategic moves for the organization’s future. I look forward to following Hatch’s progress under her leadership.

There are jobs, there are careers, and then there are experiences. Being part of the growth of Hatch over the last five years has been one of the most enriching and educational experiences of my life. It has been a pleasure and an absolute honor.

We were founded with the mission to empower individuals and create a community of support in order to leave the world a little better than it was before. We believe that a few passionate people working together toward the same common goal is a powerful thing and can change lives and shape our future.

To the members and partners of Hatch I'd like to say this: Remember that what you do is important and that you are making a difference. Some days go by and they may seem mundane or slow, but we’re all working together as a team to accomplish this common long-term goal. I’m so proud of what we have all accomplished together, and look forward to what Hatch will continue to do for our world. Thank you for all of your service to the global community.

And to our supporters and donors, words cannot express my gratitude for all that you've done. We couldn't have made it this far without you, and and I truly hope that you will continue to support Hatch's mission.



A Letter from Shivangi Khargonekar, Incoming Executive Director of Hatch

Dear Friends, Colleagues, and Supporters:

Since Hatch International’s conception in January 2010, I have served as the Internal Director, supporting the organization's development into a successful global social enterprise nonprofit. With all three of Hatch’s projects piloting this fall, I can only imagine the endless and exciting possibilities that lie ahead of us, and would like to play a critical role in shaping the future of this organization. My interest has always been -- and will continue to be -- in the innovation and drive of our members, which fuels the impact Hatch International delivers to communities in resource-limited settings.

I continue to believe in our vision that a small group of passionate individuals can leave the world a better place, and change can only come through meaningful conversations and engagement with both their local and global communities. As Hatch International further integrates into the local community here at home in Washington, DC, I ask all of you to challenge yourselves and think of how you, your peers, your mentors, and the greater DC community can play a role in being change makers and innovators, and that you continue the conversation of global empowerment and social impact.

As we embark on the final phase of taking three social enterprises from idea to launch, I am inspired and excited to serve as Executive Director and lead this organization to the next level, allowing Hatch International to truly realize its mission and vision of enabling low-income communities globally to gain access to basic necessities through social entrepreneurship. Thank you for this opportunity and for your continued support.

And finally, a huge thank you to Merry Walker for all her hard work and dedication -- I realize I have some pretty big shoes to fill, but look forward to continuing the work that she began four years ago.

Warm regards,


It Takes a Village to Launch a Venture: Bandha Bikes’ Pilot Trip to Uganda

Brian, Laurel and Amos show off their bamboo poles

After devoting more than two years to planning, preparing, and perfecting our bamboo bike model and developing relationships with potential partners in Uganda, the Bandha Bikes team finally set out to test the bicycle building process in Uganda this past August. While the DC team’s ongoing research has made great strides, there is still much that needs to be done on the ground, and luckily we were able to take advantage of Bandha’s Co-Director Laurel Hamilton’s summer job near the pilot village of Jinja, Uganda, to start collecting in-country data.

On weekends during the months leading up to the August trip, Laurel worked alongside local partners Brian Waako and Amos Bobo with Skills of Hope Africa (SOHA) to prepare for the pilot. With sustainability and affordability being key to the success of the project, finding local materials was an essential element of the pilot, so with the assistance of Brian and Amos, Laurel explored informal and formal markets near Jinja as well as in the bustling capital city of Kampala. Traveling by cramped minibus -- and sometimes the exciting, yet hazardous, boda boda motorcycle taxis -- added to the thrill of searching for key materials like epoxy, hemp, and tung oil. With ongoing technical assistance from the team back home in DC, and concerted efforts from our SOHA partners, Laurel was also able to locate, harvest, and heat treat bamboo poles, which need two months to properly dry, in advance of the pilot building process.

