You made a Difference!
What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.
By virtue of being alive, the story your life tells is already powerful. In fact, the average person influences approximately 10,000 people in their lifetime! Your actions can do much more— they can positively impact, influence and inspire many more people, and we’ll show you how. At The Arc Light, we believe in YOUR individual capacity to have a positive impact. Positive impact involves any activity that improves your own life, the well-being of a community and the people living in it.
The idea behind The Arc Light was to promote cultural appreciation through artisan-made lifestyle and homeware products. Halfway in, and after offering constant support to our makers, partners and the community— in varied ways such as paying school fees, paying medical bills, gifting work tools, planting trees, cleaning up rivers and such, we decided to systemize our support so as to achieve greater impact. When you buy a product from The Arc Light, your action goes beyond cultural appreciation. Proceeds from the sale of our products help us design and implement innovative solutions to today’s most pressing issues; this places social impact directly in your hands, by giving you an understanding of these problems and ownership of the solutions. In this way, you’re able to help someone attain an education, help another get out of poverty and turn their life around, or help support an entire community alleviate social inequality, crush unemployment and preserve the environment.
Ours is not a big business, and craft is not even a massive industry, but there are some big problems out there in the world and we have seen how big an impact we can make. Because at the end of the day, everyone wants to live in a world where they are safe, complete with the resources they need to live a meaningful life. In our goal of achieving widespread social impact, we at The Arc Light direct our resources and pool the strengths of our community of individuals, private companies and organizations to create strategic and visionary partnerships. Utilizing innovative collaboration models, our grassroots approach allows us to break down barriers between business, society, and the public, responding effectively to social and environmental challenges. We know that the people closest to the problem often have the best solutions. We empower those most closely connected to communities in need, to define the problem–and the solution.
An advisor once humorously referred to The Arc Light as a “reverse charity” because charities usually set up operations then create a page on their site to sell merchandise. Preserving a skill at risk of erasure, promoting cultural awareness, and creating opportunities for individuals and communities is our greater purpose. It is why The Arc Light Exists. The social enterprise aspect of our venture tackles and does much more than we could have imagined. Ideally, we could decide to shift our focus to this side, and at the expense of our lifestyle and homeware products. This would require us to change our organizational structure and become a non-profit— wholly dependent on donations. This move also has the potential to stifle the entrepreneurial mindset that we use to create solutions that place economic sustainability at their core, and those that promise to deliver the most value and the highest possible impact. We have seen, and it worries us that so many development programs launched in communities create dependence instead of empowerment. These and other reasons, argue against changing our operational model.
Our social mission is to move communities in the direction of a sustainable future for all, using imagination, spirit, and creativity to drive positive impact. Social enterprises are ordinary, for-profit businesses that have a humanitarian or environmental mission at their core. When they make money, they direct a significant portion of their profits back into that mission. Instead of pledging a certain percent from profits, at The Arc Light, we have committed 1/3 of our revenue to address social issues. Additionally, the admin costs for running our social mission are taken up by the commercial aspect of the venture, meaning 100% of donations go to impacted communities. This commitment is informed by our social mission’s bold and ambitious strategic goal— to positively impact the lives of One Million people by 2026!
At The Arc Light, impact investing means investing in people by creating opportunities. Opportunities level out the playing field, providing hope and contributing to reduced inequalities. Opportunities empower communities and promote personal and economic growth. The root cause of poverty is inequality and a lack of opportunities.
By solely relying on emotionally compelling stories, we’d initially rigidly followed a design path that guided and communicated the visual language of our social impact programs. This method lacks the ability to inform long term impact. We therefore formulated an extremely thorough way of measuring social impact, check out How We Measure Social Impact.
So, you may be wondering, how do you impact the lives of One million people in less than three year’s time? We started by identifying ten impact areas: Clean Water; Enterprise and Finance; Biodiversity and Ecosystems; Gender, Diversity and Inclusion; Health and Wellness; Transport and Sustainable Tourism; Sanitation and Waste; Education; Food Security and Agriculture; and Clean Energy. Designing programs that address issues in each of these areas, then tracking impact on a yearly basis, roughly translating to 33,500 lives impacted per year in each of these areas, across 3 years, making our overall goal seem entirely achievable. But that’s the easy part. We give a few examples at the end of this post on intervention programs that can be employed to solve some of these societal issues.
Clean Drinking Water
Access to Piped Water
Water Filtration & Purification
Sustainable Artisan Job Creation
Increased Financial Inclusion
Decreased Natural Resource Use
A Culture of Equality
Identity and Belonging
Dignity, Purpose & Fairness
Affordable Medical Insurance
Menstrual Health & Hygiene
Research & Development Centers
Mobile Medical Units
Mapping Transit Routes
Cycling and Walkable Cities
Community Centered Travel
Electrification of Transport
Recycle. Reuse. Repurpose
Accessible Sanitation Solutions
Pecunia non olet
Material Recovery (e-Waste)
Tech in Education
Project based Learning
Peer Teaching/ Jigsaws
Sufficient & Nutritious Food
Sustainable Land Management
IoT in Agriculture
Affordable Production & Solutions
Improve Energy Access
Biomass Cook Stoves
The Impact That You Can Make
At The Arc Light, we design intervention programs that tackle societal issues across ten pre-identified impact areas. Our social mission goal is to impact the lives of One million people in three year’s time! This roughly translates to 33,500 lives impacted per year in each of these areas, across 3 years. Some of those intervention programs include:
If you pipe water from a community well and install the system in a house, you’ll provide clean water for 5 people for life, at a cost of only $50! This act also increases productivity in terms of time saved that would otherwise have been used traveling to fetch water, standing in a queue for hours and ferrying the water back home. There’s also the health aspect— piped water ensures minimal interactions or contamination, reducing chances of waterborne diseases such as cholera and dysentery; this translates to health savings in possible future healthcare costs. If a lot of people are traveling long durations in search of clean drinking water, bringing a well closer to them makes more sense. Sinking and sealing a well, and adding a solar system to pump the water, will guarantee clean drinking water for 300 families, impacting their entire families and the community too.
