Conference Wrap: Partnerships, Mentorship and Jingle Bells

Recently, Sanergy had the privilege to attend the Skoll World Forum in Oxford, England, and the PYMWYMIC (Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is Community) Conference in Amsterdam, Holland. It takes a particularly cold heart to not be inspired by the improbable success of the entrepreneurs we meet there, but at Sanergy, where we do group yoga regularly, we melt like butter.

Skoll was a chance for us to meet some incredible social entrepreneurs who are a few years ahead of us. Most excitingly, Debbie and Jim Taylor of Proximity Designs in Burma were honored for their work developing customer-first appropriate technologies for Burmese people. We’ve learned a lot from them from afar and look forward to their advice on iteration and re-iteration of our toilet designs in the future.

Skoll enabled us to update and catch up with our supporters: the Mulago Foundation, USAID: DIV program, the Segal Family Foundation, Water for People, and Echoing Green among others. People were thrilled to know that we have 16 Fresh Life Operators in our network serving over 1000 people every single day.

PYMWYMIC was all about new faces for us. Holland has traditionally invested a lot of aid money into sanitation solutions in East Africa. Now, there’s a nascent interest in moving past direct aid and investing in socially-responsible businesses. These are early days, but we met several great future partners for Sanergy.

One story we heard while there was particularly profound. Willy Foote, the Founder of Root Capital, which puts over $70m in capital to work to provide pre-harvest loans in Latin America and Africa, recently traveled through Nicaragua to check on their investments. At the end of a long day, the last stop was a surprise: a visit to an old barn. As he walked in, a group of kids played Jingle Bells on trumpets and trombones. They were a brass band which had received lessons twice a month from a professional teacher who came from over an hour away. The loans from Root Capital had enabled the farmers to have the income to pay for a brighter future with more opportunity for their kids.

At Sanergy, we aspire to have these stories of our own someday in the not-so-distant future.

We want to thank Pamela Hartigan at Skoll and Frank and Margaret van Beuningen and Bert Meijers at PYMWYMIC for making it possible for us to attend these outstanding events.


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