Transporting the bamboo

Each day brought new adventures. One day-long saga brought Brian, Amos, and Laurel to a large, underused bamboo stand in a rural expanse. The trio examined grove after grove, searching for the straightest bamboo in order to make the strongest frames. After cutting down several 10-foot long pieces, they flagged down a passing vehicle and tossed the poles on top of the already loaded truck bed. Once they reached a paved road they unloaded and flagged down a new truck to make the second leg of the long journey. For the third and final leg, they convinced one of the local minibus taxis to carry the bamboo poles under the feet of passengers to the pilot site in the village. It took several strangers with kind hearts throughout the community to make the bamboo transportation process even possible. A task as simple as picking up bamboo a mere 25 miles away proved to be quite a feat!

Laurel, Brian and women from the village help roast the bamboo poles

To avoid insect infestation, bamboo must be treated soon after extraction, so the team wasted no time in slowly roasting the bamboo over a charcoal fire. Curious neighbors came from all corners of the community to ask questions, often offering a helping hand with the heat treatment. The sense of eagerness, kindheartedness, and curiosity created great opportunities for positive community interaction and engagement around the Bandha Bikes project.

In August Jordan Bleck, Bandha’s Technical Lead, joined Laurel in-country. Jordan had worked on two Bandha Bike models, but this was his first time visiting Uganda and seeing firsthand the communities that the project hopes to impact. Admittedly, the pilot got off to a rocky start: After some essential materials -- the epoxy and jig -- were lost or damaged during the travel from the US to Uganda, SOHA partners scrambled to identify replaceable parts from shops throughout Kampala in hopes of reassembling the jig, which secures the dimensions and overall design of the frame and was essential to the success of the pilot. During the visit to Kampala, SOHA partners took a detour to introduce Jordan and Laurel to Sandy, who has been developing his own bamboo bicycle while working in Uganda. He was able to carve custom wooden pieces to replace missing parts, and his woodworking skills played an invaluable role in fixing the broken jig. Sandy was excited to meet our team members and will continue to be a valuable partner to Bandha BIkes.

Ciprian, Jordan and Sandy hard at work

Ciprian and Sandy (not the same Sandy mentioned above) are two hard-working people who also played a significant role in the pilot, and would become Bandha Bike’s first trainees as project bike builders. For three days they worked diligently with Jordan, assembling the bamboo frame step by step.

Village women observing the bike-building process

Several women in the community who make handicrafts and jewelry through a SOHA program frequented the workshop during the pilot. The interest, level of engagement, and overall curiosity of the villagers was remarkable, and illustrated a significant advantage of our partnership with SOHA, since one of Bandha Bike’s longer-term goals is to improve the entrepreneurial skills of women in a country where opportunities for them are few.

Laurel and Jordan also met with Kasoma, the only expert bamboo bicycle builder currently working from Uganda. Kasoma builds custom bikes and ships them to international customers, and had an incredible knowledge base to share with the Bandha team about both the international and Ugandan markets as well as the business landscape available in-country.

Jordan served as a jungle gym for some village children

Part of the pilot trip included a village homestay directly across the street from the workshop, which gave the team an insider’s look into the community. They shopped for food from markets in nearby Jinja town and cooked local dishes over a small charcoal stove, which Laurel had learned to do during her time in Uganda. Jordan figured out how to take a bucket bath and hand-wash laundry, also with the help of Laurel’s seasoned experience. Neighbors welcomed the team by offering matoke (plantain), as well as a strange fruit that looked like a kumquat but tasted like an avocado. Children frequently surrounded the house, hoping to catch a glimpse of what the team was doing -- sometimes they lucked out when Jordan would let them climb all over him. A white man and a woman speaking the local greetings were probably a very strange occurrence for the village! The experience of the homestay gave the team a great look into the struggles as well as the simple but generous way of life in Uganda.

As for next steps, Bandha Bikes will continue to develop the implementation of bike building activities and partner relationships on the ground. Within the next year, the team hopes to finalize frame testing processes in Uganda, develop a full functioning manufacturing process, and continue to engage Ugandan communities through the project's educational sessions. If you would like to support our efforts, we are running a fundraising campaign through November 26, and need help to reach our tipping point. Please visit our campaign page for more information or to donate.

If you live in the Washington, DC, area, BicycleSPACE in the Mt. Vernon Square neighborhood hosts a donation yoga class every Monday at 7:30 pm, and through November 24, all proceeds from these classes will benefit Bandha Bikes. Click here for more information. And thank you to BicycleSPACE for supporting us!

