Lifeline partners with communities to develop long-term solutions to our most pressing environmental, economic and social problems. We co-create models, systems and technologies with communities that struggle with safe and reliable access to natural resources (like energy, water and sanitation systems) to grow and thrive together while preserving the natural environment. In working toward all communities having safe and sustainable access to essential natural resources, we can also leverage and replicate solutions to other challenges.
Helping communities to thrive, not simply to survive, is the heart of our mission. For decades, development assistance has created a culture of treating poverty-stricken communities as recipients of “aid” rather than equal and integral partners in creating solutions. Lifeline evolved in three distinct phases to shift this paradigm as the global need for more sustainable solutions grew:
- Phase I, Humanitarian: We initially began working in camps for refugees and displaced communities with the creation of our efficient stoves program, manufacturing and distributing 370,000+ cookstoves and impacting over 1.9 million lives.
- Phase II, Earned Revenue: As our work in northern Uganda evolved from emergency response to longer-term displacement, and the residents of IDP camps returned home, we found the traditional “aid” model no longer matched the need. Communities in northern Uganda did not need food and blankets; they needed to earn money to feed their families, send children to school and invest in the future. To address this challenge, we began incorporating earned revenue streams into our original humanitarian model so that our community partners could begin generating much-needed income.
- Phase III, Social Enterprise: With the initial success of our revenue-based models, we are launching independent social enterprise models. In doing so, we position programs to be justified in pursuing profit to allow the enterprises to grow and economically support entire communities.
Social entrepreneurs co-author big, new, bold ideas – they show how creative partnerships, collaborations and projects implemented across communities, governments and formerly disparate actors can be contagious forces for change. We believe solving large-scale social problems requires social entrepreneurs because they bring a committed vision, powerful ideas and inexhaustible determination to persist until an entire system has been transformed. Lifeline works with social entrepreneurs to shift the old “recipient aid” model to newer partnership-driven models that promote long-term sustainability and growth within communities. In doing so, we aim to co-design models towards financial sustainability and independence and end long-term dependence on external funds.
We always need new allies/organizations to further our global mission, serve on our Board of Directors and help us shift the current narrative around charity and international development toward the synergistic, long-term and sustainable approach we envision. We also have a greater need for more unrestricted funding to help cover operational costs, including technology, transportation and staffing needs.
Lifeline is shifting how developmental organizations approach the problems underpinning global poverty. First, important donors are seeing our success in helping communities become long-term partners in sustainable market-based systems, rather than temporary recipients of short-term charity. In our global communities, local partners are also learning to expand these market system models independent of Lifeline and use the profits to reinvest in other areas of need. Finally, our research partners are thinking beyond basic quantitative metrics and more about measuring and documenting the impact to show more holistic growth and community evolution.
As Lifeline has evolved, improved and fine-tuned our approach, our mission has shifted from humanitarian relief to long-term models aimed at sustainable community growth. Our systems and technologies are co-designed with community stakeholders, so they are engaged early and throughout the initiative’s ownership and operation. We also aim to share these communities’ stories of growth – in their own words – through our work, and to move our industry forward more effectively and efficiently with our collective resources.
We work with other organizations in key capacities, including:
- Funding partners: organizations, companies and individuals that share our vision and can help us fund, design and implement programs to accomplish our mutual goals.
- Implementing partners: organizations that sell our in-house technologies (e.g. fuel-efficient stoves) to local district governments, other humanitarian partners and distribution channels in refugee settings and emerging community markets. We also help coordinate the introduction of new technologies (e.g. liquid fuel burners, solar batteries, sensors, etc.) with local community leaders and monitor their effectiveness and distribution systems.
- Research partners: learning institutions whose research programs and activities in local communities we facilitate (e.g. university teams, independent institutes and product developers).
Lifeline depends upon support and funding from four major sectors:
- Institutional partners: UNHCR, WFP, GIZ.
- Academic/research partners: Stanford University, Oregon State University
- Private foundations: Stone Family Foundation, charity: water, Generosity.org, Water To Thrive
- Individual donors: Friends and family of the founders and staff, high net worth individuals.
How can my organization get involved?
Lifeline depends upon the passionate support and involvement of our stakeholders. You can help in any of four important ways.
- Funding partner: finance a project with us
- Implementing partner: propose and conduct a project with us
- Learning partner: study a program/research project with us
- Volunteer: help our professional staff as a volunteer
Yes! We are always looking for interns, volunteers and potential Board members to assist with communications, fundraising/development, financial planning/accounting and strategic guidance. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on opportunities at Lifeline.