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The Little Sun solar-powered lamp is a marriage of artistry, function, and mission. Co-designers Olafur Eliasson, an artist, and Frederik Ottesen, an engineer, set out to create a product that would literally put the power of the sun in a person’s hands. The pair believed that a technical solution that also provided an emotional response would be the most effective way to address the problem of energy access in off-grid parts of the world and spark a global conversation about safe, clean energy sources.

Photo: Merklit Mersha

The company’s “trade, not aid” business model relies on purchases of Little Suns in developed countries to support the sale of lamps in off-grid African communities at locally affordable prices. To date, Little Sun has empowered over 400 African entrepreneurs in 10 countries to start their own businesses selling Little Sun lamps, often by providing a small stock of lamps on credit as startup capital, as well as business workshops, marketing materials, and sales training. By creating entrepreneurial opportunities, Little Sun hopes to build self-sustaining distribution channels that are more resilient than donation-based aid programs.

In April 2014, Bloomberg Philanthropies provided Little Sun with a transformative $5 million impact investment to help the company dramatically scale its operations across the globe.

Photo: Michael Tsegaye

 126,000+ LITTLE SUN LAMPS SOLD IN OFF-GRID AREAS

 600,000+ LIVES TOUCHED IN OFF-GRID AREAS

 9,100 TONS OF CO2 EMISSIONS HAVE BEEN AVOIDED

 400 PARTICIPATING AFRICAN ENTREPRENEURS

 $3,600,000 SAVED ON ENERGY EXPENSES IN OFF-GRID HOUSEHOLDS

 1.2 BILLION PEOPLE WORLDWIDE WITHOUT ACCESS TO ELECTRICITY