Hatch International’s Bandha Bikes projects aims to improve the well-being of impoverished Ugandans by providing rural communities with economically and environmentally sustainable bicycles. For more information on Bandha Bikes or to help support the project please click here.

This blog post was written by Laurel Hamilton, with contributions from Song Nguyen, Co-Directors of Hatch International’s Bandha Bikes Project. Photos by Laurel Hamilton. Additional pictures from the trip can be found on Bandha Bikes Facebook page.

Strong Partnerships, Welcoming Communities, and Lemurs Galore: BioD Team’s Pilot Trip to Madagascar

Antananarivo, the scenic capital of Madagascar


In August Rahul Mitra and I traveled to Madagascar for what I’m happy to report was a very successful pilot trip for BioD. The purpose of the trip was to install test units in a small group of consumer households before introducing the technology to a wider market. During the piloting phase, which will last six months, we will be collecting feedback from users on the ease of use, functionality, appearance, price, and product features. BioD researchers will conduct a baseline and endline household survey, as well as focus groups and remote intermittent monitoring. The data we collect during the piloting phase will be used to refine the technology so it meets the needs expressed by consumers.

IME Students and Professor Hery Rakotondramiarana with BioD Co-Director Caroline Angelo

Early in the project's development BioD formed important partnerships in Madagascar with the University of Antananarivo and Rotaract Club Avana, both of which were instrumental in the pilot's success. Under the guidance of engineering professors at the University of Antananarivo's Intitut pour le Matrise d'Energie (IME), the team met and collaborated with Masters and PhD students on the technical aspects of the design and the sourcing of parts in Madagascar. These students constructed the pilot units and will be performing measurements on and optimizing the current design. They will also periodically travel to the pilot sites to collect data and perform troubleshooting, as well as assist BioD in securing patent protection and incorporating the business in Madagascar.

Rotaract Avana during piloting in Ampefy

Comprised of young adults in Antananarivo, the Rotaract Club Avana’s mission is to improve their communities through service projects. An early supporter of BioD, they laid the groundwork for the pilot's success by identifying appropriate communities and providing sensitization and training to these communities prior to the installation of pilot units. During the trip they scheduled meetings with government agencies and NGOs, advertised the BioD through radio, print, and word of mouth, and hosted community meetings in the pilot villages. They will be working closely with the IME students and local Peace Corps volunteers, and will continue to support BioD by visiting the pilot communities to conduct household surveys and collect user feedback on the units.

This lemur was curious about what a Hatch water bottle tasted like

Our first visit was to Ampefy, an idyllic commune in the Itasy region, about 75 miles from the capital. Ampefy is rich in natural beauty, with waterfalls, geysers, and and a big lake that many of the residents’ homes are clustered around. Sadly, the gorgeous scenery of Ampefy belies a community of people that earn less than $1 a day and rely on smoke-producing fuels such as firewood and charcoal for cooking. Like most communes in Madagascar, the majority of its population earns a living through farming, though some are fishers. By far the freshest and most delicious fish we had was in Ampefy! One of the reasons we chose Ampefy is because there is a strong Peace Corps presence. Sarah, the charismatic volunteer currently assigned to Ampefy, was as enthusiastic about the BioD as we are and will assist us in collecting feedback and promoting the technology.

Owner of the BioD in Ampefy

We set up the BioD in the center of town, and quickly drew a crowd of curious onlookers who started asking questions about the strange-looking device. Rahul impressed everyone by giving a talk in Malagasy, while I opted to speak in English with a translator. We explained how the BioD works, and how it can save users time and money while reducing deforestation and the health hazards associated with cooking smoke. We concluded the demonstration with a Q&A session where community members asked a lot of great questions. Then the BioD was moved to the home of our first pilot participant, a woman who is Ampefy’s pioneer in alternative energy; in addition to hosting the inaugural BioD, she has solar panels installed on her roof!

Installation of the BioD in Ambohimanga

The second week we traveled to Ambohimanga, the site of one of Madagascar’s 12 sacred hills. This time we had BioD t-shirts made, and gave them out as prizes during a lively trivia session.