Training on better land management and providing a seed package to help promote agricultural growth in a community, thus securing a family’s food for an entire year and providing seed for next year’s crop, requires $100. Enlisting 100 community members to join in, learn and plant varied or complimentary crops, then providing mechanical farm implements, Bamboo frame greenhouses and entrepreneurship training, would assist members to identify business opportunities and a market for their surplus produce, lifting 1,000+ people out of extreme poverty and keeping them healthy. Surplus food can also be stored in community granaries and distributed to those in need through a food bank system.
Without transportation, people spend many hours every day carrying water and transporting other heavy resources by foot, or moving food produce from their farms to the market. A motorcycle allows women and men to easily get their vegetables to the market, and is especially crucial for the community in the event of a medical emergency, it is also an integral part of Kenya’s transport service, allowing it to provide an income for families. $200 secures a loan for a member of a community and allows them to own a motorcycle. The full cost of a motorcycle is $900; The Arc Light would provide the balance ($700) in the form of a community-guaranteed interest free loan. By repaying just $2 a day, an individual gets to have outright ownership of the motorcycle in less than a year.
Mental health is invincible but its effects are devastating. The World Health Organization reported that in Kenya 1.9 million people suffer from depression; a larger percentage being women and children. The WHO more recently stated that a staggering 1 out of 4 persons who seek healthcare in Kenya have a mental health condition. More stark is the knowledge that as a country, we only have approximately 100 psychiatrists for a population of 45 million— that’s 1 psychiatrist to 450,000 people. Despite all of that, those who have embraced the challenges associated with mental health not only get well but become beacons of hope for others by showing that the condition can be managed. Some interventions like the WHO approved PM+ are excellent, but are prohibitively designed for adults. Cases of mental health challenges affecting children and young people have shot up. The most common cases result from post trauma and are cross-linked to emotional abuse, sexual assault, neglect, physical abuse among others. Other cases may manifest as anxiety or stem from personality disorders or struggles with addiction (substance use, alcohol, internet and social media, gambling e.t.c.) Today, the prevalence of these issues in society has sadly resulted in suicidal ideation and the premature loss of life. A school setting provides an ideal ground to identify, address and manage mental health conditions among the youth. It all starts with a support system built around a compassionate approach that places nonjudgmental heartfelt conversation at the core. This can be achieved through an age-appropriate training program that dispenses with internalized bias and stigma; acknowledges struggles; is conversational; uses honest communication; advocates healthy choices; and confronts the scary stuff. School-wide or community efforts should also be put in place to educate the youth about stressors and to raise awareness about the symptoms and signs of mental health conditions and the importance of seeking help. $500 would provide initial training to 20 school staff or vetted volunteers, enabling them to take on the role of community social workers, thereby positively impacting hundreds of children and many more families. Digitizing such a service would reach more people, creating awareness, bringing about healing in families and preventing the loss of life. Ongoing learning ensures a community social worker stays current and allows them to obtain certification from accredited institutions through online programs in as few as 4 weeks.
$1000 is all it would take to provide five families with clean renewable solar energy for their lighting, and cooking through a solar system that powers induction hot plate stoves and also guarantee clean drinking water through the use of a solar water filtration and treatment system.
There’s this cool thing called an extrusion machine. You power it on, it heats up, and you pour shredded recycled plastic down a funnel, and the melted gooey plastic is forced out of the other end, and into a mold of your choosing, allowing you to make all sorts of cool stuff. The build plans are open source and $5,000 would finance its local build. Recycled plastic would tackle the waste problem, creating a circular economy. Products with massive potential in this area include elementary or kindergarten school desks, pavement tiles, park benches, household furniture, planters, and other items. This machine does more than tackle the plastic issue, while operating in a community, it would create jobs, enhance creativity and unlock over $500,000 in potential future earnings. The machine can also make bricks, providing low cost housing solutions.
We don’t claim to have the best methods, from the get go our approaches are uncommon and non-traditional, but we are always curious and we value collaboration. This is a learning journey, but a very interesting journey.
When you invest in positive change, you circulate resources, knowledge and opportunities around a community, you create multiplier effects that touch many more people. And we have you to thank for that. The realization of your action and commitment makes impact personal, and not just to you, but to all the individuals that you reached and impacted— this is friendship, this is family, this is community. This is The Arc Light way.
We publish our Impact Report at least twice in a year; included in each report is: our impact data; the successes, challenges and general state and progress of our programs and ambitious goals; details on new partnerships; and from the field— stories that will sometimes baffle, at times shock and mostly inspire and inform.
If you’d like to partner with us or to get involved in any way, or if you'd like to learn more about the causes that we are passionate about, please reach out to us here. (enlighten)