Blog of Eva Wissenz

Best Validation Ever in Kenya

Posted Tuesday 12 November 2019 by Eva Wissenz, Jared Omondi.

For a company, especially an impact company like ours, the best validation comes from the field. Last week, our representative in Kenya, Mr Jared Omondi, sent us the short clip below. It shows one of the pilot solar concentrators we installed in 2017 in the Kisumu area, in Kenya. And... it’s still in use!!

First the unit was given to the Tinderet bakery but when their team decided to reduce the baking activity because the chief baker got a better job elsewhere, they decided to transfer the solar concentrator to Friends of Ndere, a very active baking community which had already one of our solar concentrators. In spite of this being one of our pilot units, they are still using this unit to bake since then.

In this short clip (in swahili - sorry, too much happening we don’t have time to translate), Joyce the baker is explaining to Jared that what people like most are their buns and breads. People around really LOVE their breads because they are well baked with a nice light brown colour and the buns remain fresh for 4-5 days.

When so many projects are failing because of maintenance issues, we are succeeding because the users can maintain the Lytefire ovens easily, they can replace if a mirror breaks, and they are continuously making money with their production as well as using the oven for themselves. Joyce and the Friends of Ndere are using the Lytefire 4 days a week and even with a bit of faded mirrors that were not replaced since 2017, the baking oven reaches 220°C.

These amazing communities were introduced to us by our partner World Vision Kenya and the piloting phase happened thanks to Wärtsilä’s sponsorship, Autodesk Foundation’s support and Finnpartnership’s support.


GoSol showing off in Switzerland

Posted mardi 5 novembre 2019 by Eva Wissenz, Judith Bernet.

This autumn is so exciting that we didn’t get any chance to blog and share a bit more with you guys !! Some of our GoSol-team came together in Switzerland. This was a good chance to plan our next steps and cook solar meals all together, and also it was a great opportunity to present GoSol next projects and the Lytefire solar concentrator to Switzerland !

Will Cleaver and Lorin Symington spent long days at the workshop at the Rosegghof (our Swiss Headquarters in Solothurn). The result was a brand new, bright version of our solar concentrator, the Lytefire, and a hybrid solar roaster/oven ! And the best way to explain how the Lytefire works is to show it !

That is exactly what we did at our “Experience Event” at the Rosegghof. With about 25 guests we enjoyed pizza together, drank coffee and tea, and distilled essential oil of rosemary to produce our own deodorant and scents – all of it only with solar energy from our Lytefire ! A few weeks after, early October, we did another event focused on baking and the result was a-ma-zing ! We can tell you, that a solar baked “Hefezopf” (a Swiss kind of sweet bread) is really delicious !

And pastry chef Linda Gutknecht from Linda’s Art in Solothurn produced some solar cupcakes and got really excited about solar baking saying that "it’s even better than her electric oven", so there will be more Solothurner solar baking in the near future for sure.

Our partner Beto Borges from Forest Trends also joined us in Solothurn for an evening presentation. Beto presented our work in the Amazon, and talked about the importance of forest stewardship, and how a solution like GoSol approach can enhance the stewardship of communities in the Amazon forest by helping to sustainable add value to non timber forest products.

Lorin Symington spoke about the philosophy and history of GoSol, and shared his experience building solar concentrators in the Philippines and East Africa. Kurt Bauman, vocational teacher and early adopter of our solar concentrator, was also here to share his user experience since 2015 and present our educational training.

Urs Riggenbach then showed the next steps that are planned, and how to get involved with GoSol. The event ended with fruitful conversations with our guests while enjoying a nice glass of wine.

Even though autumn in Solothurn is best known for heavy fog, we had some amazing luck : at the HESO 2019 we could show off our Lytefire with perfect blue sky ! Read on here about how we fried delicious veggie-burgers, pan-roasted almonds, and produced our first Solothurner solar roasted coffee beans.

Next step : the GoSol Impact Event in Zürich the 14th of November 2019. We would love to meet you and meet the impact investors that will scale up with you. Check it out here !


Strike if you wish but more than this: take action.

Posted Friday 20 September 2019 by Eva Wissenz.

It is now 7 years since we created Solar Fire and GoSol.