This was my first trip to Madagascar, so in addition to the excitement of the pilot itself, meeting our partners and customers face-to-face was an unforgettable experience for me. Madagascar is a beautiful country and the people were incredibly warm and friendly and made Rahul and me feel very welcome.

Budding photographer

One of my favorite memories was while we were in Ambohimanga. I handed my camera to a little girl, and after a very short lesson, she grasped the concept of how to take a picture. She proceeded to take a bunch of pictures of her friends and even a few of me; when Rahul and I looked at the pictures later, we were both amazed at how good they were! Her pictures were some of our favorites from the trip.

BioD with Catholic Relief Services

There are several things on the horizon for BioD. Through a planned partnership with Catholic Relief Services (CRS), BioD plans to install 20-30 units in the commune of Miary, near the southwest port city of Tulear in the Spring of 2015. CRS will be selling the BioD units to families participating in a five-year food distribution program at a subsidized price. We are currently working with CRS to source materials and identify manufacturing facilities in Tulear to lower construction and transportation costs.

BioD with Ministry of Energy

BioD with Peace Corps Madagascar

The team is also in the process of forming partnership agreements with several other organizations that we met with in Madagascar, including Madagascar Oil, the Ministry of Energy, the Office of Environment, Peace Corps Madagascar, BushProof, and Association Nationale d'Actions Environnementales (ANAE). These partnerships will assist in manufacturing, education, materials sourcing, and forming a business in Madagascar.

And finally, we have an exciting update on our coffee fundraising initiative. Based on feedback from experts in the United States, the team advised the Ampefy coffee cooperative on how to improve the quality of their product. This new and improved coffee was recently harvested and brought back to Washington, DC, where it will be roasted and sampled by local coffee shop owners (if you know any that might be interested in selling this delicious coffee, please let us know). Hopefully you will be able to try it for yourself soon!

We would like to thank everyone who donated during this summer’s fundraising campaign -- we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish all that we did on the pilot trip without your support!

Coffee cooperative with moisture analyzer provided by BioD

Hatch International’s BioD  team has developed a low-cost and effective biodigester that converts organic waste into methane gas which can then be used as a cooking fuel in biodiversity-threatened nations such as Madagascar. The ultimate goal is to have a self-sustaining social enterprise run by a community within the next two years. For more information or to help support the project, please click here.

This blog post was written by Caroline Angelo, Co-Director of Hatch International’s BioD Project. Photos by Caroline Angelo and Rahul Mitra. More pictures from the trip can be found on Hatch’s Facebook page.


Fall Member Spotlight: Bandha Bikes Co-Director Laurel Hamilton

For Bandha Bikes Co-Director Laurel Hamilton, growing up on the beautiful Oregon coast instilled a love and respect for the environment at an early age. She learned about the importance of environmentally friendly solutions from passionate parents who had systems to avoid creating any trash whatsoever, only bought environmentally friendly products, and regularly took their children on hikes and camping trips to commune with nature.

At the age of 13, she started to develop another interest: Learning about diverse cultures and people living in the very foreign worlds of developing countries. “It all started when a family friend moved to a village setting while volunteering with the Peace Corps in Madagascar and began sending letters about her experiences to my family,” Laurel explains. “From that point on, I always wanted to learn about foreign ways of life through travel and study.”

After high school she pursued an undergraduate degree in Biological Anthropology and in her early twenties went on her first solo trip to Mexico where she spent a semester teaching English. It was there, and on subsequent trips to Central and South America, India, and Nepal, that Laurel began to understand both the value of these different ways of life as well as the extreme injustice of unmet basic human needs all over the world.

It was when she came to George Washington University in Washington, DC, to pursue her Masters in Global Public Health that her interest in integrated environmental and community health solutions began to develop.

“To really influence lasting change, society needs to find ways to address the interrelated nature of all things,” Laurel says. “Without a healthy environment -- land, water, crops, food, air -- people cannot be healthy. And without finding sustainable solutions that can last long after we as individuals have moved on, positive change cannot take place.”

