People Power Stations


By Caroline Smalley and collaborators on Mar 24 2010, last modified on Jun 24 2010.

One Bicycle per Person (1BpP)

The following article was originally posted on the Acumen Fund's Online Community Site.

Kevin has a vision that should be shared. If you agree, please take the time to forward this onto friends.


What I aim to do with my People Power Stations is to change this truth…


Another inspirational idea! You have me thinking (which apparently at times I do to much of but hey - looks like you're guilty of this too?!). I am wondering if this would be more readily embraced if promoted as a co-op solution serving to bridge a time of global change?

Further to the ramifications of import/export issues governed by the global market (to which part of your arguement reflects), the fact that much of the world is now pushing toward a global currency makes me a little concerned you could be up against significant battles of tug and war.

However, I do see brilliance in your idea of focusing on basic commodities... kinda like trading used to be (as my First Nation friends have shown me all too well!).

The creation of a co-op bank based on goods being given a token value, for which other purchases maybe made is a simply great idea!

...look forward to learning more.

Call me slow, but I think I'm seeing this now!

Certain services could be given a 'trade value', as well as a monetary value. This could be in the form of a ' Trade Token ' (TT's?). Only those actually working to provide TT Services/Commodities would be eligible to receive TT's.

Anything carrying a TT Label can be purchased with the tokens.

Okay... this feels very do-able indeed...

Finding innovative solutions in making things more affordable and more accessible is important on so many levels. They way I see it, this is the key to what PPS is working to achieve. I still struggle to see how a closed monetary system (however money be represented) could work - both functionally and socially (has the potential to add to rather than alleviate segregating groups of people).

When there's a good idea, everyone wants in and we're living in a time when trying to control just ain't gonna fly.

Giving someone the tools they need to independantly produce something they need in order to survive is what I see as being so important here. People are rarely afraid to take action, when they know the rewards are fair justification for the energy spent. Where there is a need, people find solutions.

The entire world is now having to re-think all they do. It's bringing us together and fast. What's important today is less about laws and regulation, and more about creative innovation and change.

Here's another great example of a grassroots initiative making an essential commodity that wasn't, now affordable and accessible to more:

AfriGadget Innovator Series: A profile of Frederick Msiska

Peasant farmers are not the first group that come to mind when thinking about innovation but Mr. Frederick Msiska of Nchenachena in the Henga Valley of Northern Malawi is an innovator and in more than just one way. Mr. Msiska, who only attended school until the 5th grade, is a peasant farmer who also happens to be an inveterate inventor and a tinkerer. Among his many creations, he has designed and built a biogas converter for his toilet that he uses to produce electricity. He has also built a cell phone charger of his own design, a fan for his home, both of which use the electricity that he produces as well as a chemical sprayer for use on his farm.... read more

This comment was emailed from someone else creating change in Africa:

We have them all over Africa, the trick is not in developing a new model or currency, but in making people more efficient and letting them participate in the economy.

Pat of Bicycles for Humanity (B4H) made this comment.  I respect and admire B4H's "Bicycle Empowerment Centers" strategy because it is well-intended action.  B4H shipped dozens of containers of used bikes to Africa last year that were then used to supply small bike businesses in places where they are greatly needed (at least that's my understanding).  However, that is vastly different than the People Power Stations strategy, which is pedal-power centers that pay people with community currency (CC) to pump water and electricity, and then discount water and electricity when purchased with the CC, and so provide cash, water, electricity, bicycles, etc, to those who need them most while powering marketplaces.

There are many thousands of businesses and organizations providing used bikes to people who need them - some of these give the bikes away while others supply various businesses or sell them at low cost to support other good works.  Bicycles enable people to work, as i know from personal experience, or, as Pat says, they permit people to "participate in the economy".  My aim, however, is to change the economy from one that exploits the poor to one that eliminates poverty.  I'm grateful to Caroline for sharing my blog through her site because I believe in good works and her posting this is a good work, just as B4H is a good work.  But I'm obligated to point out - as i tried to do in the blog she copied - that in our current economic system raising an individual out of poverty with a bicycle requires leaving another behind to be exploited.

Raising people out of poverty is a feel good strategy that has proven through thousands of years to be a failure - it just produces more poverty - just as our economic system has proven to be unsustainable.  China used bicycles to make itself an economic superpower, but because those bikes powered the same old exploitive marketplace China is now an even bigger superpower in global unsustainability.  We need real answers, not the same failed answers, and a real solution is what I'm aiming to demonstrate here in India.  You are invited to help.

Bike Power! (Pedal Powered Electricity, April 2006)

Watch this... Pedal powered electricity generator

The Professor would be proud of David Butcher of San Jose, California. He built his first pedal generator prototype in 1976. Every morning, he spends 45 minutes on the stationary bicycle generator to charge up a bank of salvaged batteries. Having mastered the machine, Butcher now sells plans so you can build your own. The cost of the parts is around $230, he says, or much less if you recycle an old bike. If you're interested in learning more, Butcher hangs out in a videochat room when he's pedaling away every morning. Apparently, he cranks out 1.8 kilowatt-hours a month. Of course, er, YMMV. Butcher has videos demonstrating the generator directly powering a blender (video above), washing machine, and breadmaker. His bike blender was even featured on a recent episode of MAKE: TV .