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Supporting Development Innovation: Community Solutions Leaders Arrive in U.S.

There is much truth to the notion that genuine, effective development solutions come from within developing countries. The proof is evident in the 58 leaders from 28 countries of this year’s Community Solutions Program. Meet Moses Sanga, of Uganda, recently featured in a New York Times article about his organic fuel venture, Eco-Fuel Africa. Sanga, once an accountant, is now an innovator in alternative cooking fuels. He set out to prevent his own sister from traveling 12 miles a day to collect firewood, and is now the head of a social enterprise that provides fuel for 3,500 families in Uganda.

As a 2012 Community Solutions participant, Sanga hopes to learn the skills and create the networks needed to grow his company and bring more fuel to more people, within and outside of Uganda. “Africa is a tricky place. We don’t have venture capitalists, we don’t have people with money who can give you grants, so we have struggled with raising money.”

Sanga will work at the Clean Energy Coalition in Ann Arbor, Michigan, throughout his fellowship and participate in an online capacity-building training with other participants. “I have my arms wide open,” he said. “I’m a common African guy who believes that I can do something with my skills.”

Matej Kurian of Slovakia is another participant who has already created lasting change in his country. At Transparency International Slovakia, Kurian developed an online database to present data on government contracts and other information to all citizens. He will be working at the Sunlight Foundation in Washington, DC, to learn more about using the power of the crowd in improving data transparency and to build his management skills.

Kurian and Sanga join other accomplished fellows in embarking on a four-month stay in the U.S., where they will participate in hands-on training at U.S. organizations as well as online professional development courses. Participants recently convened in Washington, DC, for a three-day welcome workshop, where they discussed action plans for projects upon their return to their home countries. Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Ann Stock officiated the program launch.

Last year, Community Solutions participants advocated for clean energy policies in their home countries, initiated voter registration movements, and more, and continue to effect change in their communities. Check back to learn more about the accomplishments of the 2012 participants.

The Community Solutions Program is program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State and is implemented by IREX.