How do we change lives?

Did you know, LivelyHoods has an official theory of change? 

We do. 

Below you'll see how we express our impact at several levels: people, planet, and profit, and how that applies to everyone that our work touches, from the individual cookstove user or trainee, to the household, and society as a whole. You'll see that we use this triple bottom line approach to talk about the difference that our training and distribution network makes in Kenyan communities. 

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The Sisterhood Rising: A series of stories of women empowering others

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In celebration of International Women’s Day 2018, we are collaborating with a group of outstanding organisations working to empower women within the energy access sector. We will be sharing stories of women’s empowerment from around the globe over the course of this month. Today we’re kicking it off with a piece from our friends at Empower Generation, a social enterprise in Nepal that empowers women to own and lead franchises that deliver life-improving products to rural communities. Empower Generation’s co-founder Anya Cherneff shares the story of her business partner and entrepreneur, Sita Adhikari.

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #PressforProgress, a “call-to-action to press forward the progress of gender parity” and “to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.” In veneration of International Women’s Day today, US Women’s History Month, and in recognition of all women everywhere, I’m telling stories of sisterhood: Women empowering others to rise up and cross physical, cultural, racial, religious and gender barriers to achieve success in business, at home and in their communities. I work for approximately one billion global citizens living without electricity, and over three billion who are cooking over an open fire to feed their families every day. The fact that women suffer the most from energy poverty is loudly touted within the impact sector. Commercial solutions that do not include women at all levels of business will fail, but how do you effectively recruit and provide a supportive environment for women and other underrepresented groups to thrive? These are the stories of the people I work for and it is my great privilege to share them with you.


In Nepal my partner, Sita Adhikari and I, are growing a network of franchises rooted in the rural communities where they work. Nepal ranks 144 out of 188 on the 2016 United Nations Gender Development Index (GDI). It has made some strides in instituting laws to reach gender parity, but rural Nepalese women still face many challenges in gaining equal access to economic opportunities due to lower education levels, an illegal but pervasive dowry system, a patriarchal society, and systematic poverty. Disturbingly, less than 7% of women are included in Nepal’s formally recognized workforce.

However, there are signs of hope. Rural Nepalese women are the most powerful activists progressing the gender equity agenda. They are providing for their families by working on their farms or in family-owned shops. They are active in their communities, leading community-based nonprofits, and extending support to marginalized people. Despite these contributions to the economy and their communities, the majority of this work is unpaid and unrecognized. This was the case with Sita Adhikari, Co-Founder of Empower Generation and CEO of the last-mile distribution company, Kalpavriksha, when I met her in 2010.

Sita grew up in a progressive rural family. She was encouraged to study in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, far away from her home and received her master’s degree in economics. Sita was also able to marry the person she fell in love with, which is very rare in Nepal with most marriages being arranged. Sita recognized her privilege to grow up in a family that believed in her, supported her education, and gave her freedom to choose her own husband.

When Sita finished her graduate studies, she went back to their village in Jhuwani, Chitwan. Sita managed her family’s fish farm and other entrepreneurial ventures that contributed to the family budget but she was never paid a salary or was recognized as the legal owner of a business. After she helped to build a community library in Jhuwani, Sita observed that most of the users were men. Sita created women’s reading groups and made it mandatory for the library to obtain a wide range of books so they would interest everyone. The reading groups she created developed into a public speaking club, and eventually into the Jhuwani Women’s Savings and Credit Cooperative, a women’s microfinance fund and the most successful program offered by the library.


 Anya, Empower Generation entrepreneur Runa Jha, and Sita 

Anya, Empower Generation entrepreneur Runa Jha, and Sita 

Based on her own experience and through many other women at the cooperative, Sita saw how difficult it was for women to earn money, independent from their husband’s or extended family’s income, regardless of whether they came from a progressive family.  She herself experienced how not earning her own income limited her personal decision making power in the household, and a lowered perception of her in society. She thought about the many rural Nepalese women who did not have an education or agency within their own families, and became motivated to find a way to improve their situation. A chance meeting I had with her launched her on her path to becoming an entrepreneur and using her business to empower more women to start their own businesses selling life-changing products such as solar lights, clean cookstoves, and water filters to remote customers.