It was for some of these same reasons that Laurel started to ride a bicycle as her main form of transport while living in DC. Her concerns about the pollution caused by other forms of transport plus the value of exercise between long bouts of sitting at a desk made cycling a great multifaceted solution. As a cyclist in DC she also found time to advocate for improved infrastructure and encourage many women to take up two-wheeled adventures as well.

Soon after graduating with her MPH in 2012, Laurel heard about Hatch International’s Bandha Bikes project. By pairing locally sourced and locally built bamboo bicycles with gender and financial literacy education programs, Bandha Bikes aims to provide subsidized bicycles to the most at-need families in rural Uganda. There, because roads and public transit are limited, a bicycle can provide access to distant economic opportunities, health facilities, education centers, water, and wood collection sites. The project’s goals were a perfect fit for all of Laurel’s interests including integrated economic, health, environment, and gender impacts. The fact that the product was a bicycle, something Laurel uses on a regular basis as a tool for personal empowerment and improving the environment and her own health, was icing on the cake.  

Her initial role was assisting the Project Director in all administrative and project planning duties, but she soon took on more responsibility as Co-Director and helped to develop the business plan and preliminary budgets and keep the rest of the team on task. This summer Laurel took her dedication one step farther, participating in an on-the-ground pilot in Uganda while there working in an unrelated public health position. She spent weekends preparing for the Bandha Bikes pilot bicycle training in a village outside of Jinja, Uganda, working alongside local partners to harvest and treat bamboo from a farm near beautiful Lake Victoria. She also visited hardware shops in the capital of Kampala and nearby town of Jinja to research and gather the local materials necessary for building.

After a week training two local Ugandans on the process of building the bamboo frame, Bandha Bikes is one step closer to fulfilling its mission of providing bikes to the many women walking miles a day to provide food and water for their families, children walking miles to attend school, and men unable to find work due to long distances to markets.

After returning from Uganda, Laurel moved to Los Angeles with her boyfriend and plans to continue her pursuit of integrated solutions and work toward improving the many environmental and health challenges of Los Angeles County. While she will be stepping back from her role as Co-Director, Laurel will continue as an advisor for the Bandha Bikes team. “The coming years are pivotal for the project. After all the knowledge we’ve gained in the last few years and the relationships we’ve built with partners, the tipping point to implementation of the project will soon be within reach.”

Hatch International’s Bandha Bikes projects aims to improve the well-being of impoverished Ugandans by providing rural communities with economically and environmentally sustainable bicycles. For more information on Bandha Bikes or to help support the project please click here.

This blog post was written by Susan Patterson, Communications Director for Hatch International.

Solaii Gearing up to Pilot this Fall

Hatch International’s project Solaii will be making big strides in the coming months. I recently traveled to Chennai, India, to meet with two of our on-the-ground partners: Indian Fisherfolk Development Program (IFDP), which is part of the Centre for Research on New International Economic Order (CReNIEO), and South Central Indian Network of Development Alternatives (SCINDeA). Solaii’s pilot initiative, which commences this fall, will provide 120 lamps across seven villages in the Pulicat Lake region of Tamil Nadu, India. One woman will be chosen from each village to be educated on the maintenance of solar lamps, sales, marketing, and business management: These seven women will become knowledge houses for solar lamp technology in their communities. The solar technology will not only serve as income generation for women, but will also reduce lighting costs for fisherfolk families.  

Kerosene lamp

Solaii’s solar lamps are more innovative and multi-functional compared to competing products on the market. They provide a renewable energy option to high-need communities that currently only have access to kerosene and low-quality flashlights. The lamps have been developed with continuous feedback from the villagers to ensure that they meet their needs.

Solaii’s vision is to reach as many people as possible throughout India by leveraging established distribution networks. We are seeking industry, NGO/micro-finance, and government partners to help us eradicate the use of kerosene as a lighting resource and empower communities globally with income-generating businesses.

I’d like to thank the rest of the Solaii team for all their hard work and dedication: Our three talented engineers Nicholas Imbriglia, Andrew Boggeri, and Matthew Ford; our three strong curriculum designers Shivangi Khargonekar, Eric Shu, and Natasha Rishi; and our savvy business manager Irina Volanchansky.

