Powering up rural communities with Barefoot College International through our Making the Difference Fund

Barefoot College International’s goal is to create sustainable communities and empower women in rural areas by training them as solar engineers, entrepreneurs and educators with a variety of localised education and skill development programmes. We are supporting them through our first global charity partnership.

We have signed a three-year agreement to support Barefoot College International through financial contributions and on a pro-bono basis with our project management, procurement and digital expertise. The agreement marks our first global charity partnership and has been enabled through our philanthropic Making the Difference Fund

Over the course of the partnership, our support will help train 744 women as solar engineers, starting this year in Guatemala and Senegal. Our support will result in the electrification of over 37,000 homes, benefiting approximately 300,000 people. It will also create greener, more sustainable communities with access to greater educational opportunities. 

Operating in 93 countries, Barefoot College International’s locally-led model fosters rural resilience by providing these women with the tools they need to rebalance power and return it to their communities, all while combating climate change, breaking down gender barriers and closing gaps, and preserving traditional ways of life.

Women and solar power are central to Barefoot College International’s strategy of community-driven development. Their ‘Solar Mama’ programme is a transformative initiative that teaches rural women how to install and maintain solar technology, such as home lighting systems and lanterns. After completing their technical training, these ‘Solar Mamas’ bring light and clean energy security to their communities, as well as the confidence to share their knowledge. 

Our pro-bono work with Barefoot College International will be an important factor to the success of this partnership. By providing procurement, logistics and supply-chain management support, it will help make the difference in equipment availability and cost efficiency for several regions where Barefoot College International operate. 

We will also apply our project management and digital expertise to Barefoot College International’s monitoring and evaluation systems to improve their data collection and data processing.

Building on our existing local and regional charitable partnerships, our Making the Difference Fund aims to channel support to causes which cut across borders and generate new long-term, collaborative opportunities. 

The focus of the Fund will be on women, children and young people, social mobility, disaster relief and recovery, as well as innovating and investing in social enterprises and small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) across our industry.

Patricia Moore, chair of our Making the Difference Fund’s governing committee, said: 

"Bringing light and power to marginalised and rural communities has a huge social, economic and environmental impact, transforming lives and the prospects of future generations. By educating and empowering women as the agents of change, Barefoot College International have already achieved so much in this regard."

It is with great pride that we are forming this partnership to provide both financial and pro-bono support.

"Our purpose of transforming performance for a green, inclusive and productive world, applies to the communities we operate in, as much as it does to our work for clients and our charitable partners. Through our Making the Difference Fund, and this partnership with Barefoot College International, we will be helping to close the gender gap, improve equality for women across the world and to provide a sustainable power source for these rural communities."

Rodrigo Paris Rojas, CEO of Barefoot College International, said: 

For us at Barefoot College International, our partnership with Turner & Townsend is crucial to the success of our current work, and the three-year journey ahead offers an opportunity to expand our impact and improve our operations globally.

"The exchange of knowledge with Turner & Townsend through its professional expertise in areas like project management, procurement and digitalisation, ensures that we continue to address at least 14 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals with our work. Together we are looking forward to taking even bigger strides to transform the lives of marginalised women and rural communities."