As part of its initiative to connect faculty research to real-world problems, Columbia World Projects is launching two new energy projects aimed at reducing household pollution and increasing energy access in Ghana and Uganda, administrators announced on Friday.
University President Lee Bollinger announced the Columbia World Projects initiative in April 2017, poised as a way to connect academic research across the university with real-world issues—such as climate change and data privacy—to find a solution within a given timeframe. The initiative also hosts an annual cohort of about twelve Obama Foundation scholars — leaders who come from across the world and spend one academic year at Columbia working to gain skills that will impact their respective countries. Since its initial unveiling, a majority of faculty involved have hailed from professional schools or institutes.
To generate project ideas, 35 experts participate in a variety of CWP’s forums on topics of potential interest, where attendees bring their concrete project proposals to scholars and members of various global organizations. Selected ideas then enter a design phase, after which CWP makes a final decision on implementation. Thus far, CWP has hosted six forum meetings. A spokesperson for CWP said it is evaluating and designing ideas from forums and plans to announce more projects this year.
Last May, the university announced increased efforts to involve undergraduates in CWP. Along with new opportunities for undergraduates to work for CWP through work-study, the university said it would host public events for specific academic areas of interest.
Generated from a forum on energy access, CWP’s project in Ghana will work to bring innovate clean cooking techniques to communities in a region of almost 30,000 people. CWP plans to implement a “comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach” in the country, where about 70 percent of households burn biomass to cook their food. The project will be undertaken in partnership with Ghana Health Service and the government of Ghana, among other organizations, and is led by Darby Jack, a professor at the Mailman School of Public Health, Kelsey Jack, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Kwaku Poku Asante from the Kintampo Health Research Centre.
In Uganda, CWP plans to focus on energy investments and income generation by conducting data analysis. Along with public and private sectors, the United Nations Capital Development Fund will use the data to make more sustainable investment decisions. The project is led by Vijay Modi from the School of Engineering and the Earth Institute along with other faculty from the Center on Global Energy Policy and the School of International and Public Affairs.
“These projects have the potential to expand energy access for millions of people, which we know can play a critical role in enabling economic opportunity, health, gender equality, food security and environmental sustainability,” Director of Columbia World Projects Nicholas Lemann said in the announcement. “We’re hopeful that, using Columbia research, they will yield positive outcomes and ultimately improve lives.”
The two new projects join CWP’s existing ACToday project. ACToday aims at combating hunger and food insecurity in Bangladesh, Colombia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Senegal and Vietnam.