As friends, we are more than happy. Our team is still united no matter what. We overcame hundreds of challenges together, and we’re still here. Older, tougher, wiser hopefully, and enthusiastic.

As sustainable humans, we are more than happy as well because our work has empowered about 100 people in the field. We sometimes have lost track of caring for ourselves sustainably because we sometimes considered severe issues that farmers and entrepreneurs are facing in developing countries as more important than our spoiled Western sensibilities.

As start-uppers, we can’t complain. We started with nothing. We now have successful prototypes, an amazing network of partners and sponsors, and our first clients. Without living a big take off success, we are still active and believe me, that is something extraordinary.

Eerik and I landed in Finland and we became emigrants, parents and entrepreneurs at the same time. Lorin spent months and hours in extreme conditions in almost 10 developing countries, to build and refine the applications we developed. Eerik and Arnaud killed their eyes creating a software to scale up our tech, and so did Urs rocked the show with IT, partnerships and comm while Will was building solar concentrators in the Amazon. These guys are my heroes.

The first Earth Day was in 1970. 49 years ago. Things got as bad as predicted at the time. Since then, tons of solutions and thousands of social entrepreneurs, volunteers, NGOs and citizens are doing their best to fix that.

2-3 years ago Sikkim (a state in North India), Costa-Rica, Bolivia and a few other small places started to show the way; Scandinavia and Germany are showing the way in Europe. It’s good, but it’s not enough and nothing will be enough until we fix the massive ongoing disaster which is social, environmental, economical and political.

So 49 years later, after tons of costly meetings between huge agencies, governments, and powerful people, the Voice is a... teen.

Excuse me but where are the grown ups who are supposed to protect those teens? Where are you? There is no time to be discouraged or despairing, no time for scepticism. So now you spend a week-end online, read the studies, watch all the docs you wish, choose your cause and join a sustainable team now, because it’s now or… now.

Strike if you feel the call. Make it a pause, a dialogue, a creation or a fight, as you wish.

But, please, take action.

Join any sustainable and inspiring project you can find, they need you for sure and for all our sakes, take action.

If you feel the call, we are working on a crowdfunding campaign and we need volunteers to spread the news of our work far and wide. If you are interested, read Our Philosophy first and contact me: eva.wissenz (at) gosol.solar

Article logo courtesy of Mona Caron.


Impact Finland next week

Posted mardi 30 avril 2019 by Eva Wissenz.

I’m very excited and happy to represent my team at the InnoFrugal 2019 pitching contest on May 7th and to be invited as a speaker at Waves Festival.

In Finland, "social entrepreneurship" is connected to "social service". The culture of impact (start-up, companies, investment) is almost starting here where Denmark or Sweden are much more advanced ! We were so focused on our goals that we didn’t fully realized that context when we started here in Tampere. In a way, it makes things hard but on another hand, it’s exciting because there is almost everything to create !

The Aalto University incubator named New Global was launched to explore sustainable ways to do business and to engage even more the Finnish society into social - impact - sustainable entrepreneurship. Next week, their Waves Festival will bring together impact entrepreneurs to define what can be the next steps to take to make our work more visible and more supported.

InnoFrugal started in 2015 as a conference which is an "intersection where leadership, finance, technology and transformation come together to empower people and organizations." Created by Venkata Gandikota, the event is quite big now and the next edition is happening next week as well.


Sometimes it only takes a poem, a garden and a few heroes.
A note from Oxford, Skoll World Forum.

Posted Monday 29 April 2019 by Eva Wissenz.


I’m here, in the garden of Rhodes House, in Oxford. After three days only, I’m already adapted to this old town where so many amazing people have studied and lived, for the best and the worst. I’m missing our garden so much. One of the things we had to leave behind when we picked Finland to root our work. As often, I’m feeling lonely because my team of brave young hero’s is disseminated all around the globe, working hard to make it happen, and it’s a tough journey.

Yesterday, an impact investor suggested me to be reasonable and to adapt our model to be more conventional. It was a shock because I’m used to this kind of critics from the mainstream Venture Capitalist landscape but not here, not at Skoll World Forum for social entrepreneurship.