Sita started her business, Kalpavriksha, in 2012 at the same time I was inspired to found Empower Generation, and a partnership between the two was a natural fit. Her vision was to employ at least 100 women in a company that she owned. Today, Sita is the sole owner of Kalpavriksha, a wholesale distributor of life-improving products and the manager of a franchise network of 20 businesses and their 300 sales agents. She has become a recognized expert on energy access and inclusive workforce development and is frequently the only women on a panel or in the room for high-level energy access meetings. As Empower Generation’s Country Director, Sita helped 23 women entrepreneurs launch 20 businesses and trained more than 1000 women and girls in sales and marketing. Providing entrepreneurial and employment opportunities to underserved groups by offering business skills training, mentorship, and capital, with Empower Generation’s support, continue to be Sita’s focus and passion. She says, “It is necessary for women to earn an income. Unless they have money in hand, women’s empowerment won’t succeed. They should not be seen as beneficiaries; they should be respected and promoted as stakeholders.”

On International Women’s Day, we honor women like Sita, who work everyday to advance gender parity. They do this by creating platforms for others to develop their voice and agency and by bravely leading through example of refusal to accept the patriarchal status quo.  Women helping women to rise in a united sisterhood is a theme we should all embody, not just on March 8, but consistently and continually throughout the year. Today, let’s all think about the people in our lives who are fighting for progress and could use an ally. Let them know we stand with them.

January 2018 || Small but mighty

The good:  The year 2018 is one that all of Kenya has entered into with a sigh of relief. The rollercoaster elections of August and October 2017 are behind us, the economy is starting to pick up again, and a fresh year brings fresh opportunities. For LivelyHoods, this means returning sales agents are full of energy and determination, and the new sales agents we’ve been training all month are raring to go. Though we have a smaller sales force than at the end of the year, due to some individuals not returning after spending the holidays in their rural homes, or moving on to other opportunities, this sales force has been doing great things.  Average agent income and total sales revenue are both well above our goals for this month.

We were also delighted to welcome two new team members in our Nairobi office. Dennis Ochieng is our new Country Director, who will be leading our operations in Kenya to even greater success in the coming years as we continue to expand. Gertrude Jonams is heading up our Women’s Empowerment work, to provide targeted support to female sales agents through mentoring and training.  Read more about our team on our website.

The challenge: January was a short month, as we resumed operations only in the second week, and so we had few days to hit our full month’s targets. Given this time constraint, we did extremely well and even trained 100 people! However, this required a lot of travel across the country and we pushed our training team to the limit, with people spread across all of our branches and going from one training straight into another. We were also excited but put to the test by some shifts in roles and responsibilities, with several team members evolving into new positions within the organization. This therefore requires new processes, structures, and getting used to being held accountable for new responsibilities.  As always, we’ve been blown away by the resilience and energy of the whole LivelyHoods team, and everyone is working towards the shared goal of creating jobs for youth and women in their communities.

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December 2017 || ending the year with a bang

The good: Despite not holding new trainings in December, we’ve retained almost all of our workforce from the previous month and further grown the average agent income, which is fantastic news for all of the LivelyHoods sales agents. The economy is slowly regaining its balance, and spending on household purchases is starting to pick up again.

The challenge: December is always a short working month, with everyone, including LivelyHoods staff and sales agents, taking a well-earned break, meaning fewer days to hit those all-important goals. We’re incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved this month, which is testament to the hard work put in throughout the year and the grit and determination of LivelyHoods trained sales agents.

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November 2017 || BACK TO NORMAL

The good: After several turbulent months, operations could finally resume (almost) as normal, with all branches open all month, little to no election-related unrest, and committed LivelyHoods sales agents getting back out in the streets and markets with high spirits and quality products! Our agents worked hard and exceeded the income goals established for 2017, meaning that on average each of them took home more than we aimed for at the beginning of the year.

The challenge: The number of agents across the organization did take a hit, as the branch closures and travel surrounding elections meant that some sales agents did not return to their LivelyHoods branch, remained in their rural homes, or found other ways to make ends meet in the interim, despite us providing additional support over this time to make up for the dip in productivity. As the year draws to a close, training of new sales agents is also slowing down, but that means that field staff are providing even more targeted support to the remaining number of agents in each branch.


