Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

LEARN1: The Secrets of Social Innovation

Having read the prescribed Design in Africa blog post, I found author Dave Tait's tips most intriguing. All 33 were all insightful, but Dave's #2 tip, "Think creatively" stood out most for me, mainly because of its description: "start big, use constraints as a filter and find the simplest solutions."

This, to me, seems to be the best way to approach the sorts of massive social problems worldwide that EVOKE is designed to address. The first example that came to mind was the recently-unveiled Bloom Energy Server:
  • The question: how to bring more clean energy not only to developed nations, but to bring it to developing nations to meet their growing energy demands?
  • Start big: much of the developing world lacks the extensive power infrastructure of the developed nations; therefore, a more decentralized system lacking thousands of miles of power lines is more appropriate.
  • Use constraints as a filter: decentralized power systems must be durable and relatively self-sufficient -- maintenance may not be feasible for people located in remote areas -- as well as making use of clean but abundant fuel.
  • The simplest solution: a fuel cell the size of a standard U.S. parking space, full of CD-case-sized wafers basically made of sand (each providing 25 watts of power), that can run on anything from ethanol to biomass. A power cell this size provides up to 100kW, with no moving parts or loss of power through long-range transmission in a grid.
As the article notes, although the Bloom Energy Server is prohibitively expensive at this time, mass production of these fuel cells (and introducing servers of different sizes to meet varying energy needs) would bring prices down dramatically. Once the price of the servers themselves is brought down to an affordable level, people in developing nations can use whatever fuel is most available and/or cheapest to supply their energy needs; not only this, but the Energy Servers also have the capability to convert surplus electricity back into fuel. Coupled with another renewable power source, the Energy Server could become a one-stop energy shop, providing fuel for vehicles and electricity for local power needs. It certainly is a promising prospect for bringing more clean energy to both the developed and developing worlds.

Views: 20

Comment by Hugo Oliveira on March 4, 2010 at 8:13am
I admire the way you use your knowledge. I will try to use you as an example.
Comment by David Sahlin on March 4, 2010 at 9:34am
Solid reasoning with a very interesting example. Thank you for sharing - I look forward to seeing more from you.
Comment by David Dreshfield on March 4, 2010 at 9:34am
Thank you, Hugo. I'm glad my humble contribution to the EVOKE network was of use to you.
Comment by David Dreshfield on March 4, 2010 at 9:39am
Thank you, David. I stumbled across your blog posts and found them quite insightful. I appreciate your comments, and hope we continue to have a mutually beneficial exchange as the game continues!
Comment by Bruce Haynes on March 4, 2010 at 10:34am
I LIKE the way you are approaching this great social experiment david! I gave you one power point for knowledge share, I like the fact that you are contributing to the sum total of our collective knowledge:)
Comment by David Dreshfield on March 5, 2010 at 6:25am
Thanks, Bruce! I'll do my best to keep trying to bring interesting ideas and technologies to the attention of all my fellow EVOKE agents, and I look forward to seeing your creativity in action!

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