This innovative social enterprise is electrifying and hydrating off-grid communities

Petra Barbu

Petra is a content marketer passionate about social enterprise, impact investing, and microfinance.

Smart Hydro Power (SHP) is an award-winning social enterprise that develops and supports integrated solutions for renewable energy and clean water in off-grid communities. While Smart Hydro Power has received tremendous international support with awards from ESHA Hidroenergia Innovation, Ecosummit, and GreenTec, the Smart Hydro Power team was in need of direct, specialized support to help with its scaling efforts. More specifically, Smart Hydro Power was doing a feasibility study in rural Northern Colombia to better connect off-grid communities, but it lacked the specific know-how and skills to run this study in-house.

With its previous partnership with Siemens Stiftung, SHP requested a skills-boost through the empowering people. Expert Service managed by MovingWorlds. Through this partnership, Smart Hydro Power was connected with Zack, a mechanical engineer with experience in both engineering and business strategy (we just shared his side of the story here). Zack’s work equipped Smart Hydro Power with the needed analysis to expand its offering to more rural communities, and develop more sustainable partnerships with groups working in those communities. We recently sat down with Stiven, the Smart Hydro Power teammate that worked with Zack, to learn about their partnership.

Read on to learn more about the amazing work they accomplished together.

Zachary, Smart Hydro's Experteer, with his host family.
Zachary, Smart Hydro’s Experteer, with his host family.

What problem does Smart Hydro Power solve?

Smart Hydro Power creates integrated solutions for communities, connecting locals in rural areas that don’t have access to energy. The lack of electricity in remote areas is a serious problem, and also affects the socioeconomic opportunities in the region. We are focused on developing and implementing affordable renewable energy projects that improve the quality of life for locals. Smart Hydro Power started in 2010 as a group of kinetic turbine developers. Now, we offer a range of renewable energy solutions, like decentralized electricity projects and kinetic turbines.

A Smart Hydro Power employee examining an irrigation project.
A Smart Hydro Power employee examining an irrigation project.

How does Smart Hydro Power create social impact?

Smart Hydro strives to make electricity accessible, not only as a resource, but as a solution that helps improve quality of life in many different areas. Access to electricity helps uplift communities through irrigation, electromobility, food preservation, and lighting. At the end of the day, we are trying to improve the quality of life for individuals in local communities. We also work to empower communities by training and working alongside them to develop innovative solutions that communities are prepared to and excited to sustain.

A community meeting to discuss one of Smart Hydro Power's new projects.
A community meeting to discuss one of Smart Hydro Power’s new projects.

Why did Smart Hydro Power choose to host an Experteer?

In the same way that organizations will hire a consultant, we were seeking the perspective of someone without bias, and who would operate with the sole purpose of improving lives of people living in off-grid communities. We specifically needed the help of someone with business engineering and business skills that could help us analyze our new irrigation project, and along the way, teach local members better manage the limited water supplies through irrigation.

A sustainable irrigation project Smart Hydro Power has created.
A sustainable irrigation project Smart Hydro Power has created.

How did the Experteer add value to Smart Hydro?

Zachary was very skilled as an engineer, and his comments and reflections helped streamline our irrigation program. In addition, his understanding of others proved very helpful with community outreach. Zach led a convening of 35 community stakeholders, making sure that they understood the impact of this project, as well as what they need to do to guarantee long-term operation of the project.

What advice do you have for finding and working with Experteers?

In the beginning, I don’t think we did enough to align on the project scope, though we clarified this once he was here. Definitely make sure to emphasize communication between all stakeholders before you host an Experteer so you can hit the ground running.

[Editor’s note: Make sure to fill out the Experteering Planning Guide before your trip and schedule a few calls to make sure that everyone is on the same page. This will maximize your impact and make sure you can create a long-lasting change together.]

The beautiful surrounding nature that Smart Hydro Power strives to work in harmony with.
The beautiful surrounding nature that Smart Hydro Power strives to work in harmony with.

Anything else you want to add?

Thank you for matching us with Zachary! Zachary is a great guy who combines highly technical engineering skills with great social acumen. It’s not easy to find someone who excels in both scopes and, even harder to find someone who is adaptable to new cultures and people. He was able to reach out and integrate with the locals. Once again, thank you so much, it was an amazing experience!

Join Zack in making a difference by volunteering your skills in business strategy, supporting clean energy, or by signing up for a membership with MovingWorlds – and be sure to learn more about our special partnership with the empowering people.Network which sponsors professionals on these highly skilled volunteering projects.