Thursday, July 31, 2008

Day 18 - Foundations and funding

This morning we were given another presentation by Kurt Kornbluth that was a little bit about his work at UC Davis, a little bit about the design process, and a huge amount of spilled water everywhere! He talked about some lighting and energy storage projects that he was working on and even at the early time of 10am, participants expressed huge interest in the type of work that he was presenting. He gave the audience four crucial tips for design; build often and early; quantify your results; ask "will it pay for itself"?; and 'sure, you'll sell a million, but how are you going to do that?' Kurt's energy and enthusiasm can only be described as infectious and some of it has most certainly rubbed off on some of the participants, many of whom he has been working with quite closely on a number of the projects over the last week.

The participants then had an afternoon and a morning work session split by a presentation from Kate Lessard, of foundation relations in MIT. She informed participants about the different avenues to pursue for funding projects and went into detail about how to work with Foundations to help fund charitable organizations. She simplified quite a complex process by telling the participants that some key questions needed to be asked of themselves even before they approach the foundations themselves. The key questions went something like this:

What problem will you solve?
Who will be served?
How many people will be served?
Why now?
How will you measure impact?
How will you sustain the project (what will happen in the long run)?

This session, in conjunction with the entrepreneurship session given by Paul Hudnut, and the lunch sponsored by the Public Service Centre, has the aim of helping to provide participants with the necessary tools and information to help them implement their projects once they leave MIT at the end of the conference. Kate also highlighted the importance of building a good working relationship with the foundation that is sponsoring you to ensure that the goals of those behind the project, and those behind the funds, are completely aligned.
Siobhan from the Power generation team examining their wheel mechanism

Charcoal Crushers casting concrete rollers

The ropeway transport system team looking for some cheap materials!

Dr. David Sokal, from the Breast Milk team, ready for some testing

In the evening, there was a presentation by TIE Boston, Social Entrepreneur division on Global Crisis for Water and Sanitation. We were provided with some Indian food for the dinner before a panel which included Denise D. Knight of the Coca Cola Company’s Water Sustainability Initiative; Michael Delaney, Director of Oxfam America’s Humanitarian Response; Dr. Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Asoc. Prof., MIT and Lotika Paintal, founder of a start up non-profit, Water Centric. Lotika was also moderating the panel and I found her presentation on her newly formed venture, Water Centric extremely interesting. It gave an insight into the ways in which a newly formed venture could effectively tackle a very specific issues by working closely with community partners.

The panel finished at about 8pm but most teams continued to work late into the night, in preparation for the second round of design reviews, due to take place tomorrow afternoon. Taking into account the long work hours, the level of camaraderie and energy the participants have shown is exceptional. The rope way transport team, in particular, always seem to be up to some kind of mischief, hidden away in D-lab!

Winnie hard at work in the orphanage...sorry - I meant workshop!

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