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Get #LivelyInTheHoods this holiday!

It's time to get #LivelyInTheHoods!

What does getting #LivelyInTheHoods mean to us? Creating LIVELY communities through CLEAN ENERGY access and JOBS in neigborHOODS all over Kenya. 

Every gift made to LivelyHoods is MATCHED by the Social Capital Foundation, as long as we raise $15,000 by December 31st!!! 

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So join us in getting #LivelyInTheHoods this holiday and double your dollars to support youth and women to transform their communities. Every dollar will go towards creating jobs and providing clean energy access, and creating more stories of inspiring transformation in Kenyan slums!
If you're in Kenya you can also give via #MPESA, PayBill number 944500, account 'Lively'.

Click here now to make a gift:

OCTOBER 2017 || Here we go again

The good: After a difficult couple of months with tumultuous general elections, significant unrest, and an economic downturn, LivelyHoods’ numbers are on the rise again. We’re positive that this positive trend will continue, as stability and normalcy return to the country. Our three strategically placed Nairobi branches cover the entire county, as opposed to the six, have performed better than ever, proving that this downsizing in Nairobi makes for more productive, successful agents with a vast market at their doorstep. We’ve also engaged in successful market storms with our social marketing partners, Population Services Kenya, engaging in behavior change communications alongside the traditional sales pitch.

The challenge: The rerun of the presidential election again forced a closure of all LivelyHoods branches for several days, with the Mathare (east Nairobi) branch staying closed for longer due to prolonged unrest and violence, with fatal clashes between protestors and police. This heavily affected operations, with fewer trainings, several days of no activity and uncertain financial times for everyone, especially low-income households in slum areas. The situation is far from stable, and we continue to monitor the security situation in each of our communities prioritizing the safety of our staff and sales agents. We commend the staff and sales agents’ resilience, and couldn’t be prouder of their results in the face of these difficult times.



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The good: In September we opened our final branch of the year, in Eldoret, lovingly nicknamed ‘Home of Champions’, as the birth place of many of Kenya’s greatest athletes, and now home to our newest LivelyHoods sales agents! Janet, the new Branch Manager, has established a strong local branch, which is rivaling many of the Nairobi branches in its performance, and has contributed to a very strong sales month where we exceeded our monthly goal. All branches appear to be recovering well after the disruption of the general elections, and we’ve held several new successful training sessions in branches across the country, which has brought us to our largest sales force to date!

The challenge: It was announced this month that there would be a re-run of the August presidential elections, which has further extended the atmosphere of economic and social uncertainty across the country. It looks set to continue into October and November, and we are working hard to provide consumer financing (installment payments), as well as extra incentives to agents and customers in an effort to combat this uncertainty and nationwide slump in retail. We are a little short of our goal for average sales agent income, but this is set to rise, as many of our current sales agents are newly on boarded this month, and their sales are therefore set to grow over the weeks ahead.

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The good: Last month was no ordinary month for Kenya, with elections held for every legislative and executive position in the country, and widespread impact on the economy, security and service provision. LivelyHoods decided to suspend operations for the two weeks during this period, to maintain the safety and security of staff and sales agents, and to allow everybody the time to travel to vote, for those who were registered in their ancestral towns. We’re pleased to say that everybody remained safe, and no one was caught up in any disturbances. Upon returning, agents confronted the precarious economic situation with determination, despite having a depleted sales force. What is especially positive is that the average income did not decrease proportionally to the sales revenue, meaning that the 70 agents that were active across the branches were really pulling out all the stops to make up for lost time.

The challenge: The economic uncertainty and disturbances across the country during the month of August are not finished yet, as a rerun of the presidential election has been announced for October.  We are therefore expecting that it will be more challenging than expected to hit our sales and training goals for the next few months. Inflation has risen from 6.3% to 8%, and economic growth has slowed to 4.7%, from an average of 5-6% for the past four years. The dip in our sales force is due to several people still remaining in the rural areas, and not returning to the urban centers, where our branches are located.  We know that the next couple of months will be an uphill climb for everyone in Kenya, and we’re putting in place extra incentives for sales agents, sales and marketing partnerships with manufacturers, and increased coaching support to mitigate the impact on the income generation potential of LivelyHoods sales agents.

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