Innovative ideas have the potential to change the world. We know that. But what we sometimes forget is that, to have full impact, they must reach the communities that need them most. Inequality of access to technological opportunities can curb global progress and widen the gap between developed and developing communities. A desire to address this growing disconnect between innovation and opportunity has given rise to a new way of doing business: the social enterprise.

A desire to use innovative ideas to help one of the world’s most disadvantaged was the guiding principle when Henrique Drummond founded Insolar. While travelling during a career sabbatical he realised that the global community has a lot in common, particularly what we want to achieve and what we need to do this. A core requirement is access to a clean, reliable source of sustainable energy. This real-life challenge, much like the three that Shell Ideas360 entrants are faced with (food, energy and water), motivated Henrique’s journey to create Insolar to bring solar energy to the favelas of Brazil.

After winning the Shell LiveWIRE incubator competition in 2014, Henrique and the Insolar team interviewed residents across the Santa Marta favela to establish what was most important to the community and what challenges they might face in delivering it to them.

Henrique revealed that community engagement and consultation played a key role from ideation to installation. While exploring the project’s cultural, legal, economical and technical challenges, one of the things he highlighted was the importance of collaboration to achieve powerful goals bringing about positive impact for entire communities. Shell Ideas360 entrants should consider this piece of advice when planning their idea from paper to implementation, especially when resources are tight. Not only should they recognise technical and economical challenges they may face, but they should also look at who in the community they need to engage to receive support and who to collaborate with to get the most from their idea.

Insolar demonstrates the power of an innovative idea to transform a community, installing solar panels to bring energy into poor favela communities. For Henrique, his experience with Insolar and building a social enterprise has presented the greatest learning curve in his career. Being part of bringing an innovative idea to life and helping solve the world’s energy problems has been an exciting and rewarding experience, and one that can inspire students entering Shell Ideas360. This shows that an idea just like Insolar, which too was born out of a Shell enterprise competition, really can help to change the lives of people and communities who desperately need it.

To learn more about Insolar and Henrique Drummond’s work, see his webcast here.