In order for us to meet our goals and successfully complete the pilot this fall, we are seeking interested investors and advisors as well as supporting volunteers to help develop the business even further. To learn more please contact [email protected].

Hatch International’s Solaii team’s goal is to distribute solar lamps and empower women by helping them start their own social enterprises, which will increase the economic potential of their community while also reducing the environmental and human health hazards of kerosene lighting. Learn more about the Solaii project by reading how we are Redefining the 6 p.m Hour.

This blog post was written by Chandni Shah, Co-founder and Solaii Director for Hatch International.

Summer 2014 Member Spotlight: Andrew Boggeri, Solaii Manufacturing Adviser

Andrew Boggeri

There is something to be said about being at the right place at the right time, which might explain the fortuitous meeting on the other side of the globe that led to Andrew Boggeri joining Hatch International’s Solaii team. A native of the Bay Area in northern California, Boggeri earned a BS in Aerospace Engineering from UCLA and worked in the mechanical engineering field for two years before joining Hatch International’s Solaii project in 2013.

“I like to build things, and help others build things, which was one of the reasons I got involved with Solaii,” Boggeri shares. He met Solaii Director Chandni Shah in China when they were both on a sourcing tour. She gave a short presentation on Vort Port International (now Hatch International) and the India Solar Lamp project (now Solaii), and Boggeri was hooked.

“I follow international politics occasionally and know that there are some complex and thorny issues surrounding nonprofits and development projects,” Boggeri says. “I was very impressed with the integrative approach of Hatch — making sure that communities are involved and building products that they would want and actually use to make their lives better.”

Boggeri’s interest in combating poverty began at a young age. In high school he founded a youth engagement program inside a nonprofit that assists the poor and homeless. He began as a regular volunteer serving food in their kitchen, but then stepped up to a leadership role when realized there was a major need for helpers and coordinators. Since many of the high schools in the area required community service hours, he was able to recruit other volunteers and organize a schedule for students to serve food on the weekends as well as help with other projects doing such things as building maintenance and fundraising.

Andrew in China.jpg

“I’ve always had a really strong sense of justice and fairness, and poverty really makes people vulnerable and shouldn’t be a state in which person has to suffer,” Boggeri explains. “If you grow up in a poor rural village, or on the streets of a third-world country, you’re starting off life at a huge disadvantage. I want to empower people to be able to choose their own destiny.”

Boggeri’s current volunteer role is as the manufacturing advisor for Solaii, where he works with the other engineers to make sure their designs are manufacturable and gives them advice keeping costs down or achieving certain performance goals. He has experience working in both the US and China, which enables him to provide guidance to the team as they search for manufacturers. He anticipates devoting significant time managing the logistics of production of the solar lamps in the near future.

“I go to China regularly for business, and while I don’t think it’s necessary to see a factory before starting a relationship, at some point you want to visit. It’s important to have a personal relationship with your factory so you know their capabilities and they know that you’re a serious buyer.”

Solaii is planning to make a few design changes to the solar lamps and then send some pilot prototypes into the field for testing. Once the testing has verified the design, production will begin.

“Right now we just need to get through the testing phase with our Indian partners -- this part is a little challenging because good prototypes are expensive, and we want to make sure they’re impressed with the product.”

Boggeri  has high expectations for the Solaii project, and hopes for it to develop into a sustainable business that can grow within India before eventually being handed off to local stakeholders.

During his time away from Hatch (i.e. his day job!), Boggeri works as the lead mechanical engineer at FSL/FSL3D, a startup in Las Vegas that makes laser cutters and 3D printers. He also manages a meetup group dedicated to helping folks found and run hardware startups. And in his free time he enjoys hiking and cooking.

Hatch International’s Solaii team’s goal is to distribute solar lamps and empower women by helping them start their own social enterprises, which will increase the economic potential of their community while also reducing the environmental and human health hazards of kerosene lighting. Learn more about the Solaii project by reading how we are Redefining the 6 p.m Hour.

This blog post was written by Susan Patterson, Communications Director for Hatch International.