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Security and service

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11/19/2014

JANJA, Rwanda—Northland Controls is helping to bring electricity to a part of Rwanda that is off the grid.

Northland Challenge: Security, service and globalization

Systems integrator Northland Controls travels to Uganda and Rwanda for the 2014 Northland Challenge
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11/19/2014

BUGIRI, Uganda—A look of concern crosses Northland Controls CEO Pierre Trapanese’s face.

The Northland Challenge: Security, service and globalization

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

UPDATED: Oct. 17, 2014

Security, service and globalization. This is my last blog post from Maine for a little over a week. Tomorrow I’m boarding a bus, a plane and another plane on the way to Entebbe, Uganda, where I’ll join 27 others in the Northland Challenge—23 employees of Northland Controls and 5 others, like me, who work in the industry in other roles.

Northland Controls is a global systems integration company that I’ve written about many times. Here’s a link to their home page. And here’s a blog I wrote a while ago about successful systems integrators. Scroll down to find the part about Northland.

So what’s the Northland Challenge?

On first inspection it looks like an extreme team-building exercise. The group is broken up into teams of two. Every morning each team will be given a destination and a (paper) map, and some “challenge points”—places or points of interest—to locate during the day. Over the course of a week we’ll caravan across Southern Uganda and into Rwanda.

So, there’s definitely a team-building odyssey element to the Challenge, but at its core, the Northland Challenge is really an exercise in how to thrive as a worker and a business in today’s global economy.

Globalization is not something that’s just happening, it’s here, says Northland CEO Pierre Trapanese. If you want to be really good at doing business today, you need to take the time to understand other people’s points of view, their history, their cultures, and their infrastructure (understanding building codes and power requirements is particularly important in security.)

In essence, to go global, you need to understand the local.  

The Challenge, Trapanese says, is about “breaking down stereotypes, overcoming our fears of the unknown, and getting out of our shells to work with locals to find our way from one end of their country to the other without the use of technology.”

This year’s trip to Uganda and Rwanda is the third Northland challenge. In 2010, the group “raced across India in Tuk Tuks,” and in 2012 the challenge involved 4x4s and the Caucuses Mountains.

This year, the challenge has another, very important component: service.

“We are challenging ourselves to go a step further, to leave behind for the people we encounter an opportunity to accelerate their economic development and to thrive as individuals and as a community,” Trapanese said.

Specifically, Northland Controls is raising money to bring electricity to a part of Rwanda that has none. Working with San Francisco-based Firelight Foundation and a local installer in Rwanda, Northland is funding the installation of solar panels for 25 homes, a community center and a school.

Importantly, the solar panel project is designed to be a self-sustaining enterprise that will continue to bring electricity, jobs, and opportunity to the community.

This is the way it will work: A local provider will install the solar panels in 25 homes that currently used kerosene for power. Those families will pay the local solar provider a monthly fee equal to what they would have paid monthly for kerosene. After a certain period of time, the local provider will be able to install more panels in more homes, continuing to build an account base and recurring monthly revenue. It’s very similar to the alarm monitoring business model actually.

I’ll have more details about the solar panel projects in the next couple of days. But here’s some important information for you now.
Northland employees have raised about $35,000 and Northland has provided $10,000. You can help by donating any amount to the cause.

Here’s a link to the fund raising site .

More from the road tomorrow.