It was Autodesk Foundation who invited me to Skoll World Forum as a delegate. Started by co-founder of Ebay, Mr Skoll is dedicating his fortune to support social entrepreneurs. So who are these social entrepreneurs? Citizen like you and me who, one day, were moved by something and decided to solve the problem because governments wouldn’t, NGO’s haven’t, nor had enterprises done so. That’s what a social or impact or sustainable entrepreneur does. And it goes with being not visible and not understood for a long time, especially in Finland where all these concepts are very new.

So, the impact investors hit me pretty badly and when I spoke with GoSol’s co-founder Eerik afterwards on the phone, he said "never mind".
But I minded all night.
All night I took every piece of what we have built and I questioned it.

When dawn lightened Saint Clement’s, I felt new strengths. I felt that no matter how over ambitious we seem, no matter how broad we are, that we are moving persistently toward give to vulnerable populations the chance to replace rapidly dirty charcoal with solar thermal - to name just one of our interconnected goals. And when the sun started his working day, Eerik sent me his Why GoSol Essay and then it became even more crystal clear: the plan is good, simple, super feasible and amazingly impactful.

Yet, I was tired, happy but tired. That’s something all impact people know well. So, I took the energy left and I went to this Rhodes House, where I am now sitting in the shadow of a tiny old and elegant British tree.

There is a copper sun on the entrance floor of Rhodes house. The building is incredibly beautiful. The lecture room is spacious with portraits of old inspiring leaders all around. At the same time, four modern ones are sitting right in from of me, sharing their experience in becoming impactful entrepreneurs. And it’s impressive. The McNulty Foundation and Aspen Institute offered us this workshop. Three hours of "This Isn’t Easy: A Seminar on Exercising Moral Courage".

Super inspiring, strong and vulnerable entrepreneurs were speaking. For once, we were not talking about performance, challenges and trial and errors. Just sitting together and sharing openly about what really matters behind our actions: ethics, courage, virtues... At the end of the lecture, we all got a poem. Somebody read it out loud. It’s called "The Seven of Pentacles" by Marge Piercy. I had to go to the ladies room to cry afterwards.

No business card, no networking session, could have been as powerful as this poem for me at this very specific moment. I’ll find strength for a long time in the memory of the friendly and mindful faces sitting in the circle, reading, commenting, discussing, crying sometimes. It was such an intense and true moment.

"You cannot tell always by looking what is happening."

In Rhodes House’s gorgeous garden, I can see that one day no one on Earth will need to cut down a tree to make a fire because fire will be solar.

We are facing one of the most stressful crisis our species has ever faced. It’s crucial we stay focused and efficient.

The Forum ended. So many new connections, so much good energy, so much good will. I’m now back in Finland. I don’t know what the future will bring for us but a few days after my return, this quote appeared:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Theodore Roosevelt

Pictures free and (c) courtesy of Aspen Institute.
The lecture is available online by following this link.

Other links:
Autodesk Foundation
Skoll World Forum
McNulty Foundation
Aspen Institute


Grand Challenges of Sustainability

Posted Thursday 18 April 2019 by Eva Wissenz.

I’m honoured and happy to be invited by the Lappeenranta University of Technology to be part of the panel discussion on Grand Challenges of Sustainability. There is much to say and I look forward a very creative discussion!

The panel concludes a MSc course on the topic focusing, such as the course, on the root causes and synergistic solutions to the grand challenges. The course is part of a LUT master program on Circular Economy, and the students have been simultaneously participating a complementary course related to the Food-Energy-Water Security Nexus.

The purpose of the panel is to draw on our expertise and insights in the issue and the contexts in practice. Sanna-Liisa Taivalmaa (Senior Adviser, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland), John Sumelius (Professor of Agricultural Economics, University of Helsinki) and John Bairoh (Renewable Energy for Africa, Sierra Leone Organization of Finland SLOF ry) are also part of the panel.


CEO impact events : SDG’s workshop in Helsinki and Skoll forum

Posted vendredi 15 mars 2019 by Eva Wissenz.

Yesterday I have attended a nice workshop about SDG’s organised by Finnpartnership and Beam. It’s really great that impact is spreading in Finland because the country is a bit behind compared to other Nordic neighbours. Soon a UNTIL lab will also work with companies and UN Global compact will also start running here.

Next month a major event is happening in UK and I’m very grateful to Autodesk Foundation to invite me as delegate. I look forward to meet with other inspiring social and impact focused entrepreneurs !!


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