How A Big Idea Lights the Slums for Free

by Gijs van Wulfen

How A Big Idea Lights the Slums for FreeA big idea is a new simple solution for a relevant problem or dream. That’s my definition. It doesn’t have to be commercial per se. In my new book The Innovation Expedition I promote also big ‘social’ ideas, like for example ‘Liter of Light’.  See movie below!

Liter of Light (or Isang Litrong Liwanag) is a global movement that aims to provide an ecologically and economically sustainable source of light to underprivileged households that do not have access to electricity or have difficulties affording electricity. The solution is a relatively simple invention. It involves filling up a 1.5L PET bottle with purified water and bleach and installing it onto the roof of a dwelling. The water inside the bottle refracts the sunlight during the daytime and creates the same luminosity as a 55-watt light bulb. With the proper installation and materials a solar bottle can last up to 5 years.

The idea of using water-filled bottles to spread daylight into dark rooms was first pioneered by the Brazilian Alfredo Moser in 2002. Students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) also contributed in the subsequent design and development of the technology behind Liter of Light. The students had the idea to make solar bottle bulbs when they were constructing a school classroom made out of recycled bottles in the Philippines. After construction was completed, they noticed that the school could not afford to pay the electricity bills, even though the building was sustainable. Knowing that the walls made with clear bottles let light in during the daytime, the students began experimenting with ways to use recycled bottles to bring in light through the roof.

In April 2011, Illac Diaz, founder of the MyShelter Foundation, was the first to launch a social enterprise using the Liter of Light technology in the city of Manila, Philippines. In order to help the idea to grow sustainably, the MyShelter Foundation implemented a “local entrepreneur” business model, whereby bottle bulbs are put together and installed by locals enabling them to earn a small income. Within months, the organization expanded from one carpenter and one set of tools in one community in San Pedro, Laguna to 15,000 solar bottle bulb installations in 20 cities and provinces around the Philippines and inspired local initiatives around the world.

One year after inception, over 200,000 bottle bulbs were installed in communities around the world. Liter of Light has a goal to light up 1 million homes by the end of 2015.

I was amazed by the video. I hope you are too.

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Gijs van WulfenGijs van Wulfen leads ideation processes and is the founder of the FORTH innovation method. He is the author of Creating Innovative Products & Services, published by Gower.

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