Innovation:Africa (2013 IF Grant Recipient)


Organization’s Geographic Region of Focus: Uganda

Alliance Areas of Concern:  Health, Education, Environment, Poverty

Challenge:  Provide resources and facilities for off the grid individuals to have electrical power in their lives.

Solution:  Create a readily replicable “Rural Energy Center” where individuals can access services including internet access, photocopying and printing, television access, and cellphone charging, and purchase items including solar lanterns, haircuts, water packs, and cold drinks.

Excerpted from the Proposal:

“Innovation: Africa’s solar powered schools, medical clinics and water pumping systems serve rural communities. In powering a school, we provide students and teachers with a place to study and learn in the evening. In powering a medical clinic, we offer patients and medical professionals the opportunity to give and receive emergency care at night. But while these projects address the base needs of the community, they do not cater to the needs of the individual consumer.

“1.3 billion people worldwide live without electricity, nearly 600 million in sub‑Saharan Africa alone. These are people that rely on wood, diesel and charcoal for their energy needs. According to the Sustainable Energy 4 All’s Technical Report in April 2012, over 800,000 children are dying each year of indoor air pollution caused by smoke inhalation from products such as kerosene lanterns and coal stoves.  It is easy to think of these children and their families as victims, but in reality, they are consumers spending up to 30% of their household income on the very products that make them sick and hurt the environment.

“Innovation: Africa’s Energy Center will provide rural consumers with an alternative to these unsafe and unsustainable energy products while saving them money. Cost effective and eco friendly products such as solar lanterns and cook stoves already exist on the market, but the challenge is distribution. There are no rural stores in which to sell their products. Our innovation is to build that store. Consumers can stop in to the Energy Center to charge their phone, surf the internet, make photocopies, buy a cold soda and learn about solar products for home use.

Our goal is to build a model that can be easily replicated in villages across Africa.”

For more information about Innovation: Africa.

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Leonard Kaplan’s creation of the Alliance for Global Good was the expression of his passionate philanthropy.  It’s also the logical outgrowth of all that came before it.  Together with his wife and philanthropic partner Tobee, and through a family foundation later renamed TOLEO, they gave unselfishly of resources and time to improve their community and the world for more than twenty-five years.

Tobee & Leonard Kaplan

Tobee & Leonard Kaplan

The Alliance’s focus on five areas of giving—health, education, environment, poverty, and world relations—is mirrored in Leonard’s past.  He has made major gifts to Duke University Medical Center and the Duke Comprehensive Cancer and Heart Centers, to the Lineberger Cancer Center at UNC Chapel Hill, to the Cardiac Rehabilitation program at Moses Cone Hospital, and had a leadership position at the Greensboro Cardiac Rehabilitation Program.  In 2004, Leonard and Tobee built the new building for the Women’s Resource Center in Greensboro. He created scholarships for residents of Guilford County to attend North Carolina colleges and universities, and was a founding donor of Elon University Law School.  Critically, in partnership with the Kellogg Foundation, Leonard helped create the Center for Organizational Leadership, a philanthropic studies program (which was one of first nationally to educate non-profit executives).

“Everyone wants to leave something to their grandchildren.”

“The money won’t matter if the world they live in is so far gone,” Kaplan says. “The opportunity now is to take some of what might become their inheritance, and use it soon to make the world a better place.”

Addressing poverty, Leonard made possible the building of two houses for Habitat for Humanity, and by providing food for hungry people both close to home in Greensboro, and as far abroad as the former Soviet Union.   The Kaplans were staunch supporters of Trickle Up, which provides grant financing to women in the developing world who want to start their own microenterprise.

Leonard gave not only of his wealth, but also of his time and expertise, taking on leadership positions in many organizations and campaigns such as the Greater Greensboro United Way DeToqueville Society, and as a Core Member of ACTION Greensboro, a nonprofit dedicated to improving public education, revitalization of downtown Greensboro, and leveraging economic development.

Active in their community of faith, the Kaplans built a new building for the Greensboro Jewish Federation, and for the Hillel youth organization at U.N.C., Chapel Hill.  He served on the board of the Jewish Foundation of Greensboro, and on that of the national Hillel organization, and was a founder of Camp Ramah Darom.

Viewing giving as a responsibility of affluence, Leonard led by example, and encouraged others to do the same.  He created Wealth & Giving, an educational program designed to inspire the largest wealth holders in this country to be more generous.  The Alliance continues that work by promoting and providing donors with opportunities for effective and efficient giving.

Read more about the Five Guiding Principles.