When The Barefoot College was built in the 1970s in rural India, its creators initially intended it to be a craft school which would help impoverished communities develop marketable skills. Today, the College enjoys a long legacy of incredible craftspeople and has expanded its activities far beyond the initial scope.
The fastest-growing program within the College is the Barefoot Women Solar Engineering Program. Available only to illiterate grandmothers the world over, the Solar Engineering Program ensures that a woman will be able to leave the College after six months with the skills and the confidence to solar electrify her community. This program is complex, deeply idiosyncratic in its methodologies, and unbelievably successful. This said, its rapidly sprawling nature makes for many huge scaling issues, not the least of which is that the women who leave the College may have no way to contact fellow Engineers, College staff, or even NGO staff on the ground in their community if they need assistance with the electrification process.
In 2012, at a five-day innovation lab, I worked with a small team to help the Barefoot College address the communication and scaling issues they were facing. We came up with a hardware/software solution – an education platform and a tablet durable enough to survive the field: The Barefoot Tablet. A year and a half later, we've done research on the ground at the Barefoot College, we've helped build the organizational infrastructure to support a tool like the Barefoot Tablet, and we've entered into the funding process. I've shared a few sketches I did of the Barefoot Tablet. You can see the final synthesis presentation here.